California has the highest number of homeless people of any state in the US. According to the most recent US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Annual Homeless Assessment Report, the state is home to 26 percent of the country's homeless, with the highest percentage -- some 64 percent -- 'unsheltered,' meaning they stay in places considered not intended for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, streets and abandoned buildings.
The estimated number of homeless people in Los Angeles topped 28,400 in 2016, with some 46,874 in Los Angeles County, and San Diego County has over 8,600 homeless, with an estimated 5,093 residing in the city of San Diego.
Of the five largest cities in the US with the highest percentage of the total population homeless, four are in California. San Diego is fifth on that list, while San Francisco is number one.
According to Michael Storper, a UCLA professor and author of ‘The Rise and Decline of Urban Economies: Lessons from Los Angeles and San Francisco,’ there is no straightforward relationship between housing prices and homelessness but that homelessness is "an economic and labor market problem having to do with unemployment and low incomes The core cause of homelessness is people who are not making it in the economy." The severity of homelessness is worse in cities like Los Angeles or San Diego than in the Bay Area, Storper explained because public expenditures per person are about one-third lower in Southern California than in the Bay Area. Cities in Southern California thus offer fewer of the services that can make a difference for homeless people.
Michael McConnell, a homeless advocate in San Diego, said San Diego -- like cities across California -- enacted a slew of policies that torment and criminalize the unhoused. Structures installed under overpasses designed to keep homeless people from setting up encampments, police "sweeps" that displace homeless populations and encroachment tickets that criminalize them, all exacerbate existing problems.
The problems pervade cities across the state. The city of Palo Alto, where the typical rent is 2.5 times the national average and the number of shelter beds was recently recorded as fewer than 20, made sleeping in one's own car punishable by a $1,000 fine or up to six months in jail. Los Angeles enacted laws against loitering that disproportionately impact the homeless, and a section of Chapter IV of the city's municipal code regarding restaurant establishments is actually titled "Annoyance of Customers Forbidden." In the Bay Area, Oakland outlawed loitering in public places and instituted a city-wide ban on sleeping in the streets. San Francisco prohibits sleeping in parks at night, disallows encampments and criminalizes the use of vehicles for human habitation, much to the detriment of the homeless who have to live in their cars. The law in San Diego enjoins citizens not to "annoy any person" along a sidewalk. San Diegans without housing are prohibited from sleeping in tents near the ocean overnight and banned from using a parked vehicle as an abode "either overnight or day by day." Homeless individuals across California allege that police have intensified an already hostile climate and caused additional harm.
San Diego’s local Business Association's 'Clean and Safe' campaign states:
“Homeless people act in anti-social ways and drive away customers. Homeless people are drawn to Hillcrest because of the proximity of the neighborhood to Balboa Park, the local hospitals and the generous nature of the neighborhood. As a business owner, the last thing you want to do is have to deal with a problematic homeless people [sic]. This website is designed to help you better engage with this population and prevent them from disrupting your business.”
Businesses in Hillcrest hired a private security company, City Wide Protection Services, to "handle" homeless people in the area.
Craig Willse, author of The Value of Homelessness: Managing Surplus Life in the United States, who worked as a homeless advocate in Los Angeles before becoming an academic, remains critical of proposed hate crime legislation and of the tendency to reduce homelessness to cost-benefit analyses through constant counting of populations for purposes of managing them.
"I think hate crime legislation has proven to be a failed approach -- it does not protect vulnerable groups, but does strengthen a racist police and prison system," Willse told Truthout. "Those laws do not keep people safe. And while individual acts of violence against people living without shelter must be stopped, these kinds of laws, by turning attention to individual perpetrators, turn attention away from the real and systemic source of violence -- the state and capitalism… The social services approach to homelessness has had a depoliticizing effect -- so we deal with individual cases rather than the big picture."
The homeless problem is a side effect of capitalism. The capitalist needs an excess labor force in order to keep wages low and to keep the working class under control. The excess labor force is used as a controller by the capitalists in several ways. First off social class is used as a barrier to divide people, secondly the impoverished are used as a scapegoat to deflect blame from the capitalists, and lastly the lower class is used to keep pay down for those that do work. What is going on today is not new and went on a hundred years ago.
George Carlin once said there's no money to be made off of the homeless- this was before the rise of NGOs, foundations and other "charitable institutions" that are actually helping to perpetuate homelessness, whether unwittingly or not, without ever going near root-causes. In a capitalist economy poverty and it's ensuing homelessness are the biggest crime. If you're rich, you must have earned it by hard work and good life choices; conversely, if you're poor, it cannot possibly be the economy working precisely as it's designed to, but rather a result of your own personal weaknesses and miscalculations. To suggest that systemic flaws are to blame is to place the proverbial tinfoil hat on one's head. It shouldn't be hard to figure who benefits and who loses under any such regime.