About Homelessness

Please use this information as a general reference for how you can best support people living on the streets in your community.  If you have additional questions for POLM that are not answered here, you can contact us at info@thepathoflife.com

How many people are experiencing homelessness in Riverside?
The 2017 County of Riverside Homeless Count And Survey determined that there are 1,638 unsheltered and 768 sheltered homeless people (total = 2,406) experiencing homelessness in Riverside County on any given night. The 2017 Homeless Count and Survey report linked to above contains additional demographic information about Riverside's homeless population, if you are interested in learning more about the people who experience homelessness in Riverside County.
Why do most people become homeless?
Homelessness doesn’t discriminate and people become homeless for many reasons, including job loss, domestic violence, divorce, lack of affordable housing, under-employment, health issues, substance abuse and natural disasters. We have discovered that each person experiencing a housing crisis has a unique life story which has contributed to their current situation.
Are all people experiencing homelessness mentally unstable?
This is a myth. Only 27% of the people experiencing homelessness in Riverside County are living with a mental illness, many of whom are able to maintain permanent housing and live a stable life when receiving the ongoing support they need.
Is it safe to talk to a person who is homeless?
Always use wisdom when dealing with someone you don’t know. If the person seems approachable, use eye contact and speak to them with dignity and respect. Never talk to someone who seems angry, hostile or dangerous. Always trust your gut instinct about what is safe or welcomed. Also, it is important to maintain safe and appropriate boundaries. It is not recommended that you take homeless people home or provide them with your personal contact information.
Should I give money to the homeless?
No. Although it seems like a good thing to do, giving money to someone living on the streets helps sustains their lifestyle rather than encouraging them to seek housing and services.
What can I do instead of giving someone money?
If the person is hungry, buy them something to eat instead of giving them money. Many of our community partners keep small hygiene kits, packaged snacks, water bottles and/or new socks on-hand in case they encounter someone in need. If you meet someone who is homeless in the city of Riverside, you can also have them contact the POLM Shelter Hotline at (951) 462-9822 for shelter bed availability.
Should all people experiencing homelessness in Riverside County go to POLM Shelters in the city of Riverside?
Homelessness is more than a local issue and needs to be recognized as such, so that comprehensive services can be provided within each community in Riverside County. We should not rely on one city or shelter to solve homelessness for all the communities in our County. If there are no homeless service providers available in your local community, then look for outside resources.