Homelessness is a nationwide problem, but one that seems to be worse in some areas than others.

So it is even here in the High Desert, where we see a significant number of homeless people in Barstow and Victorville, but fewer in Apple Valley, Hesperia and elsewhere.

The problem continues to cause considerable angst among residents and local officials, which is quite understandable. There doesn't seem to be a lot of homelessness for purely economic or unemployment reasons around here.

Here in the High Desert, homelessness and mental illness often go hand-in-hand, along with substance abuse problems. While many have compassion for the homeless, often the problems they create produce frustration, crime and blight.

In recent weeks, our editors and reporters have received numerous complaints from readers about the problem in Victorville, with many saying the situation has gotten worse than ever. We've noticed that too, both in Victorville and Barstow.

The Old Town area in Victorville has become a haven for all manner of characters we can only describe as sketchy at best. The same is true of Main Street in Barstow. 

But the problem isn't confined only to those two areas. A drive down Cottonwood Avenue in Victorville will reveal tents and cardboard lean-tos in the desert, nearly hidden among the brush. Anyone who has participated in city cleanup days likely can attest to the number of hypodermic needles strewn around the desert by drug-abusing homeless people.

So we applaud the Victorville City Council for its commitment last week to create a homeless task force. Victorville ranks second only to San Bernardino in the number of homeless in the county. Last year's effort to move the homeless out of the Mojave Riverbed clearly didn't solve the problem.

This time, City Manager Doug Robertson says Victorville plans to work with the county to create permanent housing and establish other permanent services for the homeless.

It's a great start, as many homeless experts across the nation agree that you must have a housing component if you ever hope to solve the problem.

But it will take more than that. Mental health services also are imperative.

Unfortunately, you can't simply legislate or spend your way to an end to this problem.

Homeless people have to want to be helped, too. And many don't want any help. They are entrenched in substance abuse and choose to live on the streets in many cases, despite the best efforts of family and even social service agencies to help them.

Still, Victorville is doing the right thing in creating a task force. You can't ignore the problem and expect any change to come. Hopefully this task force will be the beginning of the end of the homeless problem in Victorville.