New state-wide study illuminates staggering statistics of homelessness and underlying reasons
California, often recognized for its golden beaches and glamorous Hollywood lifestyle, holds a grim reality: it is home to nearly one-third of all unhoused individuals in the United States, a startling fact unveiled by a recent study.
The California Statewide Study of People Experiencing Homelessness discloses even more disturbing figures: half of all unsheltered Americans – those potentially without a vehicle for refuge – reside within the state’s borders. An overwhelming 90% of the study’s participants pinpointed unaffordable housing as their primary obstacle to escaping homelessness.
Principal investigator Margot Kushel of the University of California, San Francisco’s Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative remarked on the situation: “The results of the study confirm that far too many Californians experience homelessness because they cannot afford housing.”
Conducted between October 2021 and November 2022, the study incorporated almost 3,200 surveys and 365 in-depth interviews with adults across the state experiencing homelessness. Its scale has been unrivaled since the mid-1990s, making it an invaluable resource for understanding the current homelessness crisis.
In the United States, over a million people experience homelessness annually, with an even greater number at risk of losing their homes, as per the Biden administration. The Annual Homeless Assessment Report indicates that other states, including Florida, New York, and Washington, grappled with high homelessness rates last year, contributing to vital data for federal funding decisions.
Beyond housing affordability, the study disclosed numerous barriers faced by the unhoused population. A significant majority identified hurdles like poor credit history, discrimination, health challenges, and prior evictions, complicating their quest to secure housing. These difficulties are amplified in a state that is undergoing a severe housing shortage and hosts some of the nation’s least affordable regions.
Mental health struggles were prevalent among two-thirds of the study’s participants. Moreover, an alarming 72% reported having been victims of physical violence at some point in their lives.
Job seeking is high among the population surveyed, with nearly half actively looking for work, demonstrating their willingness to rejoin the workforce despite disconnection from the job market and related services.
In response to the grave findings, the study’s authors propose six policy changes aimed at addressing homelessness, including initiatives to improve housing affordability, prevention measures, enhanced support for behavioral health needs, income augmentation through employment supports, an expansion of outreach, and service delivery.