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Trump Slams California as Nation's Hub of Homelessness; Numbers Back Him Up

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- In the course of criticizing Democrats' governing skills at his campaign rally Thursday night, President Trump proclaimed that "nearly half of all the homeless people living in the streets in America happen to live in the state of California."

According to the most recent Annual Homeless Assessment Report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, "nearly half of all unsheltered people in the country were in California (47 percent or 89,543)."

The state with the next-highest share of unshelterd people is Florida, with 7 percent or 13,393 people.

The 2018 report defines "unsheltered" as homeless people who live "in unsheltered locations such as on the street, in abandoned buildings or in other places not suitable for human habitation."

When homeless people who are in emergency shelters and transitional housing are included, California's share of the homeless population is 24 percent or 129,972 people. In other words, 69 percent of California's homeless population are unsheltered.

On Friday, Governor Newsom responded to the president's comments saying, "if you've got a critique, offer some advice and counsel on solutions; and if you have advice and counsel on solutions, also provide resources."

Newsom added, "I just find it interesting, I think they're trying to take 80 million from L.A. Housing and Urban Development Agency. You wanna help? I don't know if that's a way of helping."

HUD funding was also part of the equation when KPIX spoke to Jeff Kositsky, the director of San Francisco's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

"Since 1978, the federal government has cut HUD's budget authority for low-income housing by well over 50 percent in current dollars and I think that cut really tracks the rise of modern-day homelessness," Kositsky said.

The federal cuts may explain a national rise in homelessness but why does California have such a disproportionate share?

Kositsky says it isn't the weather.

"I think this state and also in this city ... we have a lot of regulations that oversee the construction of housing ... and we need to figure out ways to streamline housing construction, we need to look at our zoning laws, we need to look at our investments in affordable housing."

With a governor that knows these challenges well, Kositsky believes Newsom's administration can make progress.

"I'm hopeful that we're gonna make the changes that we need to make here in California but I certainly hope our federal government is gonna look back at what they have done to contribute to this homelessness crisis and will think about reinvesting."

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