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Homelessness in California
The State’s Uncoordinated Approach to Addressing Homelessness Has Hampered the Effectiveness of Its Efforts

Report Number: 2020-112

February 11, 2021

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As directed by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, my office conducted an audit of five local governments who play a key role in a Continuum of Care (CoC). Our assessment of CoC agencies—groups of organizations, including local government agencies and homeless service providers, that receive funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to work toward ending homelessness within specified geographic areas—focused on best practices related to homeless services. In general, we determined that the State continues to struggle to coordinate its efforts to address homelessness, and CoCs do not always comply with federal regulations or follow best practices.

With more than 151,000 Californians who experienced homelessness in 2019, the State has the largest homeless population in the nation, but its approach to addressing homelessness is disjointed. At least nine state agencies administer and oversee 41 different programs that provide funding to mitigate homelessness, yet no single entity oversees the State’s efforts or is responsible for developing a statewide strategic plan.

Although the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council (homeless council) was created, in part, to coordinate existing funding and establish partnerships with stakeholders to develop strategies to end homelessness, it has not done so. As a result, the State continues to lack a comprehensive understanding of its spending to address homelessness, the specific services the programs provide, or the individuals who receive those services. The homeless council has also not created guidance or expectations for CoCs to follow.

Our audit found three additional factors that make state guidance to coordinate efforts to address homelessness especially necessary:

Given the magnitude of the homelessness crisis in California and the amount of funding the state and federal governments commit to combatting it, the State needs to ensure that its system for addressing problems at both the CoC and the state level is coherent, consistent, and effective.

Respectfully submitted,

California State Auditor