A glimpse into the lives of the local homeless community in San Bernardino County on 5th street. (Photo credit: Michayla Fair)

The Ruben Campos Community Center on 5th Street in San Bernardino has unknowingly welcomed a community of homeless people after the county issued a local emergency. This urgency has led to several residents raising concerns about the safety of both homeless people and the community at large.

In his 2023 petition to the county, Gabriel Jaramillo, a local resident, indicated that they wanted to bring attention to the urgent need for upgrades to the Ruben Campos Community Center and Park in the city of San Bernardino. Gabriel pointed to the recent reports from the local authorities which highlighted crimes within or near homeless encampments. The reports confirm the argument by local authorities that the homeless encampments had significant higher crime rates than other areas in San Bernardino.

Accordingly, Jaramillo suggested possible alternatives to restore the Ruben Campos Community Center and the surrounding parks. These include allocating funds toward renewing infrastructure because the current state of the community center is so far behind on repairs that in turn hinders utilization by residents who deserve access to a well-maintained facility. He also suggested enhancing security measures that would include increased lighting systems along with regular patrols that would deter criminal activities while ensuring safety during evening hours. Jaramillo suggested that collaboration with local organizations such as nonprofits that specialize in homelessness services could provide alternative solutions such as temporary shelters or permanent housing options. Lastly, he suggested expanding program offerings by investing in a diverse range of recreational, educational, and cultural programs that will attract community members of all ages and foster a sense of unity.

According to the “Point-in-Time-Count” for 2024 there was a 1.4% increase in the amount of homeless people in the county. This count reflects sheltered and unsheltered homeless people and takes place during the last 10 days of January. Based on reports from the recent 2024 count there were a total of 4,237 persons counted as homeless and from that, a total of 3,055 (72.1%) remain unsheltered. A person is declared homeless and is counted only when they fall within the Housing and Urban Development-based definition by residing in places not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, and abandoned buildings. The HUD definition also includes emergency shelters and transitional housing for homeless people. Many who are considered homeless suffer from serious mental illnesses, HIV/AIDS, and substance use disorders.

One of the most common questions that come up when talking about the homeless community is: how did they end up here? The answer ranges depending on the person, but the common denominator is social structural issues such as increases in rent, loss of jobs, and rising healthcare costs. Additionally, reports show that domestic violence, physical disabilities, mental illness, and substance abuse can cause members of a low-income household or an entire household to become homeless. More times than not it is a combination of these issues that lead to homelessness.

As of 2024, the 1.4% increase in the homeless population roughly accounts for about 60 people added to the total of 3,055 homeless people in San Bernardino. Based on these findings, will we see an increase in these numbers or is it something that is slowly decreasing?

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