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    HomeNewsCalifornia Homelessness Increased 6% Last Year

    California Homelessness Increased 6% Last Year

    By Kenneth Schrupp, Reporter, The Center Square

    (The Center Square) – According to a new annual report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Human Development, the number of homeless individuals in California grew by 5.8% over the last year to 181,399, based on reporting from California governments to the federal government. Given analysis that has found some municipalities in California have significantly undercounted their homeless populations, it’s likely the number of homeless in California could be significantly higher. 

     “The State had largest [sic] number of individuals in the nation experiencing homelessness in 2023,” said HUD in its report. “California also experienced the largest increase in individuals since 2007 (45,000 or 40% more individuals) and second largest increase between 2022 and 2023 (10,000 or a 7% increase).”

    While the report noted “improved unsheltered count methodologies were said to have increased the number of people counted in encampments, other data suggests homelessness remains significantly undercounted in California, especially Los Angeles County — home to 75,518, or 42%, of the state’s homeless. 

    According to an analysis of Los Angeles’ 2022 homelessness count by the RAND Corporation, an American nonprofit global policy think tank, research institute, and public sector consulting firm, homelessness increased not by just 4.1%, as reported by the county, but likely was undercounted given that in areas where it conducted its own homeless count, it found an average homeless population increase of 18%. 

    At this level of undercounting, there may be over 200,000 homeless individuals in California. With $17.5 billion spent on homelessness by the state from 2018-2022, or enough to pay for rent for every homeless individual in California for that entire time, some state leaders say greater accountability and effectiveness of existing spending, not more spending, is what the state needs. State Sen. Roger Niello, R–Fair Oaks, who was part of a bipartisan group of legislators who successfully petitioned for the now-ongoing audit of state homelessness spending, says diverting existing funding to counties and allowing greater flexibility instead of state-directed, centralized programs would help make greater progress.

    “We have 58 counties that would pursue potentially 58 approaches, but some of the approaches would be more successful and the others could learn from those,” Niello said in an interview with The Center Square. “Devolving responsibilities to counties, funding counties, and getting rid of this one size fits all housing first model could go a significant way towards making real progress on homelessness.”

    The report, which used data from January of 2023, also states California is home to 28% of the nation’s homeless and half the nation’s unsheltered homeless. Only Hawaii, which has 76.2% of its homeless unsheltered, barely outpaced California for its concentration of unsheltered homelessness. Year over year, however, the number of sheltered homeless in California grew by 11% — and placed another 3,715 individuals indoors — suggesting the state is making limited progress, despite the billions being spent. 

    California’s signature anti-homelessness program is Project Homekey, under which state funding is used to purchase motels and convert them to longer-term homeless housing at the cost of $31,025 per resident per year to operate and at least $200,000 to acquire each unit. At an average acquisition cost of $281,295 per unit, it would cost the state $51 billion to purchase enough motel rooms for each homeless individual and $5.6 billion each year to operate.

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