The problem is highly visible in California. Because of its high cost of housing, the supplemental poverty measure puts its poverty rate as the highest in the nation.
California accounted for 30% of the country’s homeless population in 2022, despite making up less than 12% of the total population, according to federal data released Monday. It was also home to 50% of the country’s unsheltered people, or those living in places such as streets, cars or parks.
Based on a biennial point-in-time tally of people sleeping in shelters, cars and on the street — which California cities and counties conducted earlier this year for the first time since 2019 due to pandemic postponements — the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development estimated that more than 172,000 Californians experienced homelessness this year. That represents an adjusted total of raw numbers first calculated in October by CalMatters housing reporter Manuela Tobias. Nationally, the homeless population ticked up by 0.3% to more than 582,000.
The federal government also awarded California first place in a number of other categories:
- It had the country’s highest homelessness rate, with 44 people out of every 100,000 experiencing homelessness.
- It had the largest increase in its homeless population of any other state from both 2020-22 (6.2%) and 2007-22 (23.4%), whereas Florida — a state often in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s crosshairs as he spars with its Republican governor Ron DeSantis — saw a 5.6% decrease from 2020-22 and notched the country’s biggest decrease from 2007-22 (46%).
- California had nine times more unsheltered people than Washington, the state with the next highest number (115,491 people compared to 12,668 people).