Bay Area Homelessness: A Regional View of a Regional Crisis
Publish Date: Oct, 14 2019
"At the end of each year, the Bay Area Council surveys its members to determine which public policy areas are of the greatest concern to the region’s largest employers. In the Council’s 2017 survey, ending chronic homelessness emerged as a top public policy priority for the first time. The Bay Area Council’s Executive Committee, chaired by Bernard Tyson, President & CEO of Kaiser Permanente, requested that the Bay Area Council Economic Institute conduct a report on the current state of regional homelessness. This study, undertaken in cooperation with global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, aims to provide policymakers with new data and perspectives on how to solve what has become the defining moral challenge facing both the Bay Area region and California writ large. To gather perspectives from those who work daily to address homelessness, the study team interviewed 35 experts and practitioners, including county and city officials, nonprofit providers, philanthropic leaders, healthcare professionals, advocates, and homeless individuals themselves. County officials spanned the region from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma counties. Organizations represented included SHELTER Inc., Larkin Street Youth Services, Tipping Point, Hamilton Families, Abode Services, Corporation for Supportive Housing, UCSF, Social Finance, HomeBase, EveryOne Home, and Destination: Home. The study team also embedded itself with the Larkin Street Youth Services’ outreach team to better understand the day-to-day lives of Bay Area community members experiencing homelessness.
Regional homeless data was compiled using the annual or biennial Point-in-Time (PIT) counts, conducted by volunteers and public employees within individual counties. PIT data is aggregated at the county and state level to produce estimates of their respective homeless populations and used by public officials and nonprofits to design and budget for services targeting people experiencing homelessness. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) PIT and Housing Inventory Counts (HIC) are the primary quantitative sources for this study. For the PIT count, HUD mandates that each recipient of federal funding related to homelessness (i.e., counties) conduct a count during one night in January. Due to its snapshot methodology, the PIT count only sizes the homeless population at one point in the year, rather than throughout the entire year. HUD allows for regions to apply a multiplying factor in order to account for this (e.g., between 2-3x in San Francisco). However, because the PIT and HIC methodologies are relatively consistent across years and regions, they are still one of the best sources for comparisons beyond one county or period.
Additionally, many jurisdictions engage an external research firm to conduct the PIT count. Several counties in the Bay Area conduct their PIT counts through Applied Survey Research (ASR). In addition to the HUD requirements for the PIT count, ASR also surveys a sample of the homeless population in select counties. Lastly, the research team combined the PIT and HIC counts with U.S. Census Bureau population data for select regions. This enables comparisons of homelessness and population trends in the Bay Area with those of peer metropolitan areas (e.g., New York, Boston, and Chicago)," (Bay Area Homelessness: A Regional View of a Regional Crisis, Economic Institute, pg. 2).
Report Originally published in April 2019.