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San Benito
April 18, 2024

County: Homeless population up 173 percent since 2011

A report going before county supervisors Tuesday says the homeless population has jumped by 173 percent since 2011.

That homeless population reached a peak of 657 in 2015, according to surveys, which is 32 percent higher than the average in California by population.

Those numbers are included in a consideration to declare the existence of a “shelter crisis” in San Benito County. Officials say it would allow the county to suspend “provisions of any state or local regulatory statute, regulation, or ordinance prescribing standards of housing, health, or safety” to the extent that “strict compliance would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects of the shelter crisis.”

According to the full report from the San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency:

The County of San Benito is currently facing a housing shortage for low-income individuals that has resulted in a considerable number of persons lacking the current ability to obtain shelter. Persons unable to obtain shelter are dwelling in areas and conditions which are a threat to their health and safety.  These areas lack sufficient sanitary or solid waste disposal facilities, many have been contaminated by human and animal waste, and an accumulation of solid waste.  Unsheltered residents are at risk of injury, illness, and harm due to exposure to the elements, increase risk of crime, inadequate sanitary facilities, and other consequences associated with living outside.  According to the 2017 San Benito County Homeless Census and Survey, the population experiencing homelessness since 2011 within the County of San Benito has increased by 173% since 2011 reaching a peak of 657 in 2015 – a homeless population that is 32% higher than the experience of the State of California.

In San Benito County nearly 73% of the homeless population in 2017 report having lived on the streets for more than one year with 90% of that population having been a resident of San Benito County prior to their latest incidence of homelessness.  In addition to the higher percentage of homeless in San Benito County the availability of low income housing has not increased to keep pace with this crisis in San Benito County.

Government Code Sections 8698 through 8698.2, authorizes the Board of Supervisors to declare the existence of a shelter crisis in the unincorporated areas of San Benito County upon a finding that a significant number of residents are without the ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their health and safety.  Upon such declaration, the provisions of any state or local regulatory statute, regulation, or ordinance prescribing standards of housing, health, or safety will be suspended to the extent that strict compliance would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects of the shelter crisis.  The statute does allow counties to enact health and safety standards in place of local regulations or ordinances.  Additionally, such a declaration would allow the County to authorize persons unable to obtain housing to occupy designated public facilities during the duration of the shelter crisis.

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