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.

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

 Continuum of Care (CoC)20182019
CA-500San Jose/Santa Clara City & County CoC7,2549,706
CA-501San Francisco CoC6,8578,035
CA-502Oakland, Berkeley/Alameda County CoC5,4968,022
CA-503Sacramento City & County CoC3,6215,561
CA-504Santa Rosa, Petaluma/Sonoma County CoC2,9962,951
CA-505Richmond/Contra Costa County CoC2,2342,295
CA-506Salinas/Monterey, San Benito Counties CoC3,2992,704
CA-507Marin County CoC1,0951,034
CA-508Watsonville/Santa Cruz City & County CoC2,3202,167
CA-509Mendocino County CoC880785
CA-510Turlock, Modesto/Stanislaus County CoC1,3561,923
CA-511Stockton/San Joaquin County CoC1,6852,631
CA-512Daly City/San Mateo County CoC1,2381,512
CA-513Visalia/Kings, Tulare Counties CoC9671,064
CA-514Fresno City & County/Madera County CoC2,1442,508
CA-515Roseville, Rocklin/Placer, Nevada Counties678617
CA-516Redding/Shasta County CoC1,1491,349
CA-517Napa City & County CoC322322
CA-518Vallejo/Solano County CoC1,1291,151
CA-519Chico, Paradise/Butte County CoC1,1251,266
CA-520Merced City & County CoC514608
CA-521Davis, Woodland/Yolo County CoC448655
CA-522Humboldt County CoC7031,702
CA-523Colusa, Glen, Trinity Counties CoC268192
CA-524Yuba City/Sutter County CoC765721
CA-525El Dorado County CoC645613
CA-526Tuolumne, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa Counties CoC398845
CA-527Tehama County CoC125288
CA-529Lake County CoC615408
CA-530Alpine, Inyo, Mono Counties CoC157214
CA-531Nevada County CoC272415
CA-600Los Angeles City and County49,95556,257
CA-601San Diego City and County CoC8,5768,102
CA-602Santa Ana, Anaheim/Orange County CoC4,9556,860
CA-603Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County CoC1,7061,803
CA-604Bakersfield/Kern County CoC8851,330
CA-606Long Beach CoC1,8731,894
CA-607Pasadena CoC677542
CA-608Riverside City & County CoC2,3162,811
CA-609San Bernardino City & County CoC2,1182,607
CA-611Oxnard, San Buenaventura/ Ventura County CoC1,3081,669
CA-612Glendale CoC260243
CA-613Imperial County CoC1,4931,413
CA-614San Luis Obispo County CoC1,0951,483
 

Total:

129,972151,278
 

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)20182019
CA-504Santa Rosa, Petaluma/Sonoma County CoC2,9962,951
CA-505Richmond/Contra Costa County CoC2,2342,295
CA-509Mendocino County CoC880785
CA-510Turlock, Modesto/Stanislaus County CoC1,3561,923
CA-513Visalia/Kings, Tulare Counties CoC9671,064
CA-514Fresno City & County/Madera County CoC2,1442,508
CA-516Redding/Shasta County CoC1,1491,349
CA-517Napa City & County CoC322322
CA-520Merced City & County CoC514608
CA-523Colusa, Glen, Trinity Counties CoC268192
CA-529Lake County CoC615408
CA-530Alpine, Inyo, Mono Counties CoC157214
CA-600Los Angeles City and County49,95556,257
CA-601San Diego City and County CoC8,5768,102
CA-604Bakersfield/Kern County CoC8851,330
CA-607Pasadena CoC677542
CA-608Riverside City & County CoC2,3162,811
CA-609San Bernardino City & County CoC2,1182,607
CA-611Oxnard, San Buenaventura/Ventura County CoC1,3081,669
CA-612Glendale CoC260243
CA-613Imperial County CoC1,4931,413
 

Total:

81,19089,593
 

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)20182019
CA-500San Jose/Santa Clara City & County CoC7,2549,706
CA-501San Francisco CoC6,8578,035
CA-502Oakland, Berkeley/Alameda County CoC5,4968,022
CA-503Sacramento City & County CoC3,6215,561
CA-506Salinas/Monterey, San Benito Counties CoC3,2992,704
CA-507Marin County CoC1,0951,034
CA-508Watsonville/Santa Cruz City & County CoC2,3202,167
CA-511Stockton/San Joaquin County CoC1,6852,631
CA-512Daly City/San Mateo County CoC1,2381,512
CA-515Roseville, Rocklin/Placer, Nevada Counties678617
CA-518Vallejo/Solano County CoC1,1291,151
CA-519Chico, Paradise/Butte County CoC1,1251,266
CA-521Davis, Woodland/Yolo County CoC448655
CA-522Humboldt County CoC7031,702
CA-524Yuba City/Sutter County CoC765721
CA-525El Dorado County CoC645613
CA-526Tuolumne, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa Counties CoC398845
CA-527Tehama County CoC125288
CA-531Nevada County CoC272415
CA-602Santa Ana, Anaheim/Orange County CoC4,9556,860
CA-603Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County CoC1,7061,803
CA-606Long Beach CoC1,8731,894
CA-614San Luis Obispo County CoC1,0951,483
 

Total:

48,78261,685
 

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.

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