This CalHPS research piece was funded by the California Health Care Foundation as part of the Reentry Health Policy Project. My co-authors include David Panush and David Maxwell-Jolly.

Click here to download the full report.

Overview

It is often assumed that a significant segment of the unsheltered homeless population in California has been involved with the criminal justice system in some way and/or is mentally ill. There are no statewide data to test these assumptions. This report estimates the number of unsheltered homeless individuals who have histories criminal justice system involvement and who report that they have mental health issues or illness. We base these estimates on Point-in-Time homelessness survey results from the three largest counties – San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles – from 2017 and 2018.

Findings

We derive the following six findings:

  1. The number of unsheltered homeless has increased by 26%. The number of unsheltered homeless individuals increased from 72,998 people in 2013 to about 91,642 people in 2017.

  2. 70% of unsheltered homeless report a history of incarceration. We estimate that about 64,149 unsheltered individuals have ever been incarcerated.

  3. 28% of unsheltered homeless individuals report having recently been released from jail or prison. We estimate that 25,660 unsheltered individuals are recently justice involved.

  4. 13% of unsheltered homeless individuals report being presently under community supervision. We estimate that 11,913 unsheltered homeless individuals are presently on either probation or parole.

  5. 32% of unsheltered homeless individuals report both having “mental health issues” and being ever incarcerated. We estimate that about 29,692 individuals have been previously incarcerated at some point and currently report having mental health issues.

  6. 15% of unsheltered homeless individuals report both a “serious mental illness” and being ever incarcerated. We estimate that about 13,746 individuals have both been previously incarcerated at some point in their lives and report having a serious mental illness.