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California's effort to combat homelessness fails to curb rising unhoused population


California Assembly member Gregg Hart is calling for an oversight hearing into how the state's homelessness programs are tracked. While California has put up more than $20 billion over the past six years to address housing and homelessness, the state auditor finds that lawmakers do not know if it's working. The state is home to about a third of the country's unhoused population. That's more than 180,000 people, and that figure has spiked in recent years despite unprecedented spending. Vanessa Rancano with KQED has this report.

VANESSA RANCANO, BYLINE: The state audit found a revolving door of homelessness. Most people coming off the streets were placed in temporary housing. Forty-four percent of them ended up homeless again. The report makes clear the state desperately needs more permanent affordable housing and a long-term strategy to get there. Another finding - there wasn't enough information about some of the state's key homelessness programs to know whether they're effective. State Senator Dave Cortese of San Jose requested the review. He says it reflects a data desert.

DAVE CORTESE: What appears to have happened here is that in the rush to address this problem, perhaps, you know, cities have stood up systems, and even the state for that matter, that have been incomplete.

RANCANO: The report recommends lawmakers take steps to require better reporting by state agencies. It comes as California has spent nearly $24 billion over the past five years on homelessness and housing affordability. Local agencies are trying to address the problem, but Ray Bramson of the Bay Area advocacy group Destination: Home says they can't solve it alone.

RAY BRAMSON: This has been decades and decades of disinvestment in our poorest residents at both the state and the federal levels of government.

RANCANO: A spokesman for the California Interagency Council on Homelessness, meanwhile, pointed the finger at local governments, saying the state relies on them to collect accurate data.

For NPR News, I'm Vanessa Rancano. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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