Homelessness has increased in San Mateo County since 2019, according to recently released county data.

Community members in February conducted the one-day count of all the people experiencing homelessness or living in shelters or interim housing at a given time.

They found 1,808 people countywide experiencing homelessness, a 20-percent increase from the 1,512 counted in 2019.

This matches the trend across the Bay Area, where homelessness has increased overall in the past three years, according to data from eight counties, excluding Solano County which releases its data this summer.

Despite San Mateo County’s increase, County Executive Officer Mike Callagy is confident in the ability to shelter every person in the county experiencing homelessness, should they choose assistance. The county’s goal is to achieve “functional zero” homelessness.

“While that number may sound daunting to some, we know we have the ability and the commitment to end homelessness here in San Mateo County,” Callagy said in a statement.

The line chart shows the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Mateo County from 2011 to 2022 (Data compiled by Astrid Casimire/Bay City News Foundation)

Navigating away from homelessness

A key component of the county’s plan to shelter all its residents is the construction of a 240-unit navigation center in Redwood City. The center provides support services and temporary housing for individuals and couples. Construction began in April and is expected to be complete by year-end.

Callagy said county officials believe the solution to homelessness is helping people get to permanent, affordable housing.

For instance, the county provides permanent housing to formerly homeless seniors at Shores Landing, a converted hotel in Redwood City. The county purchased the site in 2020 with funding from the state’s Homekey program.

The county has purchased four additional motels and hotels to convert to housing — two are already open and two will open later in the year.

San Mateo County’s $57 million navigation center in Redwood City is shown in an architectural rendering. Scheduled for completion this year, the center will provide 240 units of transitional housing as the county works toward its goal to end homelessness. (Image courtesy of San Mateo County)

Ken Cole, director of the county’s Human Services Agency, said in a statement that without the supports the county put in place due to the pandemic, “the situation could be much worse.”

The county’s Board of Supervisors also supported the efforts to end homelessness by approving hotel purchases and allocating federal COVID-19 recovery funding toward housing.

Board president Don Horsley said in a statement that the county is committed to doing the work that needs to be done.

“Together, we know we can put the systems in place to ensure that when individuals and families do experience homelessness, it is rare, brief and one-time,” Horsley said.

The San Mateo County Executive’s Office has more information on efforts to end homelessness.

The county has also hosted a series of events discussing solutions to homelessness. The final event in this series, titled “Moving into a Permanent Home,” takes place June 3 at 10 a.m. Those interested may register for the virtual event online.