California has 12% of the nation’s population, yet we have 30% of the nation’s homeless. This administration has spent $17 billion on the problem, but the homeless population has surged. Californians are fed up.
There are solutions available, but current leadership won’t consider them. One thing is certain – throwing money at homelessness hasn’t worked. Take a look at San Francisco’s program to provide permanent supportive housing for the homeless. The City spent $160 million, but by all accounts the program has resulted in crime, death and chaos. Of 515 tenants tracked by San Francisco, 25% died, 21% returned to homelessness, 27% are whereabouts unknown, and 25% found stable homes – mostly with friends, family or in subsidized housing. Overall, San Francisco’s homeless population increased by 56% since 2016.
Compare an alternative approach – the St. Johns Program for Real Change in Sacramento, which has served 30,000 women over the past 25 years. About 75% transitioned into permanent housing and 96% who completed vocational training left with non-subsidized jobs.
Locally, Solutions for Change has also been extremely successful in serving homeless families throughout North County and beyond. The program has graduated over 1,250 parents and supported 2,500 children to equip, inspire and empower them to break the cycle of dependency and poverty.
Why the differing outcomes? Both the St. Johns Program and Solutions for Change require sobriety, while the “housing first” approach used in San Francisco and mandated by the state does not. In fact, highly successful programs like Solutions and St. Johns are not eligible for any state funding because they require their clients/tenants to remain sober.
We need to use every tool available and fund proven programs. But simply providing housing without treating underlying problems like substance abuse and mental illness has not succeeded. The homeless population continues to grow, no matter how much we spend.