New Homelessness Counts Offer Bad News, Good News

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New data released this week shows that homelessness in the Bay Area is getting worse, with the region’s unhoused population up by 9% since 2020. Contra Costa and Alameda counties saw the biggest increase with a 36% and 20% increase in homelessness, respectively. Modest gains were made in San Francisco as homelessness declined by 5%. The data comes from the one-day point-in-time (PIT) surveys conducted by volunteers and public employees within individual counties, including several Bay Area Council staff. Six of the nine Bay Area counties have released PIT data including San Francisco, Sonoma, Santa Clara, Alameda, Marin, Napa, Solano, San Mateo, and Contra Costa, providing a snapshot into the aftermath of the pandemic.
While the numbers are by no means good, there’s evidence that homeless programs implemented during the pandemic (shelter in place hotel rooms, sanctioned tent cities, tiny home villages) have helped the region avoid a catastrophic rise in the number of people on the streets. One such indicator is the size of the region’s sheltered homeless population which jumped by 19%. This increase suggests that programs like Governor Newsom’s motel/hotel conversion initiative–Project Homekey–have been successful in providing supportive housing options for vulnerable populations. However, homelessness spikes in the East Bay suburbs show that subsidies alone cannot solve the Bay Area’s homelessness crisis. Rather, systematic changes must be put in place to address the underlying lack of affordable housing. To engage in the Council’s homeless policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Adrian Covert.

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