California is failing to provide shelter for two-thirds of its homeless population. Credit: Compass Family Services

Suzanne Potter / California News Service

SAN FRANCISCO – California needs to do a much better job of caring for the homeless – because almost two-thirds are sleeping outside with no shelter, according to a new report from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The annual report takes a snapshot in time – in this case, on one night in January of this year. Researchers found that California has 21 percent of the country’s homeless population, or almost 116,000 people.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness of San Francisco, says California’s state government has paid little attention to the problem.

“We have very little investment by the state in this issue,” she maintains. “They fund a very tiny amount of money toward emergency shelter.

“Our primary funding for housing, at least in San Francisco, was through redevelopment, which was eliminated.”

Across the country, the number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness declined by 31 percent, or almost 23,000 people, between 2010 and 2015. Friedenbach attributes that to a big federal push after the recession to find housing for homeless families with children.She says the state is being shortsighted by leaving the problem up to cash-strapped cities and counties.”We’re spending much more money keeping people homeless because, of course, the health care costs have skyrocketed,” she states.

“Human beings are not meant to live outdoors. Their health deteriorates, and so we incur large amounts of money in our health care system that would be much cheaper just to house people.”The study also found that the lion’s share of California’s homeless is in Los Angeles County, which has more than three times the homeless population of the Bay Area.