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Black people are increasingly overrepresented in Sacramento homeless population, report says

Theresa Clift and Darrell Smith, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

The percentage of Black people in Sacramento’s homeless population, already vastly overrepresented, has again increased.

Although only 9% of Sacramento’s general population is Black, Black residents now comprises a whopping 35% of Sacramento’s homeless population, the report found. That number jumped from 31% in 2022, the last time the federally-mandated homeless census count was performed.

Almost 60% of homeless people living in households with children were Black. Twenty percent of the homeless who died last year in Sacramento are Black.

“This is devastating, year after year, the numbers of Black Californians who are falling into homelessness,” said Dr. Kara Young Ponder, director of community engagement and racial justice at University of California, San Francisco Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, on hearing the Sacramento figures Friday. “It’s devastating to see these numbers rising.”

The Sacramento figure surpasses the percentage of Black people experiencing homelessness statewide by nearly 10%. In California, 26% of the homeless population is Black, nearly four times the state’s Black population of 7%.

Ponder laid out the systemic causes that have left so many unhoused in her February report, “Toward Equity: Understanding Black Californians’ Experiences of Homelessness.”


Historic barriers to housing, employment, credit and health care, long the products of systemic racial bias, also create a pipeline to homelessness for many Black Californians living on the streets.

That pipeline is accelerated by jail or prison. Incarceration increases the risk for homelessness “because of the impact of criminal justice records on every aspect of life: educational opportunities, employment, and housing,” the Ponder report read.

Nearly eight in 10 homeless Black Californians had served jail time at some point in their lives, similar to other groups, according to the report. Black Californians, however, were more likely to report a prison stay than their white counterparts.

More affordable and accessible routes to housing, increased pay, clean-slate programs for those with past criminal histories, and more effective laws to combat housing discrimination are among Ponder’s prescriptions to tackle the crisis.


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