One of the more enduring myths about California’s homeless population is that the vast majority have traveled here from other states, seeking generous government assistance and weather more hospitable to living outdoors. It’s a baseless claim perpetuated by both sides of the aisle — Gov. Newsom has made it repeatedly.
While comprehensive statewide data is lacking, local surveys indicate people living on the streets are typically from the surrounding neighborhood. Example: 70% of San Francisco’s homeless people were housed somewhere in the city when they lost housing; only 8% came from out of state. Three quarters of Los Angeles County’s homeless population lived in the region before becoming homeless.
There’s little evidence to suggest undocumented immigrants constitute a large share of California’s homeless population. But those that are unhoused are particularly difficult to help. Crucial safety net resources such as Social Security, Section 8 housing vouchers and food stamps are unavailable to the undocumented, who often resist engagement with homeless services providers because of deportation fears. Language and cultural barriers also complicate re-housing efforts.