Officials address the troubling rise of homelessness in Riverside County

Homelessness throughout Riverside County is climbing at an alarming rate with a 12 percent increase over the past year.

County officials said immediate solutions are needed to help the most vulnerable while tackling the troubling rise. Homelessness is rising across the Inland Empire, with nearby San Bernardino County’s homeless population rising about 26 percent, according to data.

In the latest annual Point-in-Time Count, Riverside County has a reported 3,725 unhoused individuals in 2023, up from 3,316 in 2022.

“When we think about homelessness in 2023, unsheltered humans, the numbers are absolutely higher,” said Chris Oberg, the CEO of Path of Life Ministries.

The Riverside-based nonprofit focuses on helping homeless people get the services they need, operating three shelters, two of which are open year-round.

“The number one cause for homelessness or being unsheltered is a disruption in a relationship,” explains Oberg. “Disruption in a marriage, disruption of a family member, an aunt, an uncle, a parent who was allowing me to live there, a dissolution of a partnership.”

  • Homelessness is seeing a troubling rise across Riverside County in 2023. (KTLA)
  • Homelessness is seeing a troubling rise across Riverside County in 2023. (KTLA)
  • Homelessness is seeing a troubling rise across Riverside County in 2023. (KTLA)
  • Homelessness is seeing a troubling rise across Riverside County in 2023. (KTLA)

Oberg said economic hardship and eviction are major reasons people are forced onto the streets, exacerbated by unemployment, soaring inflation, and a general lack of shelter beds for those who need them.

“It’s super bad here and it’s just going to keep going,” said Zayna Godman, a Moreno Valley resident. “I don’t think it’s going to decline, I think it’s just going to rise.”

The Department of Housing and Workforce Solutions presented the latest Point-in-Time findings to Riverside County’s Board of Supervisors. Twenty-one percent of those included in the count were experiencing homelessness for the first time, officials said.

There was a 23 percent increase in unsheltered people in the county and the city of Riverside had the highest amount with 605.

Findings on sub-populations were also troubling — homeless veterans rose by 31 percent and homeless families with children rose by 12 percent. The only decrease was in the Transitional Age Youth group (18-24) which decreased by 27 percent.

“We also know that addictions, substance abuse and mental wellness are involved,” said Oberg. “So we didn’t get into this challenge overnight. We think we will be years working our way out of what’s now a perfect storm.”

Riverside County officials tell KTLA efforts will be focused on adding more shelter beds and affordable housing units.

“I think the next steps through the continuum of care is take the results of the Point-in-Time-Count and ensure that we’re providing and ensure we have the right services to the right folks at the right time,” said Heidi Marshall, Director of the Department of Housing and Workforce Solutions.

“Homelessness has unfortunately increased, not only in Riverside County but in all other counties as well,” said Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez. “I am working in partnership with the City of Palm Springs to build our very first Homelessness Navigation Campus in the western Coachella Valley. The county has helped secure $19 million in state funds and we have put in $5.3 million in county funding, and the City of Palm Springs has dedicated $5.7 million in funding towards this comprehensive approach to address homelessness.”

Riverside supervisor Chuck Washington of District 3 said they will focus on improving homelessness prevention, street outreach services, emergency shelter and rental assistance programs.

Around 332 new affordable housing units will be built, with 89% of those units beginning construction in the next six months.

“Homelessness is a complex issue requiring innovative and complex solutions,” said Supervisor Karen Speigel. “That is why, in early 2020, I convened a multidisciplinary team for the purpose of addressing homelessness within the Santa Ana River Bottom, bringing together experts from a wide range of Riverside County departments and agencies, elected and appointed representatives from cities throughout the Second District, as well as local homeless service providers. It was through the comprehensive, compassionate, and innovative efforts of this collaborative group that the County of Riverside was awarded $11 million from the State of California to serve and house individuals experiencing homelessness throughout the Santa Ana River Bottom.”

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