California homeless make up nearly one-third of US homeless population, new report shows

The California homeless population accounts for nearly a third of the nation’s homelessness, according to a new report.

The Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative (BHHI) at the University of California, San Francisco released what it called the "largest representative study of homelessness in the United States" since the 1990s, which looks at the causes and consequences of homelessness in California.

The study was conducted through nearly 3,200 questionnaires and 365 in depth interviews with adults who are experiencing homelessness in eight regions of California.

Most of the participants revealed that housing was not affordable, reporting a median monthly household income of $960 in the six months before they became homeless, according to the study, and most believed rental subsidies or a one-time financial assistance may have prevented them from becoming homeless.

"The results of the study confirm that far too many Californians experience homelessness because they cannot afford housing," Margot Kushel, MD, Director, UCSF BHHI and principal investigator of the study said. "Through thousands of survey responses and hundreds of in-depth interviews, the study’s findings reflect the incalculable personal costs of homelessness."

The study also found the homeless population in California is getting older, with 47% of homeless people being 50 or older, and an overrepresentation of Latino, Black and Native Americans, accounting for 35%, 26% and 12% respectively.

Twenty-percent of the people surveyed became unhoused when they got out of an institution, two-thirds reported mental health issues, and 72% had experienced physical violence during their life.

Participants said they were not employed, though nearly half were looking for work.

"As we drive toward addressing the health and housing needs of Californian’s experiencing homelessness, this study reinforces the importance of comprehensive and integrated supports," Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency said. "California is taking bold steps to address unmet needs for physical and behavioral health services, to create a range of housing options that are safe and stable, and to meet people where they are at."

Along with the findings, BHHI provided six policy recommendations including increasing access to affordable housing to extremely low-income households making less than 30% of the area median income, expanding targeted homelessness prevention like financial and legal assistance and providing more support to address the mental and behavioral health needs of the homeless population.

Homelessness across the U.S. continues to rise, with major cities like Chicago, Miami, Boston and Phoenix all reporting increases in the homeless population.

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During an interview with Fox News Host Sean Hannity last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom admitted that his efforts to curb the state’s spiraling homeless crisis have not produced any progress.

Like the study suggests, Newsom blamed housing costs as well as pushback from locals for the lack of progress.