Summers Housing/Homelessness Q1
There is certainly a good deal of overlap between the housing affordability and homelessness crises, particularly here in California, because financial issues are one of the leading causes of homelessness, and housing is typically one’s greatest expenditure. But there are a number of other reasons people become homeless – including job loss, substance abuse, mental health issues, physical disabilities and medical emergencies, death of a loved one (particularly a head of household) and other family issues – so it is far from a perfect correlation.
According to San Francisco’s 2019 survey of the homeless, for example, the loss of a job was the No. 1 primary reason for homelessness (26 percent), followed by alcohol or drug abuse (18 percent), eviction (13 percent), being kicked out by family or friends (12 percent), and mental health issues (8 percent).
As a result, improving housing affordability (as well as other costs of living and making it easier for people to obtain sound employment) will significantly reduce homelessness, but it will not in itself solve the problem, just as focusing solely on substance abuse and mental health issues will not eliminate it. This is why homelessness, especially, is such a difficult problem, and why steps must be taken in a number of policy areas – from taxation and regulation to housing to job growth and economic opportunity – to adequately address these issues.