There are many different speculations as to what has provoked the rise in homelessness in the United States. One factor that many blame, including Governor Newsom, is a shortage of affordable housing. 

“The crisis of homelessness will never be solved without first solving the crisis of housing – the two issues are inextricably linked.”

Mostly false or misleading. Significant errors or omissions. Mostly make believe.

Barriers to the development of affordable housing must be addressed in many areas throughout our country, including California. However, the shortage of affordable housing is not a recent phenomenon and thus using it as a buttress for the rise in homelessness does not reflect well on the policymakers that handcuffed the homeless to policy based solely on the availability of “enough” affordable housing.

Nor does the data support the notion that more housing will solve homelessness. Between 2014 and 2019, despite a 42.7% increase in the number of permanent housing units, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) revealed a 20.5% increase in the nation’s unsheltered population under the shift to Housing First. 

In California—the only state to fully adopt Housing First (2016)—the number of permanent housing units increased by 33% in the 2017-2019 period, yet unsheltered homelessness rose by 47.1%.

The number of permanent housing units rose substantially at the national level and in California, yet the numbers struggling with homelessness did, too. More housing, in and of itself, will solve homelessness. 

Housing First, as a one-size-fits-all approach to homelessness, is an epic failure. Yet, the federal government and California policymakers refuse to recalculate their homeless policy roadmap. 

Policymakers must instead recognize that human beings are complex and that any effective policy solution must be human-centered versus housing-centered. 

Effective homeless policy must balance the needs of those struggling with homelessness in parallel with the needs of the communities surrounding them. Current policy has forced many Americans—the homeless included—to abandon sidewalks, parks, and expectations of public order and safety. 

Finally, homeless policy must insist on guardrails of responsibility at every level of the system, from governments at the federal, state, and local levels, to the individuals struggling with homelessness and the non-profits serving them. 

To learn more about America’s failure to address homelessness, read the policy focus HERE.