California has the largest number of people experiencing homelessness in the United States, accounting for nearly a third of the country’s homeless population, according to a recent study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
“More than 171,000 people experience homelessness daily in California, two times more than the next highest state,” the UCSF’s California Statewide Study of People Experiencing Homelessness (CASPEH) study report (pdf) said. “While 12 percent of the overall United States population lives in California, 30 percent of the nation’s homeless population and half the nation’s unsheltered population (those living outside, in vehicles, or in places not meant for human habitation) reside here.”
The report, released on June 20, shatters a common myth about homelessness in California—that many of these people come from outside the state. It points out that “people experiencing homelessness in California are Californians.” Nine out of ten respondents had lost their last housing in the state. Meanwhile, 75 percent of participants lived in the same county where their last home was located.
High costs and homelessness were found to have left the participants “vulnerable to homelessness.” In the six months prior to becoming homeless, the median monthly household income of the respondents was found to be just $960.
“Twenty-one percent of leaseholders cited a loss of income as the main reason that they lost their last housing. Among non-leaseholders, 13 percent noted a conflict within the household, and 11 percent noted not wanting to impose.”
The survey respondents said that financial support could have prevented their homelessness, with 70 percent saying that a monthly rental subsidy of $300 to $500 would have ensured they had a roof over their heads.
Eighty-two percent believed a one-time payment of $5,000 to $10,000 could have ensured they did not become homeless. Eighty-nine percent cited housing costs as a barrier to re-enter permanent housing.
The study was conducted among nearly 3,200 homeless people between October 2021 and November 2022, with 365 people recruited for in-depth interviews.
Poor Government Policies and Funding Oversight
The CASPEH report comes as California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently admitted in an interview that his efforts to curb homelessness in the state had not yielded results.
“This state has not made progress in the last two decades as it relates to homelessness because housing costs are too high, our regulatory thickets are too problematic, localism has been too impactful—meaning people locally are pushing back against new housing starts and construction,” Newsom said.
In February this year, California’s Interagency Council on Homelessness released a report detailing the massive amounts of money the state spent between 2018 and 2021 on the matter.
The report points out that the state spent close to $10 billion during this three-year period and provided services to over 571,000 people, with each year servicing more homeless people than the previous. But despite this spending, most of these people remained homeless.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Alex Villanueva, former Los Angeles County Sheriff, blamed the crisis on homelessness being a profitable industry for various individuals and organizations. “They’re not doing anything about it because the homeless industrial complex is alive and well,” he said.
According to Villanueva, many nonprofits receive funding from counties to resolve the homelessness issue. However, there are no clear guidelines on how such funding ought to be utilized.
“There’s no governance, there’s no oversight, there’s no accountability on the results. [The county] just keeps shoveling money at them, and the problem keeps getting worse and worse,” he said.
Aging Homeless Population, Physical and Mental Crisis
The CASPEH report found that the homeless population in California is “aging,” with the median age of study participants being 47 years.
Thirty-nine percent of participants were found to be in their first episode of homelessness. Over a third met the federal criteria for chronic homelessness. The median length of an individual’s homelessness was found to be 22 months.
“Physical and sexual victimization throughout the life course was common,” the study noted. “Nearly three quarters (72 percent) experienced physical violence in their lifetime; 24 percent experienced sexual violence … The majority (82 percent) reported a period in their life where they experienced a serious mental health condition.”
To cope with homelessness, many participants have resorted to drugs and alcohol, the study found. “Almost one-third (31 percent) reported regular use of methamphetamines, 3 percent cocaine, and 11 percent non-prescribed opioids. Sixteen percent reported heavy episodic drinking.”
According to the survey, most of the participants belonged to three racial groups—whites making up 27 percent, followed by blacks and Latinos with 26 percent each.
From The Epoch Times