Homelessness Task Force Report: Tools and Resources for Cities and Counties

After steady declines in homelessness from 2007 through 2014, the number of people without homes in California has now risen for three consecutive years. This is occurring not just in major cities and urban areas but also in rural California, in our heavily forested areas, along our rivers and in our suburban neighborhoods. Homelessness is no longer confined to our major metropolitan areas — it has spread to every part of our state.

Distressingly, the increase is due to large increases in the number of unsheltered homeless people — those who not only have no place to call home, but are not able to find even temporary shelter.

The demographics of homelessness are changing, too. Many homeless individuals struggle with substance abuse disorders and mental illness. However, domestic violence, lack of affordable housing and employment opportunities and the cost of health care have also pushed individuals into homelessness. In addition, thousands of Californians are displaced every year by natural disasters such as floods and wildfires.

California is home to 21 of the 30 most expensive rental markets in the nation and the state does not have enough affordable housing stock to meet the demand of low-income households. The state’s 2.2 million extremely low-income and very low-income renter households compete for 664,000 affordable rental homes.

As national and state programs fall short of fully addressing this issue, local governments are coming together to find solutions for their communities. Collaboration, cooperation and support at the local level are key to addressing this crisis. That is why the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties formed the Joint Homelessness Task Force in 2016 to examine these issues and discuss collaborative local solutions to address homelessness.

Local government representatives met over the course of a year to better understand this issue in California. The task force wanted to identify not only the known best practices but also promising new practices that cities and counties are implementing to address homelessness, as well as the challenges, lessons and gaps communities are facing in the fight to end it. Details of the task force’s work are outlined here.

This report provides practical tools for cities and counties in California to use in addressing homelessness in their communities. It offers details on how to create a homelessness plan, identify resources and funding for homelessness and build support in communities to address homelessness.

To successfully reduce homelessness, local governments must continue to be creative and must keep moving forward. Each city and county is unique and may be at very different stages of addressing homelessness in its community. However, to succeed in addressing an issue like homelessness, local governments must learn from each other to collaborate and forge partnerships.

We look forward to the day when every Californian has a path that leads them home.

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