Homelessness count rises in California despite staying steady nationwide, report finds

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Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Homelessness count rises in CA despite staying steady nationwide
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Since 2020, homelessness in California is up 6.2%. On any given night, the data showed half of all unsheltered homeless people in the country are in the Golden State.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Biden administration is taking new action to combat the homelessness crisis. It comes the same day the federal government unveiled the results of the annual Point-in-Time count, which show that homelessness across the country is holding steady, although continuing to rise in California.

In the new plan unveiled Monday, the White House called for increasing the supply of affordable housing and the number of emergency shelters and support programs nationwide.

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It's all with the goal of reducing the number of homeless by 25% in the next two years

"I think it's very ambitious but I also think we have to be bold... there's a crisis," Rafael Velázquez, the Director of Community Programs at The Unity Council, a social equity organization that works to provide affordable housing in Oakland, told ABC7 News.

Velázquez said he's optimistic about the plan, which calls for finding ways to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. That includes a campaign to encourage more landlords to accept government housing vouchers. It also encourages local governments to build more affordable housing.

The framework also calls for addressing equity issues as homeless people are disproportionately people of color, and for creating local advisory councils made up of people that have actually experienced homelessness.

Velázquez said the plan could help provide a cohesive strategy for counties in the Bay Area.

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"I think, if anything, this will create an alignment across different counties," he said. "We have a specific goal that we can work towards, whereas I think in the past different counties and cities have had different goals."

The framework from the White House comes the same day the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released new numbers about homelessness across the country.

The numbers show the number of people experiencing homelessness nationwide -- just more than half a million people -- has largely held steady since the start of the pandemic. But in California, the numbers have risen.

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Since 2020, homelessness in the state is up 6.2%. On any given night, the data showed half of all unsheltered homeless people in the country are in California.

The results of the survey also show San Jose has the highest percentage of unsheltered homeless people of any major city in the country.

Alameda, Solano, Sonoma and Napa counties are also some of the highest on the list.

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Homeless advocates say the disparity in the numbers in California versus other states... largely comes down to housing and the lack of it.

"You can have all these different strategies, but if we don't address the housing supply and the high rent, it's going to be really difficult for us to address homelessness, right?" Velázquez said.

The data did show the number of homeless veterans has dropped nationwide, including in California. Velázquez says there have been many programs in recent years aimed at helping homeless veterans. He said the declining numbers are a sign that targeted strategies work.

He said he's hopeful that similar efforts outlined in the Biden administration's new plan could work, too.

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