A new survey found 53% of people in the Sacramento region see signs of homelessness almost every day, and a slightly larger share — 55% — would support a tax increase to address the crisis.
The Experiences with Homelessness in the Sacramento region poll was conducted in May by Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research and published last week.
Residents of Sacramento County were the most likely in the region to report seeing signs of homelessness everyday at 67%. By comparison, only 26% of those surveyed in Placer County and 15% in El Dorado County reported seeing those signs almost everyday.
Shannon Williams, executive director of the research institute, said the findings show homelessness “is not just this abstract issue. It’s impacting us as a community very closely.”
Asked whether they would support a tax increase to help reduce homelessness, 18% in the region said they would “strongly” favor it while 37% said they would “somewhat” support it.
Williams said the survey was conducted to raise awareness about homelessness, though it does not include policy recommendations.
Here are more key findings:
- 29% of respondents say they have known someone who has experienced homelessness
- 7% have experienced homelessness or housing insecurity
- 60% prioritize giving services to individuals who are homeless compared with 40% who prioritize clearing out encampments
The survey also found nearly half the Sacramento region has little knowledge of what’s being done to address the area’s homelessness crisis. Altogether, only 10% said they know “a lot.”
Williams blamed a communication gap between residents and community and elected leaders.
“What we see as a public is encampments,” she noted. “So there’s compassion fatigue. People are really fed up. They don’t feel anybody’s doing anything about it. And I do know there’s a lot of agencies and organizations out there working really hard to serve this population, and I don’t think that message is getting out there.”
In recent months, Sacramento’s city and county elected officials have approved several new homeless shelter and housing projects, but they’ve been criticized by advocates for not doing more or moving fast enough.
Both local governments have also adopted enforcement laws that will allow police and park rangers to clear homeless encampments, in some cases near schools, libraries, along sidewalks and the American River and Dry Creek parkways, though certain conditions must be met before camps can be cleared.
As those measures go into effect, two housing leaders said they are encouraged by some of the survey takeaways, and that there are signs the region would support building its way out of the homelessness crisis.
Kendra Lewis, executive director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, which promotes affordable housing in the region, said the number of people willing to be taxed to help unhoused residents was eye-opening.
“It’s good to hear,” Lewis added. “I’m surprised. People don’t necessarily like to be taxed. What it’s saying is people are willing to invest in housing in dealing with the homeless crisis.”
Roberto Jimenez, chief executive officer of the Sacramento-based Mutual Housing California, an affordable housing developer, said he was also surprised by the high support for a tax increase.
“The reality is there’s a shortage of housing supply,” Jimenez said. “And we can’t fix the problem [of homelessness] without building more housing. Housing is the solution.”
The poll surveyed nearly 2,000 people in El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba Counties.
It comes two months after the 2022 Homeless Point-In-Time Count found Sacramento County’s homeless population soared to a record 9,300 people. That total represents a 67% increase over the past three years, a timeframe that coincides with a worsening housing affordability crisis.
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