Caveats When Comparing California’s 2018 and 2019 Homeless Count Results

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires continuums of care (CoCs) to complete an unsheltered and sheltered homeless count every other year, which occurs on odd-number years such as 2019. Completing an unsheltered count during an even number year is optional.

HUD requires CoCs to complete a sheltered count every year. If a CoC chooses not to complete an unsheltered count during an even number year, the CoC’s unsheltered count for the previous odd-number year is carried over into the even number year and totaled with the even number year sheltered count.

Twenty-three (23) or more than half (52.3%) of the 44 CoCs had the same number of unsheltered persons in 2018 as in 2017 because their 2017 unsheltered number was carried over into 2018 and reported by HUD.

The three tables below reveal differences in the percentages that represent an increase when 2019 homeless count results are compared to 2018.

  • There is an increase of 4% when the 2019 homeless count results for all 44 CoCs are compared to their 2018 homeless count results (see Table 1);
  • There is an increase of 3% when the 2019 homeless count results for the 21 CoCs that did complete an unsheltered count in 2018 are compared to their 2018 homeless count results (see Table 2);
  • There is an increase of 4% when the 2019 homeless count results for the 23 CoCs that did not complete an unsheltered count in 2018 are compared to their 2018 homeless count results (see Table 3).

Overstating the Increase

Stating that there was an increase of 16.4% in homelessness in California between 2018 and 2019 may be an overestimation because of a comparison of apples-to-oranges.

Comparing the 2019 homeless count results for all 44 California CoCs that conducted an unsheltered and sheltered count to the 21 CoCs that conducted an unsheltered and sheltered count in 2018 combined with the 23 CoCs that only conducted a sheltered count in 2018 and had their 2017 unsheltered count carried over to 2018, creates an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Comparing apples to apples, meaning the 21 CoCs that completed an unsheltered and sheltered count in 2018 to the same 21 CoCs that completed an unsheltered and sheltered count in 2019, reveals a lesser increase of 10.2%.

Implications for Next Steps

Future debates and discussions noting a comparison of the 2020 homeless count results to the 2019 results may also include an overestimation or an underestimation because not all 44 CoCs will complete an unsheltered count in 2020 and have their 2019 unsheltered count carried over into their 2020 count creating another apples-to-oranges comparison.

To avoid the potential for overestimation or underestimation, only comparisons of homeless counts completed in odd-number years should frame national and California-wide debates and discussions about increases in homelessness because of an apples-to-apples context.

An apples-to-apples comparison can be done by comparing the 2021 homeless count results with 2019 results, which will contribute to a better understanding of the scope of homelessness in California and its impact on the number of persons counted homeless nationwide.

_____________________________

Table 1. Comparison of 2019 homeless count results to 2018 homeless count results for all 44 California CoCs

  Continuum of Care (CoC) 2018 2019
CA-500 San Jose/Santa Clara City & County CoC 7,254 9,706
CA-501 San Francisco CoC 6,857 8,035
CA-502 Oakland, Berkeley/Alameda County CoC 5,496 8,022
CA-503 Sacramento City & County CoC 3,621 5,561
CA-504 Santa Rosa, Petaluma/Sonoma County CoC 2,996 2,951
CA-505 Richmond/Contra Costa County CoC 2,234 2,295
CA-506 Salinas/Monterey, San Benito Counties CoC 3,299 2,704
CA-507 Marin County CoC 1,095 1,034
CA-508 Watsonville/Santa Cruz City & County CoC 2,320 2,167
CA-509 Mendocino County CoC 880 785
CA-510 Turlock, Modesto/Stanislaus County CoC 1,356 1,923
CA-511 Stockton/San Joaquin County CoC 1,685 2,631
CA-512 Daly City/San Mateo County CoC 1,238 1,512
CA-513 Visalia/Kings, Tulare Counties CoC 967 1,064
CA-514 Fresno City & County/Madera County CoC 2,144 2,508
CA-515 Roseville, Rocklin/Placer, Nevada Counties 678 617
CA-516 Redding/Shasta County CoC 1,149 1,349
CA-517 Napa City & County CoC 322 322
CA-518 Vallejo/Solano County CoC 1,129 1,151
CA-519 Chico, Paradise/Butte County CoC 1,125 1,266
CA-520 Merced City & County CoC 514 608
CA-521 Davis, Woodland/Yolo County CoC 448 655
CA-522 Humboldt County CoC 703 1,702
CA-523 Colusa, Glen, Trinity Counties CoC 268 192
CA-524 Yuba City/Sutter County CoC 765 721
CA-525 El Dorado County CoC 645 613
CA-526 Tuolumne, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa Counties CoC 398 845
CA-527 Tehama County CoC 125 288
CA-529 Lake County CoC 615 408
CA-530 Alpine, Inyo, Mono Counties CoC 157 214
CA-531 Nevada County CoC 272 415
CA-600 Los Angeles City and County 49,955 56,257
CA-601 San Diego City and County CoC 8,576 8,102
CA-602 Santa Ana, Anaheim/Orange County CoC 4,955 6,860
CA-603 Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County CoC 1,706 1,803
CA-604 Bakersfield/Kern County CoC 885 1,330
CA-606 Long Beach CoC 1,873 1,894
CA-607 Pasadena CoC 677 542
CA-608 Riverside City & County CoC 2,316 2,811
CA-609 San Bernardino City & County CoC 2,118 2,607
CA-611 Oxnard, San Buenaventura/ Ventura County CoC 1,308 1,669
CA-612 Glendale CoC 260 243
CA-613 Imperial County CoC 1,493 1,413
CA-614 San Luis Obispo County CoC 1,095 1,483
 

