Solving the Homeless Crisis – the One Percent Solution is a work in progress, but it lays out a blueprint for the only sure way to move beyond homelessness.
Homelessness in the United States, and in California, has been getting worse since at least the 1980s. it is not a function solely of economic downturns. The boom years of the late 1990s, the pre-recession 2000s, and pre-COVID-19 2020 when unemployment as low as 2-3 percent in the Bay Area did little to slow homelessness.
Neither have the band-aids we have thrown at homelessness had much effect – the navigation centers, the tiny homes, the expanded shelters and safe parks. Homelessness is not going away without major policy changes and public investments on a statewide and nationwide level.
In California, at least, the two major causes of homelessness are income disparity and the high cost of housing – along with the shortage of housing.
There are associated issues with homelessness, most significantly, drug abuse and mental illness, but by definition, homelessness is solved by providing a home, not by treating drug abuse and mental illness.
The number of unhoused individuals in California was estimated at 151,278 based on the 2019 Point in Time count.
What would it cost to house all of those individuals? The average cost of rent in California is $1,409 per unit. Studio and 1-bedroom apartments are less expensive, but 1-bedroom apartments are close to the average.
Do the math. You could provide an apartment for every homeless person in California for $213,150,702 a month, or $2,557,808,000 a year. That would equal 1.6 percent of the State of California’s $153 billion budget for FY 2020-21.
An unknown number of homeless individuals have partners or other family members, so the number of dwelling units and cost would be something less than $2.6 billion annually. There are 11,502,870 households in California and an average population of 2.87 persons per household. The average population per family is 3.43 persons. Among the homeless population, the average persons per household is probably a lot less than 2.87 persons, likely 1.5 or less.
Assuming there were the required number of dwelling units available statewide, the homeless challenge could be met something less than 1.6 percent of the general fund budget.
Would you support using approximately 1 percent of the California budget to end homelessness. I would.
A discussion about this always begs the question, what about social services, especially drug and mental health treatment? These are important issues, but if people are housed, they cease to become homeless issues.
CalMatters has an excellent summary of homelessness in California, “California’s Homelessness Crisis – and Possible Solutions – Explained.”