When it comes to policy, California isn’t usually looking to Texas for pointers. But when you look at the numbers, it’s difficult to deny that Texas has done a better job of addressing the homelessness crisis than California by some measures.
The Lone Star State’s reduced its homeless population by almost a third over the past decade, while published reports say California’s has grown by over 40% during the same time period. On top of that, Texas spent millions less of its state budget on homelessness than California last year.
In their search for solutions, California lawmakers have even traveled to Texas to try to get an inside look at how the state’s homelessness programs operate and to learn if they can be replicated or should be replicated back on the West Coast.
Marisa Kendall covers California’s homelessness crisis for CalMatters and joined Texas Standard to discuss the efforts. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Marisa Kendall: Yeah, Houston has more than halved its homeless population over the past ten years by focusing almost exclusively on permanent housing rather than temporary shelters by upping its collaboration between its city, county, nonprofit and private sector, and by moving folks from encampments into a navigation center and from there pretty quickly into housing.
Another city you report on is Austin. What has caught California official’s attention about what they’re doing in Austin?
The big thing in Austin is a giant 51-acre tiny home community that serves as permanent housing for several hundred homeless residents. And it has amenities like a ceramic studio, a fishing pond… all kinds of things that you don’t normally see in homeless housing.