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Research to Address Homelessness in California


  • As the scale and scope of homelessness in California grows, decision-makers need insight to respond.
  • The legislature called for a statewide homelessness landscape assessment to provide critical insights on programs, services and areas of improvement.
  • A final report and shorter briefs were released in 2023.
The Challenge

As affordable housing shrinks and poverty persists—particularly in the wake of COVID-19—California continues to face a complex homelessness crisis. To get a true understanding of the scope and nature of the challenge, the California Legislature passed a law in 2021 tasking the California Interagency Council on Homelessness (Cal ICH) to assess the state’s homelessness response system. This assessment included collecting the most accurate information possible so that decision-makers could use it to effectively apply unprecedented investments in the state’s efforts to end homelessness.

The Approach

In collaboration with the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley and USCF’s Benioff Institute for Housing and Homelessness, Abt partnered on research efforts to understand the scale and scope of homelessness in California. The assessment included quantitative data and surveys, as well as qualitative data based on interviews with people with lived experience of homelessness, representatives from local governments, and other partners from local homelessness and housing systems. Along with these inputs, the team paid special emphasis to cross-cutting areas such as racial equity, youth experiencing homelessness, seniors and older adults, and people transitioning from corrections systems. Topics that were investigated included:

  • How state funding was used;
  • The populations served, including families, over 50 years of age, veterans, families with children, unaccompanied minors and youth, individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, experiencing non-chronic homelessness, or experiencing homelessness for the first time;
  • How services were used and whether people could access them;
  • How many people were prevented from entering homelessness; and
  • How many moved to permanent housing.

Additionally, the team looked at the coordination and effectiveness of care to assess how well jurisdictions from other systems, like criminal justice, health, behavioral health and social services, engaged in holistic response efforts.

The Results

Our Experts

Nichole Fiore

Nichole Fiore

Principal Associate
Jill Khadduri, Ph.D.

Jill Khadduri, Ph.D.

Principal Associate, Social & Economic Policy