Homelessness has long been a concern for Californians; in recent years, it has reached crisis levels in many parts of the state. In the latest PPIC Statewide Survey, 14% of Californians mentioned homelessness as the most important issue facing the state, a share that is second only to jobs, the economy, and inflation. Homelessness has been one of the top issues mentioned over the past year.
Most adults and likely voters continue to say that homelessness is at least somewhat of problem, including about seven in ten adults (68%) and likely voters (70%) who see it as a big problem. At least six in ten have said this was a big problem since May 2019, when PPIC first asked this question.
Across racial/ethnic groups, African Americans are most likely to view homelessness as a big problem (85%), followed by whites (69%), Latinos (67%), and Asian Americans (59%). These shares were similar a year ago.
Solid majorities across regions see homelessness as a big problem, with the exception of Orange/San Diego Counties, where only half hold this view. There have been some changes across regional groups: the share saying homelessness is a big problem has increased somewhat in the Central Valley (from 66% to 74%) and decreased in Orange/San Diego (from 60% to 50%), while views across other regions were almost identical last September.
Californians have also noted an increase in the presence of homeless people in their local communities, amid evidence of shifts in the homeless population in several counties. About six in ten adults and likely voters say that the presence of homeless people has increased in their local community over the past 12 months; one in three say it has stayed about the same, and 3% say they have seen a decrease. About six in ten adults have noted increases since the first time PPIC asked this question in 2019.
Latinos (67%), whites (60%), and African Americans (58%) are more likely than Asian Americans (48%) to say there has been an increase in the presence of homeless people in their communities. Shares across racial/ethnic groups were similar last year. Today most residents in the Central Valley (71%) and Los Angeles (65%) say there has been an increase, compared to smaller majorities in the San Francisco Bay Area (55%), Inland Empire (55%), and Orange/San Diego Counties (53%). These shares were similar a year ago across all regions except the Central Valley, where the share was 13 points lower.
Homelessness will continue to be a top issue, not only in the upcoming November election—when voter concern could play a key role in the outcome of local and congressional races—but also over the long term, in California and throughout the country. As state and local governments grapple with the challenge of a growing population of people without homes, PPIC will monitor public perceptions of homelessness and efforts to address it.