Riverside sees increase in homeless population

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By Jair Ramirez
Erik Galicia | Viewpoints

Riverside has seen an increase in homelessness by nearly 20% the past year, according to the 2019 Point in Time Count.

Everyday, people drive by homeless people on the street or encounter them outside a store and they go on about their day.

Many assume people are homeless due to drugs, alcoholism or laziness but that is not the case for all.

Wayne Green suffers from a mental illness, which doesn’t allow him to be in some work environments.

“My environment brought me down to living on social security,”  Green said. “I lost my work and had a car accident and not able to function in society.”

Some of the people don’t know any way to seek help to get them out of their situation.

“My mom and pop didn’t care about me,” Steve Fiorino said. “I was on the street when I was nine years old.”

Fiorino, who is now 58, has owned a home for two years.

Others who find themselves homeless are people trying to get ahead in life but lack the resources, like former homeless Riverside City College student Iggy Munoz.

“I enrolled in RCC and got a job in San Bernardino and my family is like two and a half hours away,” Munoz said.

“Rent is too expensive,” he said. “I didn’t have any references from places to live. My only option at the time was my car and that’s where I would live, that’s where I would sleep after work.”

There is help for the homeless, like social services, churches, food banks and several community organizations.

“There’s county hospitals and psychiatrists, you just have to sign up for the programs, there is help available,” Green said.

“I use to be homeless for many years, but I finally got some help, I got my documents and I got some great help,” Fiorino said. “Once you get those documents then you can proceed to get help.”

The documents Fiorino speaks about are a photo ID, social security cards, birth certificates and Medi-Cal cards which a lot of homeless people don’t have access to.

“You have to have those documents and those documents are hard for most homeless people to get,” Fiorino said. “Unless you have your ID, and that’s the hardest thing getting ID and social security cards, you can’t go nowhere if no one believes who you are.”

Social and public service workers seem overwhelmed to those they are tasked to help.

“Sometimes public services come out to places like this and document them, you know try and get their social security information and their birth certificate information, then you get the services,” Fiorino said.

There are volunteers and food banks to help homeless people, but there is more that can be done like awareness, rent control and jobs to help out.

“Politicians in California can have a better handle on rent control and jobs, make it so the prices aren’t skyrocketing. It took me a while to save up and even then I have to share my current apartment with three other guys, politicians should just keep an eye on it,” Munoz said.

Munoz believes that there can be more jobs that are made easily accessible for homeless people.

“Putting more jobs out there for homeless people and them actually getting them, I was fortunate to have a job to save money to get out of my situation.”

Green believes that people can help too.

“I think they can learn to recognize and appreciate the fact that there are people in this situation and if they can take time, a moment out of their life and recognize it, they’ll be able to deal with it more appropriately,” Green said.

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