By ANDREW OXFORD Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Homelessness in the county that is home to California’s capital city has increased 19% in the last two years, according to data released Wednesday, echoing rises in the numbers of people are living on the street from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
The numbers are based on a survey from one night in January, which found 5,570 people experiencing homelessness around Sacramento County, most of them within the city limits of the state capital. About 70% were sleeping outdoors or in vehicles, abandoned buildings and other locations beyond the community’s shelters. And about 93% said they were long-time residents of or originally from the Sacramento area.
The report suggested an estimated 10,000 to 11,000 people across the county could experience homelessness over the span of the year.
A picture is emerging that confirms what many Californians already see each day: Far more people are living on the street.
Alameda County, which includes the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, reported a 43% increase in two years. Los Angeles County reported a 12% increase in homelessness from 2017 to 2019. Further inland, where the cost of living is often regarded as more affordable, Fresno and Madera counties saw a 17% increase in homelessness.
Gov. Gavin Newsom tapped Sacramento’s mayor earlier this year to head a new state Commission on Homelessness and Supportive Housing to study how governments can respond.
The mayor, Darrell Steinberg, has staked his term in part on addressing homelessness in Sacramento, arguing for more housing with built-in mental health or addiction services.
State lawmakers approved a half-billion dollars in emergency funding for homelessness services last year. Newsom has proposed to increase that spending to $650 million.
Steinberg said Wednesday that communities have not yet seen the full effects of that funding.
But the mayor pointed to numbers that he argues offer reason for hope, noting that the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness has declined for some groups and was lower than expected. The city government also says it got housing for 3,600 homeless people in 2018.
“It is a sign that this is the right direction, especially for the chronically homeless,” he said.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers are also debating whether to cap rent increases. Legislators have already quashed more drastic changes in housing policy, however, such as overriding some local zoning laws to encourage more construction or establishing new rules for evicting tenants.