The state isn't doing enough for the thousands of individuals, families and children who do not have a permanent place to call home, according to a new state report. We need not look any further than our streets and local parks to know this is true.
California is the epicenter of homelessness with nearly a quarter of the nation's total homeless population. We are also home to the highest numbers of unaccompanied youth and veterans who are homeless, and an estimated 42 percent of all Americans facing chronic homelessness.
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We cannot let this crisis continue, especially when evidence and common sense points to a clear solution: a safe, affordable home. As the Trump administration calls for new cuts in federal funding, we call on state leaders to invest a substantial portion of the anticipated state surplus in affordable housing.
Half of these funds should be spent on supportive housing for the chronically homeless and half on affordable housing to help prevent homelessness. More than two decades of research finds that supportive housing saves taxpayer dollars with decreased hospital admissions, emergency room visits, days spent in nursing homes and prison and jail time. On average, supportive housing saves the Medicaid system almost $9,000 a person each year.
Investing in affordable housing means children and families can stay in their homes and schools, helping teachers and classmates experience fewer disruptions from children coming and going.
On the other hand, spending more on emergency shelters is a Band-Aid. While shelters and triage services can help get people off the streets, it would be misguided to make them a default option.
The number of people who will sleep tonight in their cars, on a park bench or on the street is a tragedy. We must demand more from state leaders so that every Californian can have a safe, affordable home.
Ray Pearl is executive director of the California Housing Consortium and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lisa Hershey is executive director of Housing California and can be contacted at email@example.com.