Is Imperial County facing a homeless epidemic?

News 11 looks for answers

EL CENTRO, Calif. - The number of homeless people has been rising in Imperial County.

El Centro police say there has been an increase in calls related to homelessness and it the issue seems to be growing.

News 11 searched for possible answers for this growing problem.

“This is really a problem that I believe started ten years ago,” said James Thompson, President of the Police Officers Association.

James Thompson is referring to the growing calls involving transients that have been received by El Centro Police.

“This camp here is less than a quarter mile from that downtown district, there's approximately 6 to 8 people that live here full time,” added Thompson.

Thompson showed News 11 an area of town that is regularly occupied by homeless people.

“The problem is that what we’re finding in El Centro and our homeless issue, the homeless count has gone up 300% within the last year,” explained Thompson.

The mayor of El Centro is aware of the problem and says he is looking forward to partner and plan with other organizations to address it.

We spoke to the local organization that provided the homeless count and they suggested some possible solutions to the growing issue.

“The hope is by getting a good point and time count, and accurate count, that we can attract more funding from HUD, housing and urban development to provide programs for agencies,” said Ken Wuytens, Executive Director of United Way of Imperial County.

United Way has applied for multiple grants for the county and they mentioned a dream that may be a solution for this growing problem.

“I need to have $20 million dollars or so fall into our lap down here and buy, purchase maybe an unfinished hotel project and put in a training center, and a kitchen, and a medical center there where we can bring homeless people in, maybe 100 people at a time,” exclaimed Wuytens.

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