Amid rising housing costs and widening income inequality, homelessness has become a growing concern for California residents, a study released Thursday finds.
According to a survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, 85% of Californians said they are concerned about having homeless people in their local communities, including 58% who said they are very concerned.
As people living in tents, makeshift shelters and homeless encampments under bridges and along freeway ramps becomes a new norm, nearly a quarter of the nation’s homeless population lives in the state.
About six in 10 California residents said they believe the presence of homeless people has increased in their community in the past year, while four in 10 said it has stayed the same, according to the survey.
Across the state, residents of Los Angeles were the most likely to say that the presence of homeless people has increased.
In June, officials reported that the number of people living on the streets, in vehicles and in makeshift shelters across Los Angeles County increased by about 12% from the previous year, with the number of homeless people reaching nearly 59,000 countywide.
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There is growing frustration with the pace of government action toward addressing the homelessness crisis. During a Nov. 15 meeting, three members of the Los Angeles City Council proposed giving Mayor Eric Garcetti “full authority” to rezone property and suspend city rules that block or delay approving new sites for housing and other facilities for homeless people, the L.A. Times reported.
Although storms and nighttime temperature drops have descended upon the county, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority won’t be launching its winter shelter service until Dec. 1 due to limited funding, the authority’s spokesperson told the Times.
The policy institute’s survey found that an overwhelming majority of Californians are in favor of creating a law that would require local governments to construct enough shelter beds so that any homeless person who wants to be indoors can do so.
“As state policymakers work on their policy agendas for the next year, we will continue to monitor Californians’ views on homelessness and related policies closely,” the survey concluded.