Report 2023-102.1
April 9, 2024

Homelessness in California
The State Must Do More to Assess the Cost‑Effectiveness of Its Homelessness Programs

April 9, 2024

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

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee requested an audit of the State’s homelessness funding, including an evaluation of the efforts undertaken by the State and two cities to monitor the cost‑effectiveness of such spending. The following report (2023‑102.1) focuses primarily on the State’s activities, in particular the California Interagency Council on Homelessness (Cal ICH)—while a separate report (2023‑102.2) details our findings and conclusions for the two cities we reviewed—San José and San Diego. In general, this report concludes that the State must do more to assess the cost-effectiveness of its homelessness programs.

The State lacks current information on the ongoing costs and outcomes of its homelessness programs, because Cal ICH has not consistently tracked and evaluated the State’s efforts to prevent and end homelessness. Although Cal ICH reported in 2023 financial information covering fiscal years 2018–19 through 2020–21 related to all state-funded homelessness programs, it has not continued to track and report this data since that time, despite the significant amount of additional funding the State awarded to these efforts in the past two years. Cal ICH has also not aligned its action plan to end homelessness with its statutory goals to collect financial information and ensure accountability and results. Thus, it lacks assurance that the actions it takes will effectively enable it to achieve those goals. Another significant gap in the State’s ability to assess programs’ effectiveness is that it does not have a consistent method for gathering information on the costs and outcomes for individual programs.

We also reviewed five state-funded homelessness programs to assess their cost-effectiveness. After comparing reported costs and outcomes to alternative possible courses of action, we determined that the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Homekey program and the California Department of Social Services’ CalWORKs Housing Support Program appear to be cost‑effective. However, we were unable to assess the cost‑effectiveness of three other programs we reviewed because the State has not collected sufficient data on the outcomes of these programs. Among the recommendations we make is that the Legislature mandate reporting by state agencies on the costs and outcomes of their homelessness programs and that it require Cal ICH to compile and publicly report this information.

Respectfully submitted,

California State Auditor