Last week, Riverside County’s Department of Public Social Services released the results of its 2017 winter homeless survey.

In January 2017, the survey identified 2,413 homeless county residents. This is 248 more individuals (about 11.4 percent) than were recorded in January 2016. This was the first countywide increase since 2011. During the period between January 2011 and January 2016, the homeless population decreased 61 percent.

The county identifies both individuals seen on the street and those who took advantage of county or city services. This year, the number of unsheltered individuals was 20 percent greater than the 2016 unsheltered homeless, while the number of homeless using designated shelters declined 5 percent.

In both years, more than 90 percent of the homeless were found in the county’s cites. The largest number of homeless were identified in Riverside. In Hemet, the homeless count increased from 107 to 119, making it the second-largest homeless population in the county.

Within the unincorporated areas, 10 individuals were counted in Idyllwild, which was two less than in 2016.

The authors of the report attributed the 2017 countywide increase in homeless individuals partially to a more intensive survey, “… a countywide commitment to conducting a more collaborative and rigorous count.” And, “In 2017, following HUD’s new requirements to have a separate youth count, we increased our efforts to obtain a more accurate count of youth ages 24 and under that are experiencing homelessness.”

In the press release, Public Social Services Director Susan von Zabern said, “We believe the increase this year may be attributed to several factors, including more participation and engagement from our cities, increased law enforcement participation, and unprecedented weather conditions in the days leading up to the count which resulted in some city and county volunteers revisiting areas where people may have been displaced.”

The survey was conducted, as usual, by more than 500 community volunteers, outreach staff and experienced professionals from more than 130 agencies canvassing pre-identified areas countywide.