CA senators tackle homelessness amid national uptick

by ian

California is trying to reign in the problem of homelessness again.  In a bipartisan effort, two California senators are proposing a statewide ruling permitting police officers to crack down on homeless encampments. This comes as San Diego implemented a rule seven months ago that allows law enforcement to clear encampments from “transit hubs, parks or within two blocks of a school or shelter.” 

Advocates for the homeless say this action drives the homeless to riverbanks and other lesser populated areas, as homeless shelters still lack space for everyone. But it’s also worth noting that a lot of homeless people are unwilling to go to shelters. Unfortunately, many of them are substance abusers or mentally unstable. 

Since 2018, the state has spent $20 billion on homelessness and housing programs, but those efforts still left 180,000 people on the streets. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to weigh in on the issue from a case in Oregon that will determine the legality of anti-camping laws. The hearing will happen in April.

A recent report showed that homelessness continues to be an issue for many Americans. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies says that more than 650,000 people reported being homeless in January 2023, a 12% increase from January 2022, and a 48% increase from 2015. 

Researchers say this marks “the largest single-year increase” in the homeless population on record. Newer additions to the data include states such as Arizona, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas due to rising local housing costs. 

The report said that while multiple factors are in play with the homelessness crisis, the most recent ones include high rent prices and the end of the COVID-era relief payments. This resulted in a 71,000-person jump in homelessness in just one year. 

Naturally, the people who were most affected by rising rental costs were in the lower and middle-income brackets. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, ideally, tenants shouldn’t spend more than 30% of their income on rent. However, the U.S. median rent is now roughly $1,900. Wages have not been keeping up with these costs as earnings for the median worker rose only by 1.7%.