Back in June, California Gov. Gavin Newsom made an incredible claim about homeless people in his state. Asked why the homeless population hadn’t declined when he was Mayor of San Francisco, Newsom said, “The vast majority (of San Francisco’s homeless people) also come in from — and we know this — from Texas. Just (an) interesting fact.”
Newsom’s claim was discounted by the LA Times last month but Politifact decided to investigate independently. This week the least reliable fact-checker in the business agreed that Newsom’s statement was absurd, giving it a “Pants on Fire” rating.
Newsom’s statement is contradicted by San Francisco’s own point in time homeless counts. Those reports are conducted every two years…
The 2019 report found 70 percent had lived in the city; 22 percent in another California county and 8 percent out-of-state. Of that 70 percent, more than half, or 55 percent, reported living in San Francisco for a decade or more before losing their home. Just 6 percent said they had lived in the city for less than a year.
Going back a dozen years, the city’s 2007 point-in-time count shows 62 percent reported being from San Francisco; about 16 percent were from outside the state and 15 percent were from another county in the state.
Asked to defend his claim about the homeless pouring in from Texas, Newsom’s spokesman pointed to a program called Homeward Bound which offers bus tickets to homeless people who agree to go live with someone who has agreed to take them in. But data from that program doesn’t support the Governor’s claim either:
The data includes travel destinations for the program from 2004 through 2018. It shows approximately 20 percent of Homeward Bound’s trips, or about 2,400, took place inside California during that period. About 80 percent took place out of state.
Texas was the most popular destination outside of California, with 827 trips or 6.7 percent of the program’s 12,268 trips since it started. The next most popular were Washington state, at 5.8 percent, and Florida, at 5.4 percent.
At 6.7 percent, Texas in no way can be described as accounting for “the vast majority” of San Francisco’s homeless population.
And despite the name, the Homeward Bound program doesn’t require that people return to their home state. They just have to have someone who agrees to take them in living in that state, an extended relative or friend. Since Texas is the second most populous US state, it makes sense that people moving to live with someone else would find a lot of those folks are living in Texas.
Maybe Gov. Newsom was hoping for some of the special treatment Politifact recently gave to Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, i.e. refusing to fault them for falsely claiming Michael Brown was “murdered.” But it appears this claim about California’s homeless population was so absurd that even Politifact couldn’t spin it.