Toward a New Understanding: The California Statewide Study of People Experiencing Homelessness

Conducted by the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, the California Statewide Study of People Experiencing Homelessness (CASPEH) is the largest representative study of homelessness in the United States since the mid-1990s. The study provides a comprehensive look at the causes and consequences of homelessness in California and recommends policy changes to shape programs and policy responses. Designed to be representative of all adults 18 years and older experiencing homelessness in California, CASPEH includes data from nearly 3,200 questionnaires and 365 in-depth interviews with adults experiencing homelessness in eight regions of the state, representing urban, rural, and suburban areas. In partnership with a wide array of community stakeholders, the UCSF BHHI team collected data between October 2021 and November 2022.

This report summarizes the main findings from the California Statewide Study of People Experiencing Homelessness (CASPEH), organized by the pathways that lead to homelessness to highlight that homelessness is an experience people have—not an indicator of their character. Chapter 1 provides an overview of who experiences homelessness in California. Chapter 2 discusses how people became homeless, with a focus on what was happening prior to their current episode of homelessness and missed opportunities for prevention. Chapter 3 describes the experience of homelessness, with attention to the health and safety of those experiencing homelessness. Chapter 4 focuses on individuals’ interactions with the homelessness system and the barriers they faced to regaining housing. Finally, Chapter 5 presents policy recommendations.

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