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Californians Are Grappling with Homelessness

In his State of the State address last week, Gavin Newsom focused almost exclusively on homelessness—a significant long-term problem and major concern for state residents. In 2019, 150,000 Californians—more than a quarter of the US homeless population—were counted as homeless. California’s rate of homelessness rose to 38 per 10,000 residents, the third highest in the nation.

What is more, 72% of California’s homeless residents are unsheltered, living on the street or in parks and other makeshift spaces. And nearly three in ten self-report as chronically homeless—having been on the streets for more than a year.

Figure: California's Homelessness Crisis is Longstanding
Californians across the state are feeling the gravity of this issue. The latest PPIC Statewide Survey finds that more than 8 in 10 Californians see homelessness as a problem in their part of the state (86% adults, 89% likely voters).

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Considering these numbers, it does not come as surprise that Governor Newsom has made homelessness a major focus. Citing the connection between chronic homelessness, mental health, and behavioral health, Newsom has underlined the importance of policies and investments that allow for “whole person” care. By linking current funding sources and asking lawmakers to expand the use of funds for services provided to the homeless population—especially those involved with the criminal justice system and at-risk foster youth—the governor hopes to improve and integrate these services.

The PPIC Statewide Survey finds that a full 70% of Californians—and 64% of likely voters—favor the governor’s proposed $1 billion budget expenditure to address homelessness. State leadership and investment are key, but there is only so much that can be done at the statewide level. Finding solutions to homelessness requires coordination between the federal, state, and local levels, as well as collaboration across sectors—including housing, health, and social services.

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