By Erik Galicia
The number of homeless people in Riverside County rose again this year as community members continue to wonder what immediate action would best help this population.
The 2020 Point in Time count, an annual survey of homelessness conducted Jan. 29, found 2,884 homeless people in the county. This is a 3% increase from 2019.
The number of seniors on the streets has decreased this year, but homelessness among veterans and youth saw increases of 5% and 41%, respectively.
“Our mayor should do something,” Riverside resident Raul Martinez said. “Get all these homeless off the street. Put them somewhere.”
Although community members differed in their opinions about the root causes of homelessness in the area, many agreed that housing and services should be provided immediately.
“We have so much that we throw it away like it’s nothing,” said Quincy Sritula, another resident. “We should at least provide them with food and water, clothes for them.”
Chuck Gross, an elderly man in a wheelchair who has been living in the streets of downtown Riverside for the past two years, has also been waiting for the day some type of long term housing is provided.
“They’re not doing that,” Gross said. “They’re putting up lofts for people to rent.”
Homeless people congregate in the Santa Ana River bottom, downtown Riverside, and a “Skid Row” area has developed on the 1900 block of Massachusetts Avenue, closely resembling the conditions found in downtown Los Angeles.
As conditions in the streets worsen, Gross hopes to be able to move in with his sister in Lake Havasu, Arizona some time in the following year. Until then, he said he will continue to sleep on Orange Street downtown.
“It’s scary,” Gross said. “A lot of people walk around at night stealing stuff. You have to be careful.”