Efforts to prevent homelessness during pandemic paid off, new numbers show


CONTACT: Edie Irons, 510-334-1344, [email protected]

(Bay Area, CA) – The Bay Area staved off a catastrophic increase in homelessness over the last three years, according to preliminary results from the first official count of people experiencing homelessness taken since the pandemic began. While the numbers varied across the diverse nine counties of the Bay Area, some counties saw a decrease in homelessness since 2019 and overall increases were smaller than predicted.

“Bay Area governments and nonprofits played deep defense on homelessness during the pandemic and we have more or less held the line—but now we need to go on offense and end the suffering on our streets” said Tomiquia Moss, Founder and CEO of All Home, a regional organization dedicated to ending homelessness and housing insecurity for people with extremely low incomes. “Programs like Roomkey and Homekey, as well as eviction moratoria and emergency rental assistance programs have changed what is possible. We proved we can move quickly, invest at a new scale, and cut red tape to house and protect thousands of people, and there’s no going back—it’s time to double down on what’s working.” 

About the PIT Count

Every county in the U.S. conducts a “Point-In-Time (PIT) count” on a single night or early morning  every other year. The 2021 count was delayed to 2022 due to the pandemic. The PIT Count is based on visual observations of unsheltered individuals and groups, as well as a census of people in shelters. Most counties are releasing their preliminary numbers today, and the rest will do so over the course of this week—see details at the end of this release. More detailed information based on one-on-one surveys, including demographic data, will be made available this summer.

Each county is releasing their numbers individually, but it’s important to put local data in a regional context. The root causes of homelessness—structural racism, income inequality, and a lack of affordable housing for extremely low-income households—cross city and county borders. So do Bay Area residents, so solutions must be in place across the region to be effective. 

  • Differences in results across counties may point to solutions — counties that made exceptional investments in housing saw a decrease in homelessness or held relatively steady. 
    • Many of those investments, such as Measure A in Santa Clara County, and Proposition A in San Francisco, and Measure P in Berkeley, began four to six years ago and are just being felt – which underscores the need to invest in proven solutions now. 
    • Many cities and counties that saw increases are also investing in solutions and seeing success, but need more resources to meet the need. 
  • Several counties saw decreases in veterans experiencing homelessness, which shows the efficacy of deeper, long-term investments targeted to specific populations.
    • Marin County saw a 34 percent decrease in veterans’ homelessness.

Focusing on Solutions

The Bay Area’s counties and Continuums of Care have aligned around three urgent priorities to drastically reduce unsheltered homelessness and move the region towards functional zero homelessness. 

  • Invest the state budget surplus and local funds to further expand solutions that are already working, including a variety of interim and permanent supportive housing options, and homelessness prevention. 
    • For example, Homekey could be further expanded and the program needs ongoing operations funding to achieve its potential. An expansion of the renter’s tax credit for households with extremely low incomes would help keep Califronians in their homes.
    • Local jurisdictions should zone and plan for sufficient interim/emergency housing to accommodate the need identified in the housing element, including for families; convert COVID response housing to permanent supportive housing; develop shallow rent subsidy programs for renter households with extremely low incomes. 
    • All Home’s Regional Action Plan estimates that reducing unsheltered homelessness in the Bay Area by 75% by 2024 would cost at least $6 billion.
  • Identify reliable, ongoing funding sources for operating expenses and supportive services that are necessary for some people to stay safely housed. These include physical, mental, and behavioral health care, job training and education, case management, and other supportive services.
  • Enact local policies to facilitate more rapid creation of affordable homes throughout the region, including interim and permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness. 
    • To increase the stock of deeply affordable housing, local jurisdictions should dedicate more housing for households with extremely low incomes and people experiencing homelessness, expedite permit processing for deeply affordable housing, and use inclusionary zoning.

“When everyone has safe, affordable housing options, our entire region can thrive,” said Amie Fishman, Executive Director of the Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California. “Fighting for housing justice is a collective responsibility, and we need to act accordingly.”

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Regional spokespeople with press availability:

County release times and contact information (to be updated with releases as they become available):