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UCSF releases report on Black Californians’ experiences of homelessness

A tent in San Francisco
Flickr / Creative Commons
A tent in San Francisco

Last year, the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative (BHHI) released the California Statewide Study of People Experiencing Homelessness (CASPEH) which is the largest representative study of homelessness in the U.S. since the 1990s.

On Wednesday, using data from the study, UCSF released a special report detailing key findings and recommendations on the experience of homelessness for Black Californians.

The report found that although Black Californians make up only seven percent of the state’s population, they make up more than a quarter of the state’s homeless population. This is due largely to past and present manifestations of anti-Black racism, including the over-policing, surveillance, and incarceration of Black people.

“Forty-three percent of black Californians experiencing homelessness reported a prison stay in their lifetime, compared to 31 percent of white and 37 percent of those from other racial groups.”

That’s Kara Young Ponder, she’s the Director of Community Engagement and Racial Justice at BHHI. She says that, according to the study, although Black Californians are more likely to be incarcerated and to experience homelessness, they’re less likely to be using substances.

“About half — 58 percent — reported using illicit drugs regularly at some point in their life. Conversely, 74 percent of white and 65 percent of those from other racial groups did.”

Based on their findings, BHHI made a number of policy recommendations to support Black Californians at risk of, or already experiencing, homelessness. Recommendations included providing direct cash assistance via reparations and guaranteed income to extremely low-income Black Americans, and to increase access to affordable housing options. Again, Kara Young Ponder:

“California is one million units short of affordable and available housing for extremely low-income renters, of which Black Californians are over represented.”

Wren Farrell (he/him) is a writer, producer and journalist living in San Francisco.