Opinion: How interim housing could solve California’s unsheltered homelessness crisis

Moving the unsheltered into tiny homes, hotel rooms and other types of housing is a proven, cost-effective strategy

About 181,000 Californians are uncertain if they will have a place to sleep tonight, and two-thirds of them are unsheltered, meaning they are especially exposed to extreme weather, infectious diseases and physical abuse. Nationally, only one-fifth of homeless individuals are unsheltered, and in New York City, only one in twenty. The unsheltered homelessness crisis is a disproportionately and shameful California nightmare.

Permanent housing is the ultimate solution to ending homelessness, but it takes a long time to build and is costly, with average per-unit expenses exceeding $600,000 and exceeding $1.1 million in some major cities. While we must keep constructing and investing in sufficient permanent housing long-term, we must still address the short-term crisis with uniquely Californian solutions.

Interim housing is this missing rung on the ladder toward permanent housing. It lifts unsheltered homeless individuals off the streets and into temporary residences to help them transition into stable housing. These residences could include tiny homes, hotel rooms or other types of housing. For example, Santa Clara County is working to expand its interim housing efforts that include units ranging from 40 to 150 square feet, which are lock and key and service-enriched with meals, health care and employment assistance.

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