California has spent billions to fight homelessness. The problem has gotten worse | CNN:

California has spent a stunning $17.5 billion trying to combat homelessness over just four years. But, in the same time frame, from 2018 to 2022, the state’s homeless population actually grew. Half of all Americans living outside on the streets, federal data shows, live in California.

This is so much money that California could have paid the rent for for every homeless person in the state and had $4 billion left over for mental health services. In case you were wondering just how inefficient California state government is. 

…But even if California did want to pay rent for every homeless person, there just isn’t enough affordable housing to go around.

“We need 2.5 million more units in California,” said Elliott. “This is a problem that is decades and decades in the making because of policy choices that we’ve made. We are not blameless. And when I say we, I mean Republicans and Democrats alike.”

The California Democratic Party has controlled the state House and Senate since 1999. Except for a stretch of 2004-2010 after the awful Gray Davis was recalled, they’ve controlled the governorship as well. The GOP may not be blameless here, but, I mean, come on. 

A total of $20.6 billion has been allocated through 2024 to combat homelessness. Nearly $4 billion went to local governments to spend on anti-homelessness initiatives. $3.7 billion went to a program called Project Homekey, which also funds local governments, but specifically to buy properties like motels and commercial buildings to turn into permanent, affordable housing. So far 13,500 units have been finished. “It’s not enough,” said Elliott. “But reversing the slide is the first step to creating an increase.”

Some $3.7 billion was turned into just 13,500 housing units. That’s almost $275,000 per unit. I am fully in favor of society housing its people, especially those who can’t afford it. But it should be temporary housing that allows for a return to stability and self-sufficiency. This sounds well beyond that. 

Dr. Margot Kushel…just published a hefty report, the results of a survey of nearly 3,200 unhoused people across California she hails as “the largest representative study of homelessness since the mid-1990s.”

It’s also filled with leftwing terminology and ideology, so if you decide to read it, be aware that it addresses the issues from a political point of view. 

…Kushel’s report dispelled some myths. Number one, that many people on the street don’t want a home. Not true, says Kushel. “Participants overwhelmingly wanted permanent housing,” she concludes in the report.

“Most people who are homeless don’t want to be” isn’t exactly a stunning discovery. 

Number two, that many people on the streets of California are not from California. There’s a widely held belief that many people become homeless elsewhere, and come to California for the weather and the more liberal approach to homelessness. And therefore, California does not owe them anything. Not true, says Kushel.

I can’t speak for other states, but Oregon has plenty of homeless right here. I’ve not seen evidence that they’ve headed en masse to California.

Myth number 3: that mental illness is the driving force behind homelessness. Yes, 66% of respondents did report, “symptoms of mental health conditions currently,” which is the statistic quoted by Elliott, the governor’s adviser, to argue a solution is more complicated than just writing rent checks. 

Mental illness is not the driving force behind homelessness. It is a driving force, and for those who suffer from it, a significant one. Coupled with a drug usage rate of around 33% for the homeless, we have a situation where it can be very difficult to help the people in need. 

That said, this is a story that is less about the government’s obligation to its citizens—something it surely has—so much as it is a story about how badly inefficient and wasteful it is generally. Here in Salem, the most effective homeless response has come from Church at the Park, a non-profit that receives government funding. (I have issues with parts of the church’s ideology, but they’re undeniably providing support for people who the government has utterly failed.) Their use of micro-sheltering is a perfect example of exactly how the issue of homelessness should be addressed. And it’s a lot cheaper than $17.5 billion. 

Update: Church at the Park spends roughly $5,000 per micro shelter.