California’s homelessness crisis has been worsened by pandemic-related shutdowns and rising housing costs. Deaths are rising among people without homes, college students are living in cars, and encampment communities continue to grow. While the overall shares of Californians who see homelessness as a big problem and report seeing an increase in the presence of homeless people in their communities has largely held steady during the pandemic, views have shifted notably in some regions.
According to the latest PPIC Statewide Survey, the overall share of Californians who say homelessness is a big problem in their part of the state (64%) is similar to the share who held this view before the start of the pandemic. There is agreement across partisan groups that homelessness is a big problem (68% Democrats, 64% Republicans, 68% independents). Similar majorities across demographic groups say this.
Majorities across regions say homelessness is a big problem—but the shares holding this view range from 74% of Central Valley residents to 57% of residents in the Inland Empire. While these shares have held steady in most regions, they have increased 11 percentage points in the Central Valley—from 63% in February 2020.
Most adults are very (46%) or somewhat (35%) concerned about homelessness in their local community (13% are not too concerned, and 5% are not at all concerned). The share saying they are very concerned is 12 percentage points lower than it was in November 2019 (58%).
Across regions, about half of adults in Los Angeles (51%) and the Inland Empire (49%) say they are very concerned, compared to fewer in other regions (45% Central Valley, 44% San Francisco Bay Area, 41% Orange and San Diego Counties). Shifts over time across regions mirror the decline in the overall share. The largest shifts have been in the San Francisco Bay Area—where the share saying they are very concerned declined 24 percentage points, from 63% in 2019 to 39% today—and in the Orange and San Diego region, which saw a 14 percentage point decline in the share holding this view (from 55% in 2019 to 41% today).
According to a report by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, California’s homeless population increased 7% from 2020 to 2021. The overall share of Californians who say that the presence of homeless people has increased in their local community over the past 12 months has not changed much since November 2019: today a solid majority of adults (63%) say it has increased, 32% say it has stayed the same, and 3% say it has decreased.
Majorities across regions say the presence of homeless people has increased in their communities; shares saying this are highest in the Central Valley (69%) and Los Angeles (67%). While the shares reporting an increase have not changed much in most regions, they have increased by 13 percentage points in Orange and San Diego Counties (from 49% in November 2019 to 62% today) and 14 percentage points in the Central Valley (from 55% in 2019 to 69% today).
As California continues to grapple with a growing population of people without homes, the PPIC Statewide Survey will continue to monitor public perceptions and attitudes on homelessness.