Dec 21, 2022 - News

California's homelessness crisis in 2022

tent in front of ferry building

A tent along the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

California had the highest rate of homelessness in the country and accounted for nearly a third of the country's unhoused population on a single night in 2022, according to a new federal report.

Driving the news: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's annual report on homelessness, released this week, found there were 171,521 unhoused people in California in its one-night point-in-time count, with 44 people experiencing homelessness for every 10,000 people in the state.

  • Meanwhile, California accounted for half of all unsheltered people in the country — with 115,491 people living outside or in vehicles.
  • California had nine times the number of unsheltered people in Washington, the state with the second highest number of that population.

Why it matters: California's unhoused population has drastically increased since 2015, due in part to a housing shortage driving up rent, Cal Matters reports.

  • San Francisco's unhoused population has decreased by 3.5% since 2019 to 7,754 in 2022, according to data released by the city in August.
  • Yes, but: For every one person a San Francisco program houses, an estimated four will become unhoused because the city's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) has "not been able to keep pace with inflow of people who become newly homeless or return to homelessness throughout the year," the August report said.

Between the lines: District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston told Axios addressing homelessness and affordable housing are top priorities for him.

  • D5, which includes the Tenderloin, had the third-highest number of unhoused people on a single night in February in San Francisco, per the city's latest point-in-time count.
  • Part of Preston's plan for tackling homelessness entails working to turn the Oasis Inn into a permanent shelter for unhoused families.

Of note: California Gov. Gavin Newsom in November temporarily paused $1 billion in homelessness funding from local governments, saying their strategies to combat homelessness are "simply unacceptable."

  • Two weeks later, he released the money with the caveat that local governments must commit to more aggressive strategies before receiving the next round of funding for fiscal year 2023-2024 as part of the Homelessness Housing, Assistance and Prevention state grants.

What they're saying: "This year's numbers prove what we already know — homelessness is a national crisis and what we've been doing isn't working fast enough to reverse a problem that's been decades in the making," Newsom said in an emailed statement to Axios.

  • San Francisco Mayor London Breed's office said in an emailed statement to Axios that the city housed over 5,000 people and created nearly 3,000 new housing units between July 2020 and June 30,2022.
  • Breed's office, however, acknowledges they "still have serious work to do."

What to watch: Newsom said the state is "holding steadfast" on its $15.3 billion commitment to address homelessness and that California needs to focus its spending on clearing encampments, building more housing and moving unhoused people into housing programs like Homekey.


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