Homelessness in California — By the Numbers

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California has become the epicenter of the US homelessness crisis. Here are some facts to explain the challenging situation in the Golden State.

California has 30 percent of the nation’s homeless population, according to new government statistics. That’s more than big states like New York (with 13 percent) and Florida (5 percent).

Major California cities including San Francisco and Sacramento each have thousands of homeless, but the situation is worse in Los Angeles County, which has 75,500 of the 171,000 homeless. in the state.

A bigger factor than poverty, mental health and addiction, experts say, is a housing shortage that is driving prices to higher levels.

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For years, very few housing units were built in the state, due to complex environmental rules, planning regulations that favored individual homes over multi-family units and restrictive covenants. which limits the construction of low-rise houses.

So, the poorest city in the country — Detroit, Michigan — has less of a homeless problem because affordable housing is plentiful there.

A common stereotype says that the problem of homelessness in California is caused by the migration of poor people from other states attracted by the warm climate or a permissive attitude to drugs.

But 90 percent of homeless people surveyed recently by the state had homes in California before ending up on the street, said Margot Kushel, who directs the Center for Vulnerable Populations at the University of California at San Francisco.

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Of those who live alone, 47 percent are aged 50 and over. And 41 percent of that group has never been homeless before turning 50 years old.

“These are people who have not been given access to health care their entire lives, who work very physically demanding jobs, and … are often vulnerable,” Kushel said.

Homelessness and the construction of affordable housing are the top concerns of Californians – more than inflation, immigration, abortion and climate change, according to a Quinnipiac University survey in March.

Republicans gleefully say that California suffers from out-of-control progressive values.

This is a challenge for Governor Gavin Newsom, a politically ambitious Democrat, who has often pointed to the millions of dollars his administration has spent on the problem.

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Kushel said federal intervention may be necessary: ​​A bipartisan program to help homeless military veterans has reduced their numbers by 55 percent since 2010.