California Homeless Population Up 6% in 2023

(Mario Tama/Getty Images)
December 18, 2023

California's homeless population grew by 5.8 percent to 181,399 this year. This increase, reported in the federal government's latest count, comes as the state spends billions on the crisis, including more than $1 billion this year on housing and prevention programs.

Of California's 181,399 homeless, nearly 70 percent sleep outside—marking the highest unsheltered rate of all states, including those with mild climates such as Hawaii, Arizona, and Nevada. In California, more than 123,000 lack shelter on a given night, according to a Friday report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

These numbers showcase California's worsening homelessness crisis after the State Legislature this year earmarked $1.1 billion for homelessness housing and prevention programs as well as $400 million to clear encampments. Tens of millions of additional dollars went to dealing with veteran and youth homelessness. From 2018 to 2021, the state poured $10 billion into nonprofits and programs that were supposed to mitigate the problem.

The report also contrasts with California governor Gavin Newsom's (D.) optimistic assertions on homelessness last month as he debated Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.). In one exchange, Newsom said he was the "first governor in California history to take this head on."

"We are investing unprecedented resources, more accountability," Newsom said. "We've gotten 68,000 people off the streets; close to 6,000 encampments we've gotten off the streets."

The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Since 2007, California has seen a more than 40 percent increase in its homeless population, the HUD analysis said.

California's major cities are struggling to make headway on the problem. Oakland has the highest rate of per-capita homeless residents in the state, according to a July report from the San Francisco controller's office. In Sacramento, the state capital, homelessness has surged nearly 70 percent from 2020 to 2022, the New York Times reported in September.

Los Angeles mayor Karen Bass (D.), who ran for office vowing to fix the crisis in her city, this year earmarked $250 million for her "Inside Safe" program, which aimed to move people quickly off the streets. Of the 2,000 people who sheltered through the program, however, only a few hundred found permanent housing, Bass told ABC News.

As of July this year, the city of Los Angeles reported spending more than $32.6 million on 57,533 nightly hotel stays—paying an average rate of $567 per night.