Orange County Sees 28 Percent Increase in Homeless Population Since 2022 

Orange County Sees 28 Percent Increase in Homeless Population Since 2022 

Homeless individuals in Santa Ana, Calif., on Sept. 18, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Sophie Li

Sophie Li

5/12/2024

Updated: 5/13/2024

Homelessness in California’s Orange County has increased 28 percent since 2022, according to the 2024 biennial point-in-time count released May 8.
According to the count’s results, the county had 7,322 homeless individuals, of which 43 percent were sheltered, and 57 percent were unsheltered.
According to the data, over 90 percent of those counted were in the northern and central regions of the county. In terms of specific cities, Santa Ana and Anaheim had the highest counts of both sheltered and unsheltered individuals.
While the majority of both sheltered and unsheltered individuals fall between the ages of 25 and 61, over 18 percent of those sheltered were minors. The report also indicated that substance abuse was the leading disabling condition among the unsheltered, while mental illness was among the sheltered.
While multiple factors—including the inflation-driven rise in the cost of living—may contribute to the growth, the county said the sharp increase could be due to some programs available in 2022 that are not offered now.
Such include statewide and countywide rental assistance programs enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an eviction moratorium, which ended in May 2022.
“I would find the increase from 2022 to be encouraging in the sense that that’s the worst possible take from this Point in Time report,” said Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do. “To have only that increase in light of all of the headwinds with COVID, with the economy and especially in relation to other large counties, I think we are ahead of our peers.”
County officials, however, pointed to a more optimistic outlook when considering the issue over multiple years, pointing out that homelessness had only increased 7 percent since 2019.
Doug Becht, director of the county’s Office of Care Coordination, cited the numbers as validation of the county’s efforts to address homelessness, particularly when compared to neighboring areas.
“When we compared our surrounding counties, San Diego, L.A., San Bernardino and Riverside, we’re seeing their trend is 29 percent [since 2019],” Mr. Becht said.
The county has been investing in the construction of both temporary shelters and transitional housing to tackle the issue.
Since 2019, it has established 61 emergency shelters, accommodating approximately 3,000 people, marking an increase of 730 beds. Additionally, since 2018, 1,364 units of affordable and supportive housing have been constructed, according to the point-in-time report.
Since 2022, it has added 681 shelter beds, bringing the total to 3,920. Additionally, during the same time frame, 859 affordable housing units have been built, the report said.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim emphasized the importance of more collaboration with neighboring counties on the issue.
“We succeed and fail together,” he said. “The homeless individuals we know can move from city to city and county to county, so it’s important we work together even outside of Orange County. ... I think that in the past we’ve not had as strong a collaboration ... That’s something we'll have to look at.”
The count took place over four days from Jan. 22 to Jan. 25.
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Sophie Li

Sophie Li

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Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.

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