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Blog Post · April 14, 2023

Californians See a Rise in Homelessness in Their Communities

photo - Homeless Tents Along the Roadside in Downtown Los Angeles

California has been the state with the largest population of homeless people for more than a decade, and Californians are increasingly voicing concern about homelessness. According to the February 2023 PPIC Statewide Survey, 20% of California adults ranked homelessness as the top issue for the governor and legislature to work on—second only to jobs, the economy, and inflation (23%). This reflects a return to the high levels of concern in January 2020 (20%).

Nearly all California adults and likely voters say homelessness is a big problem (70% adults, 76% likely voters) or somewhat of a problem (26% adults, 23% likely voters) in their part of California—few say it is not a problem. PPIC first asked this question in May 2019 (63%); over the past four years, the share who believe the problem is significant has reached a record high.

Strong majorities across partisan, demographic, and regional groups agree that homelessness is a big problem; Republicans (79%, 74% Democrats, 69% independents) and African Americans (83%, 71% whites, 69% Latinos, 62% Asian Americans) are most likely to hold this view. As income and age rise, so do the shares who view the problem as large. Three in four Los Angeles and SF Bay Area residents say this, compared to about two in three residents in other regions.

The share of Californians with this outlook has increased since May 2019. Among Republicans, the share saying that homelessness is a big problem rose 21 points, while shares rose 10 points among Asian Americans, Bay Area residents, adults with higher incomes, and adults over 55.

Furthermore, seven in ten or more adults (70%) and likely voters (73%) say the presence of homeless people has increased over the past 12 months in their local community. About a quarter say it has stayed the same, while few say it has decreased. The share seeing an increase has also reached a record high since we first asked this question in November 2019.

Two in three or more across partisan, demographic, and regional groups have noticed an increase, with shares highest among Republicans, African Americans, and Latinos. Since 2019, the largest change in this perception has been among Inland Empire residents (+20 points) and Latinos (+17 points).

Pandemic-era programs such as rent relief and Project Roomkey had been critical to keeping and getting Californians off the street; these programs have largely ended now that COVID-related funding is expiring. The state’s recent budget shortfall and anticipation of operating deficits in the coming years add to the challenge of developing viable approaches to housing people. As state and federal leadership consider legislation to combat key causes of homelessness and assist the growing population of people without homes, PPIC will continue to monitor public perceptions of homelessness and surrounding issues.


homelessness Housing Population Statewide Survey