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As California’s homelessness crisis has continued to grow, so has the range and scale of efforts to address it. To understand these efforts in greater depth and inform their ongoing implementation, the Terner Center, Abt Associates, and UCSF’s Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative (BHHI) collaborated on a research project focused on homelessness in California, which will result in a series of briefs and reports over the coming months.

Our findings come from hundreds of interviews with people with lived experience of homelessness, local government administrators and staff, nonprofit service providers, and other stakeholders from local homelessness and housing organizations throughout California. Read more about the study’s qualitative methods here. We also analyzed quantitative data from local homelessness service, shelter, and housing programs.

The first report in the series, Five Recent Trends in Homelessness in California, describes the number and characteristics of people experiencing homelessness in California and documents trends in the available shelter and housing across the state. The patterns presented in the brief underscore the need for sustained resources to address homelessness, ensure equitable service provision, and expand the production of affordable housing. Read the full report here.

The Statewide Homelessness Assessment 

The California Interagency Council on Homelessness (Cal ICH) submitted a report to the state legislature, Statewide Homelessness Assessment, in February 2023 that assessed state-directed funding to address homelessness over the course of three fiscal years (2018–2021). Produced in collaboration with the Terner Center, Abt Associates, and BHHI, the report presents quantitative findings on: the sources and intended uses of $9.6 billion in state-directed funding designed to address homelessness and the types of interventions supported with that funding.  The report also analyzes the characteristics and outcomes of the approximately 570,000 unique people served by local homelessness service, shelter, and housing programs, including an estimated 273,000 people served by programs supported at least in part by state funding.

The report is the first in-depth analysis of Cal ICH’s Homeless Data Integration System (HDIS), a powerful tool for understanding the reach and effectiveness of homelessness programs statewide.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles County

Distinct Populations Served by California’s Homelessness Programs

Many homelessness programs target specific populations, reflecting their unique circumstances and needs. Leveraging the unique strength of HDIS data, a statewide aggregation of data collected by local homelessness service, shelter, and housing providers, a series of briefs examines four populations served by homelessness programs in California:

The briefs describe the characteristics of each population, the distinct kinds of programs serving them, and outcomes at the end of a three-year period (2018–2021). The data show that some groups have better housing outcomes—such as families relative to adults living without children, and veterans relative to non-veterans—demonstrating that solutions to homelessness do exist, but programs need to have sufficient resources and be targeted to people’s needs.

A Terner Center commentary highlights key findings from across the four briefs and from interviews with people with lived experience of homelessness, service providers, and local administrators.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles County

Creating and Sustaining Effective Homelessness Organizations and Systems

These briefs focus on homelessness service systems in California, such as how local homelessness systems can effectively coordinate the work of public and private entities, including the large number of nonprofits who provide critical housing and supportive services.


Photo Credit: Weingart Foundation

Interventions Serving People Experiencing or at Risk of Homelessness

Preventing and ending homelessness requires many different kinds of interventions, including street outreach programs, emergency shelters, subsidies for renting housing on the private market, and deeply subsidized housing units with supportive services. Forthcoming briefs will present findings on the scale, successes, and challenges of these types of interventions. Collectively, the briefs will also highlight strategies to support people’s transitions from one intervention to another, and identify where important gaps remain.


This research project was a collaborative effort supported by over 50 staff members from the participating organizations. The research team would like to thank the hundreds of interviewees working to address homelessness who shared their time and expertise. The team is especially grateful to the people with lived experience of homelessness who shared their stories and insights.

The Terner Center
The Terner Center

The Terner Center formulates bold strategies to house families from all walks of life in vibrant, sustainable, and affordable homes and communities. Our focus is on generating constructive, practical strategies for public policy makers and innovative tools for private sector partners to achieve better results for families and communities. For more information visit:

UCSF Housing and Homelessness Initiative
UCSF Housing and Homelessness Initiative

The UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative is a research and policy initiative within the Division of Vulnerable Populations in the Department of Medicine at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. BHHI’s diverse and multi-disciplinary team brings expertise in clinical care, mixed-methods research, statistics, community engagement, communications, and policy. BHHI uses an equity lens for all its work, partnering with communities and prioritizing involvement of people with lived experience of homelessness. For more information visit:

Abt Associates
Abt Associates

Abt Associates is a global consulting and research firm with a 55-year history of using data and bold thinking to improve the quality of people’s lives. From combatting infectious disease and conducting rigorous program evaluations, to ensuring safe drinking water and promoting access to affordable housing—and more—we partner with clients and communities to tackle their most complex challenges. Our worldwide staff crosses geographies, methods, and disciplines to deliver tailored solutions grounded in evidence.  For more information visit:

Funder Acknowledgement

We would like to thank the California Interagency Council on Homelessness (Cal ICH), which provided funding to support the data collection for this research collaboration and series. Cal ICH did not have a role in analyzing the data or interpreting the findings for this set of reports.