Christine Kroger, a reader from Stockton, wrote: “Where are the homeless people from? If they are transplants, when did they come to California, what brought them here, and how did they end up in their current circumstances?”
Another reader, Jim, from Santa Cruz, wrote that he believed “many, if not most” of the homeless people he saw were not native Californians. He asked: “Why is California bearing the brunt of this national crisis?”
Elizabeth Erickson, a reader in Seattle, echoed his sentiments, saying: “Do many homeless or near-homeless move to politically liberal areas, making the assumption that they will receive more assistance?”
As the data shows us, most of the homeless people you pass on the streets every day are in fact Californians. Some may have rented an apartment or once owned a home in your neighborhood. Now they sleep in an encampment near the freeway you take to work each morning.
“This is a local crisis and a homegrown problem,” said Peter Lynn, the executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the agency that conducts the largest homeless census count in the country.
Several years ago, L.A.H.S.A. added a question to its homeless survey that captured how long a person had been in Los Angeles and where they became homeless. The resulting data dispelled the idea that the homeless population was largely made up of people from out of state.
“The vast majority fell into homelessness in L.A. County,” Mr. Lynn said.
L.A.H.S.A.’s 2019 homeless count found that 64 percent of the 58,936 Los Angeles County residents experiencing homelessness had lived in the city for more than 10 years. Less than a fifth (18 percent) said they had lived out of state before becoming homeless.
In San Francisco, 43 percent of the homeless said they had lived in the city for more than 10 years.
The path to becoming homeless can start with a large medical bill that causes someone to fall behind on their rent payments, which leads to eventual eviction. More than half of the people surveyed in Los Angeles cited economic hardship as the primary reason that they fell into homelessness. In San Francisco, 26 percent of the homeless surveyed cited the loss of a job as the primary cause.
The survey also found that nearly a quarter (23 percent) of unsheltered adults lost their housing in 2018 and were experiencing homelessness for the first time. In Los Angeles, a renter earning minimum wage ($13.25 an hour) would need to work 79 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom apartment.
Data about migration to California from other states among the housed population showed that the largest group of transplants to the state were actually college-educated professionals, ranging from 20 to 29, from Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Over the past five years, California has gained 162,000 more college graduates from other states than it has lost.
“I hear a lot of people complain that the homeless people are all from ‘somewhere else,’” wrote Ms. Kroger of Stockton, a lifelong Californian. “I think it might raise empathy and compassion if it turns out that the majority of the people who have been displaced are from the very communities in which they are now trying to survive on the streets.”
Here’s what else we’re following
More than two dozen mayors and county leaders are calling for a customer-owned power company to replace PG&E. [The New York Times]
The latest in the Trump impeachment inquiry: Gordon Sondland, an ally of President Trump and a key witness, confirmed his role in laying out a quid pro quo message to Ukraine in a major revision of his testimony. [The New York Times]
Democrats believe Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, could be the man to bring down President Trump. This is how he’s running his investigation. [The New York Times Magazine]
California’s presidential primary is up for grabs. Yet Democratic candidates are focusing on other states, suggesting to political experts that crafting a strategy to win California could be a challenge. [The Sacramento Bee]
Conservatives who have grown disenchanted with the state’s liberal politics are leaving California for “redder pastures” in Texas and Idaho. [The Los Angeles Times]
A BART employee is being hailed as a hero after he saved a man who had fallen into the path of an oncoming train at the Coliseum station in Oakland. [San Francisco Chronicle]
A high school teacher in Milpitas was placed on administrative leave after he wore blackface in front of his class on Halloween. [The New York Times]
A data breach at the state Department of Motor Vehicles resulted in federal agencies gaining improper access to the Social Security information of 3,200 people. [The Los Angeles Times]
Teenagers love TikTok. That’s why Silicon Valley is trying to stage an intervention. [The New York Times]
Coming up this week
Join Times journalists and experts in a conversation about the politics of public space and how it has affected the city of San Francisco. You’ll hear from Michael Kimmelman, The Times’s architecture critic, and June A. Grant, design principal of blink!LAB design and a Y.B.C.A. 100 honoree. Thomas Fuller, our San Francisco bureau chief, will moderate the conversation.
You can buy tickets here.
And finally …
Perhaps you didn’t make it to Black Rock Desert this year. But you can see a handful of the 408 fantastical art installations from this year’s Burning Man festival in public spaces across the country.
Since Burning Man began — in 1986, as a small gathering at Baker Beach in San Francisco — its art was not meant to be seen by the outside world.
“It was one of the only places you could build these immersive interactive pieces that a few years ago were pooh-poohed by the rest of the art world,” said Michael Christian, a sculptor who has attended 20 festivals. “We never imagined our creations would be seen beyond the playa.”
That has changed in recent years, as the festival has become a major influencer of popular culture, design, music and business.
See some of the pieces here.
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