State audit reveals California’s failure to track homelessness spending, outcomes

A new state audit released Tuesday revealed that California has not sufficiently tracked data to see if the billions of dollars it has spent on homelessness have had positive outcomes.

Over the last five years California has spent $24 billion to address the homelessness crisis plaguing the state. 

But according to a new report released from the California State Auditor on Tuesday, the state has failed to adequately monitor the outcomes of its spending. 


The big picture: The state auditor found that the California Interagency Council on Homelessness (Cal ICH) has not consistently tracked and evaluated the state’s efforts to prevent and end homelessness. 

  • Cal ICH has not tracked financial information related to all state-funded homelessness programs since fiscal year 2020-2021, even though the state has invested a significant amount of funding over the last two years. 
  • The auditor found that the state also does not have a consistent method for gathering information on the costs and outcomes for individual programs aimed at tackling homelessness. 

Go deeper: The state auditor’s report wasn’t all negative as two programs were deemed to be cost-effective. 

  • The auditor found that the Homekey Program, run through the Department of Housing and Community Development, and the California Department of Social Services’ CalWORKs housing Support Program appear to be cost-effective. 
  • But the auditor was unable to assess the cost-effectiveness of the three other programs it reviewed because the state has not collected sufficient data. Those three programs are the State Rental Assistance Program, the Encampment Resolution Funding Program and the Homeless Housing, Assistance and prevention grant program. 

State of play: Over 180,000 people in California were homeless in 2023, according to the audit. 

  • That is an increase of 53 percent from 2013. 
  • Nine state agencies have spent billions and have administered over 30 programs in the last five years to tackle the issue, but California does not have the data to show the results. 

What we’re watching: The audit recommends that the Legislature should require Cal ICH to mandate the reporting of costs and outcomes by state agencies for the homelessness programs. 

What they’re saying: “In general, this report concludes that the State must do more to assess the cost-effectiveness of its homelessness programs,” State Auditor Grant Parks wrote in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature. 

  • Russ Heimerich, Deputy Secretary of Communications for the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, released the following statement:
  • “The State Auditor’s findings highlight the significant progress made in recent years to address homelessness at the state level, including the completion of a statewide assessment of homelessness programs. But it also underscores a need to continue to hold local governments accountable, who are primarily responsible for implementing these programs and collecting data on outcomes that the state can use to evaluate program effectiveness.
  • “The Council continues to improve its ability to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent judiciously and effectively, including by providing technical support to local jurisdictions to help align data standards and reporting.”
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