KQED: California’s $20 Billion Effort to Combat Homelessness Fails to Curb Rising Unhoused Population

California is not doing enough to track and evaluate efforts to address homelessness — despite billions of dollars spent to address the crisis, a state auditor found in a report released Tuesday.

The audit looked at spending in fiscal years 2020 through 2023 across California, as well as within the cities of San José and San Diego. It found a revolving door of homelessness, with most people who access services placed in interim housing. Of those, just 13% ended up with a permanent place to live, while 44% returned to homelessness.

State Sen. Dave Cortese (D-San José) requested the audit in November 2022 after touring a sprawling San José encampment that has since been cleared. The audit request was approved in March 2023.

On Tuesday, he said the audit revealed a “data desert” and added that there clearly wasn’t enough capacity — either planned or built — to ensure that people living on the streets could get permanent housing.

“There are not clear plans in place even at the local level to establish goals that would eradicate homelessness … on a bed-by-bed, project-by-project level,” Cortese said. “Basically, you have a system where cities are putting money out … but not based on a concrete plan.”

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