California State Audit Highlights Inefficiencies in Homelessness Programs


Over the last five years, California has allocated $24 billion toward addressing the homelessness crisis but has not systematically tracked the impact of this substantial investment, a state audit revealed on Tuesday. 

Despite the visible increase in homelessness, evidenced by encampments along city streets causing disruptions for businesses across the state, an effective assessment of the state’s efforts remains elusive. Homelessness, affecting an estimated 171,000 individuals or about 30% of the nation’s total homeless population, persists as a critical challenge. 

“The State Auditor’s findings highlight the significant progress made in recent years to address homelessness at the state level, including the completion of a statewide assessment of homelessness programs,” the Interagency Council on Homelessness said.

 “But it also underscores a need to continue to hold local governments accountable, who are primarily responsible for implementing these programs and collecting data on outcomes that the state can use to evaluate program effectiveness.”

The audit critiqued the state for its lack of precise data across more than 30 programs aimed at homelessness and housing from 2018 to 2023, leaving a gap in comprehending the stagnation or progression in various locales. Out of five key programs audited, which received a collective $13.7 billion, only a program converting hotel and motel rooms into housing and another offering housing assistance to prevent homelessness were deemed potentially cost-effective. 

Democratic Senator Dave Cortese, who suggested an audit following his visit to a homeless encampment in San Jose last year, remarked that the report reveals a “data desert,” highlighting a profound transparency deficit across all levels.

“Despite (the auditor office) professionalism and best efforts, they are at this time unable to draw conclusions about things like whether or not overhead is appropriate or too high,” Cortese said.

Republican Senator Roger Niello expressed concerns over an apparent absence of accountability, finding it problematic.

“California is facing a concerning paradox: despite an exorbitant amount of dollars spent, the state’s homeless population is not slowing down,” Niello said.“These audit results are a wake-up call for a shift toward solutions that prioritize self-sufficiency and cost effectiveness.”

 Meanwhile, Governor Newsom has prioritized homelessness, advocating for legislative changes and supporting a proposition aimed at mandating counties to allocate funds for housing and drug treatment to mitigate the crisis. 

“This report concludes that the state must do more to assess the cost-effectiveness of its homelessness programs,” State Auditor Grant Parks wrote in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers.

A homelessness conversion program, a central component of Governor Newsom’s strategy, has also proven significantly less costly than new construction, while the assistance program has provided vital support to low-income families at risk of homelessness. However, the effectiveness of three other programs, despite receiving $9.4 billion in funding, could not be assessed due to inadequate data.

The audit pointed out failures in tracking expenditures and program efficacy by the California Interagency Council on Homelessness, noting inconsistencies in data collection and verification, which hampers the availability of reliable, comprehensive data on the state’s homelessness initiatives.

“Going forward, we will take a closer look at what we learned and how to improve transparency and outcome tracking in California’s cities,” Cortese said.

Share the Post:

Related Posts