California Has No Idea How Much Its Homeless Programs Are Costing, Audit Finds

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Robert Schmad Contributor
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California lacks information on the costs or efficacy of its homelessness programs, despite allocating billions of dollars to them, a report released by the state auditor’s office on Tuesday found.

California Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) is responsible for coordinating and evaluating the efforts of California’s state agency in reducing homelessness. ICH, however, “has not consistently tracked and evaluated” the state’s efforts to prevent and end homelessness and, as a result, California “lacks current information on the ongoing costs and outcomes of its homelessness programs,” according to a report from the California State Auditor.

The homeless population in California has grown from 118,552 in 2013 to 181,399 in 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. California has allocated almost $24 billion to homelessness and housing services over the past five fiscal years, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. (RELATED: San Francisco Spent Massive Amount Of Taxpayer Dollars To House Homeless During Pandemic)

ICH has not tracked this funding, according to the auditor’s report. State funding for homelessness programs either goes to counties, cities or third parties who then provide services for the homeless on its behalf, the report explains. Sometimes cities and counties will themselves pass off state funding to third parties to run homelessness programs, and those third parties sometimes pass off the funding to subcontractors.

The report found the ICH had “not established a consistent method” for examining the effectiveness of programs funded through these arrangements.

ICH has also failed to verify the accuracy of the data it has collected, the auditor’s report found.

Homeless encampments (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

To remedy its data collection issues, the California state auditor recommended that ICH develop a scorecard, or something similar, including variables like the number of people entering, leaving or exiting homelessness as well as entries cataloging the expenses incurred by different programs and numeric outcomes relevant to those programs.

To do this, the state auditor recommended that ICH work with entities providing homelessness services to implement standardized data reporting requirements.

ICH agreed with the recommendations made by the state auditor, though noted that resource limitations could hamper its ability to implement some of them.

“The State Auditor’s findings highlight the significant progress made in recent years to address homelessness at the state level, including the completion of a statewide assessment of homelessness programs,” ICH told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“It also underscores a need to continue to hold local governments accountable, who are primarily responsible for implementing these programs and collecting data on outcomes that the state can use to evaluate program effectiveness,” the agency continued.

Homelessness in California has worsened considerably in recent years. The number of homeless camps in San Francisco reached its highest point since 2020 in September 2023, with 523 sites recorded in the city. Though the city has spent millions on new public restrooms, it received over 32,000 calls concerning feces in its streets during 2023.

Residents living in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood, one of the worst affected by homelessness, sued the city for allegedly not enforcing laws in the area, allowing open-air drug markets to persist in the district.

In a similar vein, a recent lawsuit claims that an art school in Los Angeles had to shut down due to the city’s ongoing homelessness crisis, alleging that there was feces on the sidewalk near the campus and that the air smelled like urine.

Los Angeles approved an $83 million project to purchase and convert the city’s luxury Mayfair Hotel into housing for the homeless in August 2023, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.


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