HUD defines a “homeless” individual as one who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. A recent HUD report counted over 580,000 people experiencing homelessness nationwide. The state of California accounts for over 28 percent of the national homeless population (AHAR, 2021), a number that has continued to rise on an annual basis. A lack of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income persons, increases in those whose incomes fall below the poverty level, reductions in public subsidies to the poor, and the de-institutionalization of the mentally ill are among the most prominent contributing factors. Government agencies have long struggled to overcome these impediments and address homeless housing needs.
As part of California’s housing element requirements, cities and counties must analyze existing and projected housing needs, including for those experiencing homelessness. Recent changes to housing element law related to the AFFH analysis have further emphasized addressing homelessness in the outreach process, as well as requiring goals and actions consistent with AFFH homeless housing requirements.
Public agencies can plan for homeless housing through a variety of strategies, including emergency shelter development, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and rapid rehousing programs. Determining the appropriate approach to address homeless housing requires evaluating local housing need, which includes estimating the number of homeless individuals, as well as assessing local resources.
The point-in-time (PIT) count enumerates sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. HUD requires that continuums of care conduct the annual count of those in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and safe havens on a single night. Continuums of care also must conduct a count of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness every other year (odd numbered years). Each count is planned, coordinated, and carried out locally. A PIT is conducted one day a year, which only captures the needs at that specific time. A lack of ongoing information showing occupancy levels throughout each year makes determining an average occupancy rate impossible. A jurisdiction’s PIT can be used to estimate homelessness and inform programs and policies to address this context. PIT data can be found using HCD’s Affirmatively Fair Housing (AFFH) Data Viewer tool.
The Housing Inventory Count (HIC) provides a point-in-time inventory of programs within a Continuum of Care that offer beds and units dedicated to serve people experiencing homelessness (and, for permanent housing projects, were homeless at entry). Provider programs are categorized by five program types: emergency shelter; transitional housing; rapid re-housing; safe haven; and permanent supportive housing. The HIC provides a snapshot of homeless housing and can inform local policy and programs.
Relevant State Law
Senate Bill 2 (SB 2) requires housing elements to address transitional and supportive housing.
Assembly Bill 139 (AB 139) requires housing elements to include an emergency shelter assessment based on the capacity to accommodate the most recent homeless point-in-time count, shelter beds available on a year-round and seasonal basis, unused beds on an average monthly basis, and the percentage of those in emergency shelters who move to permanent housing.
Assembly Bill 101 (AB 101) requires that low-barrier navigation centers be allowed by-right in areas zoned for mixed uses and multifamily uses under specific circumstances. These service-enriched shelters provide temporary living facilities while focusing on moving people into permanent housing and case managers connect individuals experiencing homelessness to income, public benefits, health services, shelter, and housing.
Relevance to Housing in the San Joaquin Valley
The homeless housing burden varies significantly across the San Joaquin Valley. In certain counties, emergency shelter occupancy is at capacity. The figure below depicts the 2021 PIT occupancy count for emergency housing in the San Joaquin Valley.
Emergency Housing Point-in-Time Occupancy Count
Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties were both at capacity for emergency housing, while the remaining five counties were at a capacity range between 40 percent and 80 percent. Although this PIT count was limited to one day of data gathering, it provides a reasonable understanding of local homeless housing need. Counties should assess their PIT count data, for both sheltered and unsheltered individuals, to develop an in-depth context for local homelessness.
Of the survey respondents, approximately 31 percent indicated that homelessness was in the top three most critical housing issues facing their city or county. Valley jurisdictions are aware of the significant local housing needs related to homelessness. Addressing this need requires that jurisdictions perform a comprehensive homelessness assessment within their housing element update process and develop strategic policies to mitigate resource gaps.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Community Planning and Development, The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress (January 2021).
California Legislative Information, Title 7. Planning and Land Use, Article 10.6 Housing Elements [65580 – 65589.11].
California Housing and Community Development, AFFH Data and Mapping Resources.
Bakersfield – Kern BKRHC, Regional Homeless Collaborative.