San Diego has 4th largest homeless population in United States

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and San Diego. These are the cities with the largest homeless populations in the country.

New numbers show San Diego with 8,742 homeless people and about half of them sleep on the streets.

Homeless is caused by mental health issues, substance abuse, job losses, domestic violence, very expensive housing and it has become everyone’s problem.

Bill Leetso has lived downtown for four years. He is tired of walking by all the homeless people and he says it’s getting worse.

"Why are they living downtown? There are people who make $60,000 who can’t afford to live downtown. Why should they be allowed to occupy space and be downtown?" he said.

And it’s not just bad for those who live downtown. It’s also bad for those who run businesses downtown, businesses that depend on tourists.

Downtown businesses like Tin Fish are upset with the homeless, especially when they harass their customers. They would like them to be gently pushed away by police.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said San Diego now has the fourth largest homeless population in the country.

It went up almost three percent in a year, to more than 8,700 people.

So what’s the answer here?

Yes, the winter tent is gone and the city went to year-round housing at Father Joe’s Villages.

Yes, 200 low-income studio apartments opened up at Alpha Square and 70 more people will soon be housed at the former Churchill Hotel.

But homelessness is a complex problem with a complex solution.

"There’s no silver bullet. Nothing is going to change overnight," said Councilmember Todd Gloria.

Gloria is the chairman of the San Diego’s Regional Continuum of Care Coalition, a group that includes several agencies, city and non-profit.

It’s mission: to end homelessness.

One of the major issues, according to Gloria, San Diego gets $17 million from the federal government to right homelessness. That’s far less than other communities with smaller homeless populations get.

The formula to give out money, Gloria said, is outdated and the Obama Administration has promised to re-visit that in 2016.

On the state level, Gloria ended California-ended "redevelopment." 

"Redevelopment was the primary funding source for affordable housing. Now that that’s gone, you are not going to see as many Alpha Squares because the money to build it is not around for that purpose," Gloria said.

It is all about money, for more housing and services.

Gloria said that’s where the county comes in and could use more of the money from the tax hike on millionaires to fund mental health programs.

"They recently put $10 million on the street to fund that for the homeless. They have $100 million more to spend. Hopefully they will choose to do that," Gloria added.

What about the city’s contribution?

Gloria said yes, there is a surplus and budgets are flexible. 

He said the council tries to make everybody happy, whether it’s by spending money on a new football stadium, filling potholes or more affordable housing.

It’s all about what the people of the city want.

It seems there may be a groundswell support to put more money toward ending the homeless crisis.

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