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The homeless are counted in Riverside County in the annual point-in-time census.

 

After a long career as a fisherman in San Pedro, Michael Trama never thought he would end up in a homeless camp in the sunken bay west of the Dinah Shore Bridge in Palm Springs.

But three years ago, he moved to the desert to take care of his mother, and he says he was eventually evicted from her home after a fight with another member of his family.

“It’s terrible, it’s not fun and it’s definitely not easy,” Trama said. “There are a lot of good people here who are trying their best to get somewhere and get affordable housing. But they just don’t exist, and that’s the big problem.”

Trama said that’s why he stayed in the laundry for most of last year. He was there on Wednesday when a group of volunteers arrived to do laundry as part of Riverside County’s annual “point in time” homeless count.

Cities and counties must make this count in order to receive certain types of federal and state housing funding. They provide insight into how many homeless people are in a community on a given day and help identify subpopulations such as veterans, seniors, and youth.

Last year’s tally showed Riverside County had a population of 3,316, up 15% from 2020. This number includes people who are indoors but in temporary places such as shelters. The number of homeless people has decreased, but the number of homeless older people (aged 62 and over) has increased by 22%, and the number of families with children has increased by 83%.

A report with this year’s results is expected to be published in the spring. Youth counts are also scheduled for Friday in the county.

Using the app, inspectors collected basic demographic information and asked how long someone had been homeless, what led to their situation, if they used any homeless resources, and if they had any chronic or mental illnesses. When people refused to answer, the volunteers wrote down their observations.

They also note the presence of tents and other places where homeless people live, but they are either not there or they do not react, and add them to the count.

“Opening Eyes”

Dee Dee Wilson Barton, who owns a large accounting firm in Palm Springs, said she’s been volunteering to do the counting for the past seven years.

On Wednesday, she was part of a team that surveyed an area in southeast Palm Springs, including the camp where Trama was staying and another on Crossley Road east of Walmart in Palm Springs.

“This is the most personal experience, eye-opening to what homelessness really is,” she said. “It destroys all your judgments and preconceived notions about us against them.”

Wilson Barton said she met a woman who lost two jobs during the pandemic and became homeless.

Greg Rodriguez, who works in Riverside County and helps coordinate several of the county’s homelessness efforts, said he also became emotional when he and Wilson Barton interviewed the woman.

Rodriguez said the only way to truly appreciate homelessness is to see it in place, a process that makes him feel good about his job but also lets him know that a lot more help and resources are needed.

He added that the federal government needs to step up its efforts to provide resources, adding that Riverside County is doing relatively well in providing housing and temporary housing, but does not have enough permanent affordable housing.

Trama said he lives on an $840 a month SSI allowance and has sought help from Mizell Senior Center workers, but has been told repeatedly that he currently does not have housing that he can afford.

He said he is looking forward to turning 64 in June when he starts receiving more money in the form of SSI and retirement benefits that should allow him access to housing.

Meanwhile, a man living in a tent on Crossley Road said the government should provide basic facilities with toilets and security for people like him who are homeless but want permanent housing.

“The thing is, the city and the surrounding cities aren’t really going to do too much other than pushing everyone from city to city and from place to place,” said the man, who identified himself as “AD” to Desert Sun. “There are so many places here that could be used for the homeless, but everyone only wants to complain about them.”

Rodriguez said local governments are doing a lot, with about 600 permanent homeless assisted housing units expected to be operational over the next three years, while Palm Springs and Riverside County are collaborating on a homeless navigation center that is designed to to provide resources and temporary housing. housing to help people transition to permanent housing.

“More than a bill”

Last year, volunteers counted 222 people homeless in Palm Springs, the highest of nine cities in the valley and the second highest in the county.

There were 105 in Indio, and about 30 volunteers gathered on Wednesday. At a camp of about 10 tents on Dr. Carreon Boulevard, people young and old gathered around a fire to warm up in the early hours of the morning.

Danny Green, 27, began putting out the fire when he saw the Indian police and volunteers approaching, but was quickly told he could continue putting out the fire. He and three other adults he lives with willingly borrowed a backpack from the volunteers, which contained personal hygiene items and cold weather.

Green from Riverside told volunteer Coy Bradstreet that he had been living on the street for more than two years. The death of his grandmother a few years ago caused a rift in the family, leading to him becoming homeless. He also said that he “sometimes” struggles with substance abuse.

Sobbing from the cold, Greene said his income was about $24 a month. From his camp, he can see the Villa Hermosa II apartment, where rents start at $670 for a one-bedroom apartment, according to their website.

When asked if he was interested in joining housing services, Green answered yes without hesitation. He also wanted more information about CalFresh, a government program that provides food benefits to people on low incomes. This is not always the case as some homeless people refuse services.

Bradstreet was first involved in counting at a point in time, but he had a lot of contact with the homeless in the past as an Indio police officer. Volunteering on Wednesday allowed him to understand why so many took to the streets, whether by choice or by coincidence. It was also an opportunity to discuss options with people and hopefully steer them towards a better future.

“Many don’t know how to reset or don’t know about the services available to them,” Bradstreet said. “You want them to succeed.”

For that reason alone, Mike Walsh, deputy director of the Riverside County Department of Housing and Workforce, said the annual event was “more than just a bill.”

“We’re not just going here and doing a quick census, we’re really trying to offer resources to families and see how many people we can put in an emergency bed like Martha has, or give them treatment options or permanent housing. ,” he said. “Today is the day to address the need and really emphasize to the community that we still have a lot of work to do to try to get people off the street and provide them with housing.”

“Someone told me a long time ago that it takes people more than six months to become homeless, and therefore it probably takes more than six months to get out. So just because they say no today doesn’t mean they won’t say yes. tomorrow,” Walsh added.

In Palm Springs, AD said he believes any solution starts with greater understanding and empathy for the homeless.

“You will be surprised how many smart people are here,” he said. “Everyone thinks that everyone who is here and homeless, drug addicts and the like.

More people need to understand that “they might be here next week,” according to AD.

Ema Sasik talks about entertainment and health in the Coachella Valley. Reach out to her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ema_sasic. Paul Albani-Burgio talks about the latest news and the city of Palm Springs. Follow him on Twitter at @albaniburgiop and email at [email protected]

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