As of January 2020, California had a little more than one-quarter of all the homeless people in the United States, according to the most recent federal estimates of homelessness.
But Caitlyn Jenner, a Republican candidate to be the state’s next governor, wrongly claimed that California’s portion of the homeless population was twice as high.
Jenner, a former Olympian and reality TV star, is one of several people running to unseat Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in a special recall election expected to be held later this year.
Part of her campaign platform calls for addressing homelessness in California, which she has said caused at least one person she knows to leave the state because he didn’t want to “walk down the streets and see the homeless.”
Jenner discussed homelessness again during a May 26 Fox News interview on “America’s Newsroom,” in which she overstated the percentage of the country’s homeless residents in her state.
As Bill Hemmer, one of the show’s co-hosts, said, California has the “highest homelessness in the nation” — at least in raw numbers. Jenner added that “50% of all homeless people live in California.”
But Jenner’s interjection was inaccurate, based on a report the Department of Housing and Urban Development released in March.
Part I of “The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress” said California — which has nearly 40 million residents — had 161,548 of the 580,466 homeless people in the U.S. on a single night in January 2020. That’s significantly less than half.
Combined, about 54% of all people experiencing homelessness were in California (28%), New York (16%), Florida (5%) and Texas (5%), the report said. Those also happen to be the four most populous U.S. states.
We reached out to Jenner’s gubernatorial campaign about her claim, but have not received a response.
It’s possible she meant to refer only to California’s share of the homeless population who do not spend their nights in emergency shelters or transitional housing. The same HUD report said California accounted for 51% of “all unsheltered people in the country,” or 113,660 out of 226,080.
Unsheltered homelessness, HUD said, “refers to people whose primary nighttime location is a public or private place not designated for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for people (for example, the streets, vehicles, or parks).”
However, the majority of homeless people in the U.S. were considered to be sheltered, according to the 2020 analysis. That’s why California — where 70% of the homeless were unsheltered at that point in time — had a smaller share of the overall U.S. homeless population.
Update, June 1: On May 31, a Jenner campaign spokesman indicated that Jenner was referring only to California’s share of the homeless population who do not spend their nights in emergency shelters or transitional housing. The spokesman emailed us a link to a 2019 news article about a White House report, which in turn used statistics from HUD’s 2018 report on homelessness. The report said that, as of January 2018, 47% of all unsheltered homeless people nationwide lived in California.
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