With a population of about 80,000 residents, Hemet spreads out over about half of the San Jacinto Valley. Just over 30 percent of the households in Hemet have children under the age of 18. Just under 20 percent of households in the city have people over the age of 65 who are living alone.
The Myth of Homeless Encampments in Hemet
Five years ago, homeless encampments weren’t an issue in places like Hemet. Indeed, throughout Riverside County, the number of homeless encampments was not large. The vast majority of homeless encampments were found in central or downtown Los Angeles.
All that started to change approximately five years ago, with homeless encampments springing up in locations far from central or downtown Los Angeles. This includes the rise of homeless encampments in places like Hemet.
Perhaps the most common misconception associated with homeless encampments in communities like Hemet is that homeless people migrated to cities outside LA because policies adopted that city was forcing homeless people to move. While there is a kernel of truth to that proposition, it is far from the full story. Indeed, it has resulted in the development of a myth that homeless encampments in cities like Hemet are populated by people who previously were on the streets of Los Angeles.
In fact, when it comes to the rise of homeless encampments in communities like Hemet, a significant percentage of their population is local men, women, and children. Yes, there are instances when people do migrate from Los Angeles to Hemet. However, a broad percentage of homeless people in Hemet, including those in Hemet, is from the local community.
The Los Angeles Times explored the issue of whether LA exporting its homeless population to cities like Hemet and concluded:
Some (people) believe (LA) is exporting its downtown homeless problem to other locales. But social service agencies and volunteers say it isn’t that simple. They say that although (LA) downtown development and skid row cleanups are squeezing out some homeless people, many camps (in other communities, including Hemet) are filled with locals. Soaring rents, (employment issues), and (social service) funding cutbacks are pushing residents (in communities like Hemet) into the streets, where they cling to familiar turf.
Family Considerations and Homeless in Encampments in Hemet
A considerable percentage of homeless people in Hemet is employed. Some refer to this segment of the population as the “working poor.” No matter the moniker, these are men and women who have jobs but are not making enough money to afford a home. Many of these people have families.
An array of family considerations are drawing the working poor, who have ended up homeless, to encampments in the communities (like Hemet) in which they previously did have homes. A key factor is a fact that a good number of these homeless people have jobs in Hemet.
If they were to relocate, even to a community that offers more in the way of support services, they would be displaced from where the work. These people must rely on public transport, in most cases. As a result, they necessarily believe that they must find a place to stay, including an encampment, that is within reasonable proximity to where they work.
Another consideration centers on their children and school. For a family that has ended up without a roof over their heads, the one consistent element of their children’s lives in school. Thus, a homeless family strives to find a way to keep their kids in schools with which they are familiar. This can result in families gravitating to a “local” homeless encampment in Hemet.
Impact of Homeless Encampments on Hemet Residents
On balance, residents of Hemet are kind-hearted people. They are sincere in wanting to find effective and permanent solutions to ease the homelessness crisis. They also want to keep their neighborhoods safe and clean.
The presence of homeless encampments in Hemet exposes not only the people who reside in these encampments to negative issues, but it also exposes the community at large to health and safety issues. Evidence demonstrates that the presence of a homeless encampment in a community does result in a bump in the crime rate. This includes such offenses as drug-related crimes, crimes of violence like assaults and batteries, and crimes involving theft.
Homeless encampments also present health hazards, both to residents of encampments and to the broader community. For example, due to the lack of toilet facilities in many cases, human feces and urine collect in open spaces. This gives rise to dangerous biohazards, including disease-causing pathogens. In addition, due to a higher rate of drug use in homeless encampments, contaminated needles can be found littering the area.
Only through the work of skilled and well-trained professionals can necessary homeless encampment cleanup be safely and effectively undertaken. Indeed, this must be done on a regular basis to better protects the health, safety, and welfare of people in homeless encampments and residents of Hemet alike.