THIS State Is NOT Measuring Effectiveness Of Homelessness Expenditures, Auditor Says

By Tommy Wilson | Friday, 12 April 2024 01:45 AM
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California's state auditor has raised concerns over the lack of tracking for the billions of taxpayer dollars allocated to address the homelessness crisis.

The California Interagency Council on Homelessness, the agency responsible for managing homelessness spending, has not implemented a consistent method for monitoring the costs and outcomes of homelessness programs. This lack of data-driven decision-making leaves the state in the dark about the effectiveness of its efforts.

The auditor's report was commissioned last year by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers, alarmed by the escalating costs without any discernible progress. Despite spending $24 billion over the past five years, California's homeless population continues to grow, reaching over 181,000 people last year. The state has the highest number of homeless individuals in the country, accounting for nearly a third of the national total.

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The financial burden shows no signs of abating. A ballot initiative in March authorized the state to borrow an additional $6.4 billion to tackle the crisis. Earlier this year, President Joe Biden granted over $600 million in homelessness grants to California. Homeless advocates are urging legislators and Governor Gavin Newsom to maintain state funding, despite grappling with a $73 billion budget deficit.

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The California Interagency Council on Homelessness has only once, under legislative instruction, tracked and reported on the state's homelessness spending. This tracking covered the 2018-19 and 2020-21 fiscal years. The agency currently has no plans to conduct a similar assessment in the future. The report warns that without an up-to-date assessment, the state and its policymakers will struggle to understand the ongoing costs and outcomes of homelessness programs.

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The agency has also failed to establish a plan to meet legislative funding goals or to ensure the accuracy of the data it has collected on homelessness programs. It has not set a consistent method for calculating costs and measuring the effectiveness of program efforts.

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A representative from the agency stated that significant progress has been made in data collection since last January. The agency is working to improve the quality of the data it collects from local governments. The official statement from the agency emphasized the need to hold local governments accountable, as they are primarily responsible for implementing these programs and collecting outcome data for state evaluation.

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A separate audit examining how San Jose and San Diego managed their homelessness spending found a similar lack of reporting on funding and program effectiveness by local government officials.

Governor Newsom, who did not respond to a request for comment, has long prioritized homelessness in his policies. As the newly elected mayor of San Francisco in 2003, he pledged to address the city's chronic homelessness with a 10-year plan. However, homelessness remains one of San Francisco's most significant issues and has increased statewide during his governorship.

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"The state's homelessness crisis has been decades in the making," Newsom said last year when announcing additional funding. "While there's more work to be done, we are challenging the status quo with new, innovative solutions to get Californians off the streets and into housing."

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