Californians view homelessness as the most important issue facing the state, along with jobs and the economy, according to a new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.
Fifteen percent of those polled ranked either homelessness or the economy as the most pressing issue.
“This was the first time in the history of the PPIC statewide survey, which was started in 1998, that we’ve ever seen homelessness rise to be the top issue,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the policy institute. “Recently, we’ve been getting more mentions of housing costs as well as homelessness. But we’ve never seen homelessness mentioned by more than 6 percent.”
The number of people without a permanent home spiked this year by double-digit percentages in counties from Los Angeles to Sacramento to Merced.
And Californians of all political stripes are paying attention, Baldassare said.
“What I found really interesting about the mention of homelessness as the most important problem is that Democrats, Republicans and Independents were just about equally likely to mention these issues,” he said.
The survey found 11 percent were most concerned about housing costs, while 9 percent listed immigration and 8 percent the environment.
The poll was taken in mid-September, about the same time President Trump ramped up his criticism of California’s homeless crisis.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised to tackle the issue by expanding homeless services. His first state budget includes $1 billion for homelessness, an historic amount according to advocates for homeless people. It includes $650 million in one-time funds to build and expand "emergency shelters and navigation centers, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, job programs, and for innovative projects like hotel/motel conversions," according to the state's budget summary.
California is home to one-quarter of the nation's homeless people, though it represents just 12 percent of the country's overall population. It also has the highest share of unsheltered homeless people, 69 percent, of any state.
Two years ago, California's homeless population jumped nearly 14 percent as the nation's remained flat; last year, it declined 1 percent. as the nation's remained flat; last year, it declined 1 percent.
CapRadio’s PolitiFact California is tracking the governor’s campaign promises on our Newsom-Meter, including his pledges to expand homeless services and to appoint a cabinet-level homelessness secretary. For updates, visit PolitiFact.com/California.