A Small Town With Big City Problems -- Only Cubed

When I was homeless in downtown San Diego, I routinely heard that the city had 10,000 homeless people. According to Wikipedia, the current population is 1,419,516, but my recollection is that it was more like 1.2 or 1.3 million when I was there (let's call it 1.25 for purposes of running some numbers). When I moved to Fresno, I found some figures in the local paper that suggested there were something like 2000 or so homeless individuals in a city of about half a million.

I ran the numbers and concluded Fresno had about half the per capita rate of homelessness as San Diego. Quick and dirty, that should be something like about 1 homeless person for every 250 people in Fresno and about 1 homeless person for every 125 people in San Diego. [1]

Aberdeen, Washington is just 16,896 people (2010 census figures). Figures I have seen suggest that this town has at least 200-300 homeless individuals, possibly a lot more. The last time I spoke with a reliable source at a local homeless services organization, the downtown area alone had at least 100 homeless individuals (mostly camped along its perimeter near the river).

On a per capita basis, this is a much higher burden than either Fresno or San Diego had at the time that I was homeless in each of those cities. Using 17,000 as the total population and 200 as the homeless population, that gives us about one homeless individual for every 85 people here. If you use the figure of 300 homeless individuals, it's one homeless person for every 56 2/3 people here.

It's a tremendous burden on this small town.

One of the reasons this small town has such a high level of homelessness is because it is the largest city in the region. The Aberdeen-Hoquiam-Cosmopolis Micropolitan Area serves as The Downtown of Washington's Pacific Coast.

It's got a terrific urban vibe for such a small berg, but we also wind up having big city problems to go along with that. Meanwhile, we have only small town resources to try to cope with the homeless situation, which just amplifies the issue.

So the city is overwhelmed by this problem. I moved here in September 2017. In the time that I have been here, the city has taken increasingly aggressive legal measures to try to address the problem, which keeps the local police overly busy.


[1] The figures used to calculate rates of homelessness in the three cities mentioned may not be 100 percent accurate. This was originally written for illustration purposes and some of the figures were drawn from memory.

It is the best data I have available and I think the main point -- that Aberdeen, Washington had an extremely high homeless population at the original time of publication -- is entirely accurate, even if my figures may be a bit hand-wavy.

[2] This piece was originally much longer. It was cut back on June 8, 2021 to focus on just the stats.

This was done to make it more digestible and to remove rambling, half-baked plans that have since changed so I can cite it in more current pieces without confusing people.