Total:

129,972 151,278
 

Difference between 2018 and 2019 counts:

+21,306 +16.4

Table 2. Comparison of 2019 homeless count results to 2018 homeless count results for the 21 California CoCs that completed an unsheltered count in 2018 and 2019

  Continuum of Care (CoC) 2018 2019
CA-504 Santa Rosa, Petaluma/Sonoma County CoC 2,996 2,951
CA-505 Richmond/Contra Costa County CoC 2,234 2,295
CA-509 Mendocino County CoC 880 785
CA-510 Turlock, Modesto/Stanislaus County CoC 1,356 1,923
CA-513 Visalia/Kings, Tulare Counties CoC 967 1,064
CA-514 Fresno City & County/Madera County CoC 2,144 2,508
CA-516 Redding/Shasta County CoC 1,149 1,349
CA-517 Napa City & County CoC 322 322
CA-520 Merced City & County CoC 514 608
CA-523 Colusa, Glen, Trinity Counties CoC 268 192
CA-529 Lake County CoC 615 408
CA-530 Alpine, Inyo, Mono Counties CoC 157 214
CA-600 Los Angeles City and County 49,955 56,257
CA-601 San Diego City and County CoC 8,576 8,102
CA-604 Bakersfield/Kern County CoC 885 1,330
CA-607 Pasadena CoC 677 542
CA-608 Riverside City & County CoC 2,316 2,811
CA-609 San Bernardino City & County CoC 2,118 2,607
CA-611 Oxnard, San Buenaventura/Ventura County CoC 1,308 1,669
CA-612 Glendale CoC 260 243
CA-613 Imperial County CoC 1,493 1,413
 

Total:

81,190 89,593
 

Difference between 2018 and 2019 counts:

+8,403 +10.3

Table 3. Comparison of 2019 homeless count results to 2018 homeless count results for the 23 California CoCs that did not complete an unsheltered count in 2018

  Continuum of Care (CoC) 2018 2019
CA-500 San Jose/Santa Clara City & County CoC 7,254 9,706
CA-501 San Francisco CoC 6,857 8,035
CA-502 Oakland, Berkeley/Alameda County CoC 5,496 8,022
CA-503 Sacramento City & County CoC 3,621 5,561
CA-506 Salinas/Monterey, San Benito Counties CoC 3,299 2,704
CA-507 Marin County CoC 1,095 1,034
CA-508 Watsonville/Santa Cruz City & County CoC 2,320 2,167
CA-511 Stockton/San Joaquin County CoC 1,685 2,631
CA-512 Daly City/San Mateo County CoC 1,238 1,512
CA-515 Roseville, Rocklin/Placer, Nevada Counties 678 617
CA-518 Vallejo/Solano County CoC 1,129 1,151
CA-519 Chico, Paradise/Butte County CoC 1,125 1,266
CA-521 Davis, Woodland/Yolo County CoC 448 655
CA-522 Humboldt County CoC 703 1,702
CA-524 Yuba City/Sutter County CoC 765 721
CA-525 El Dorado County CoC 645 613
CA-526 Tuolumne, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa Counties CoC 398 845
CA-527 Tehama County CoC 125 288
CA-531 Nevada County CoC 272 415
CA-602 Santa Ana, Anaheim/Orange County CoC 4,955 6,860
CA-603 Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County CoC 1,706 1,803
CA-606 Long Beach CoC 1,873 1,894
CA-614 San Luis Obispo County CoC 1,095 1,483
 

Total:

48,782 61,685
 

Difference between 2018 and 2019 counts:

+12,903 +26.4

 

2 Comments

  1. Natalie Komuro on January 7, 2020 at 8:39 am

    Thank you for doing this analysis – it is really helpful. Does Table 3 have a typo? I count 23 CoCs, not 21.

  2. Joe Colletti, PhD on January 7, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks for noting the typo. 21 was changed to 23 in table title for Table 3.

Leave a Comment