A recent count and survey of the homeless in Riverside County released this week counted more than 70 people living outdoors in the San Gorgonio Pass, a decrease since 2009.
There were an estimated 54 unsheltered homeless in Banning and 19 unsheltered homeless in Beaumont, according to the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services.
A point-in-time count was conducted on January 24-25.
Counts of the homeless in Banning and Beaumont have fluctuated since 2007.
In 2007, surveyors estimated 102 homeless in Banning and 36 in Beaumont.
In 2009, surveyors estimated 69 homeless in Banning and 38 in Beaumont.
In 2011, the count estimated 54 homeless in Banning and 19 in Beaumont.
Countywide since 2009, the observed homeless population increased from 3,366 to 4,321, according to the study.
The economic downturn is a factor in the homeless population increase in Riverside County, said Ron Stewart, deputy director of the county Department of Public Social Services.
"This county is hard-hit," Stewart said in a phone interview Tuesday. "Rates of foreclosure, unemployment rates, coupled with lack of job creation have put some people in a position where they are not living high off the hog, so to speak.
"In 25 years working with the homeless, I have yet to meet anyone who actively chooses this lifestyle," Stewart said. "Eighty percent of homeless veterans in Riverside County say post-traumatic stress disorder is a factor preventing them from securing housing and employment."
Homeless sub-populations countywide include the following: 2,515 chronically homeless people, 890 homeless veterans, 295 youth ages 18 to 24, and 125 unaccompanied homeless children under age 18, according to the survey.
"Close to two million Americans experience homelessness each year," the report's introduction states. "For most, this is caused by the gap between income and the cost of housing.
"Yet for many, health conditions, mental health, substance abuse, trauma, and lack of support prevent them from obtaining permanent housing."
In January every two years, communities across the United States conduct counts of their homeless populations, to gain a better understanding of current homeless populations, and to apply for federal funding for homeless programs, the report states.
The County of Riverside worked with Applied Survey Research to conduct the 2011 County of Riverside Homeless Count and Survey of homeless adults and children and homeless families.
Applied Survey Research is a non-profit social research organization based in Santa Cruz County, with experience in homeless surveys and research.
The homeless count in Riverside County had two components:
1) A point-in-time count of unsheltered homeless individuals and families - those sleeping outdoors, on the streets, in parks, vehicles, etc.
2) A point-in-time count of homeless individuals and families who have temporary shelter - those staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing, and those using motel vouchers.
Surveyors canvassed Riverside County from six deployment locations based in Hemet, Indio, Moreno Valley, Palm Springs, Riverside, and Temecula.
In the Pass, surveyors came from Palm Springs, and all the homeless people they counted in January 2011 were listed as unsheltered - living outdoors, on the streets, in parks, vehicles, etc.
The 2011 County of Riverside Homeless Survey revealed a diverse population with different needs, but some trends emerged.
- The survey showed 55 percent of homeless people were over age 40 and 51 percent had been homeless one year or more.
- It showed 45 percent of survey respondents were White/Caucasian, 27 percent were Hispanic/Latino, and 19 percent were Black/African American.
- Of those surveyed, 69 percent said they had one or more disabling conditions.
- Of those surveyed, 42 percent said they were currently experiencing substance abuse issues.
- Of those surveyed, 31 percent said they were experiencing mental illness and/or severe depression.
- In addition, 14 percent of respondents said they were experiencing domestic violence at the time of the survey.
To view a copy of the 74-page homeless survey report, and a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Riverside County, visit http://www.riversidehomeless.org/