Homelessness is a growing concern in California, where nearly a quarter of the nation’s homeless population lives. The crisis comes amid sky-high housing costs and widening income inequality. PPIC’s latest survey explores residents’ perceptions of homelessness in their part of the state.
Eighty-five percent of Californians say they are concerned about the presence of homeless people in their local community, including 58 percent who are very concerned. Majorities across regions and demographic groups say they are very concerned about this issue.
In addition, about six in ten Californians (58%) say the presence of homeless people has increased in their local community over the past year. Four in ten say it has stayed the same, while only 3% say it has decreased.
The chart below allows you to take a closer look at how different Californians view this issue. Across regions, Los Angeles (63%) residents are the most likely to say the presence of homeless people has increased. This is in line with recent data showing Los Angeles County saw a spike in homelessness in 2019. African Americans (73%) and residents with annual household incomes under $40,000 (61%) are also especially likely to report an increase in homelessness in their community. Very small shares of Californians report a decrease in the presence of homeless people.
Given the complexity of the homelessness crisis, the governor and state legislature must think of creative and sustainable solutions. One possible approach is a law that would require local governments to construct enough shelter beds so that any homeless person requesting to come indoors could do so. When asked about this proposal, an overwhelming majority of Californians (76% adults, 70% likely voters) are in favor. There is support for the policy across parties, regions, and demographic groups.
As state policymakers work on their policy agendas for the next year, we will continue to monitor Californians’ views on homelessness and related policies closely.