Proposition 47 and Homelessness in O.C.


Huntington Beach City Hall. Photo by: Hana Homma

In Orange County, the increase of homelessness has become a major problem due to the decriminalization of drug offenses and increased independence, according to Huntington Beach City Hall’s Homeless Outreach Coordinator, Catherine Lukeheart and the Bowery Residence Committee. According to Orange County’s Point in Time Homeless Count, homelessness in Costa Mesa has increased from 103 to 187 people (44% increase) in just two years, and has even doubled in Huntington Beach from 119 to 289 (59% increase) people. 

Lukeheart stated a possible reason to the growth of homelessness is that in 2014, “Prop 47 decriminalized many drug offenses or reduced them to misdemeanors, thereby releasing approximately 15,000 people from prisons and jails.” 

With Proposition 47, homeless people are more comfortable in their environment, since they do not get arrested as easily because of drug use. Lukeheart stated, “decriminalizing drug offenses has had a profound impact… [and] formerly utilized drug courts are now rendered ineffective because there is not the threat of incarceration hanging over someone’s head anymore. As such, drug addiction is rampant in the homeless community.” 

According to Orange County Point in Time’s Count, the homeless population within Orange County consists of around 6,860 individuals. There are multiple factors as to why there is an overgrowth of population. One reason is that homeless people are becoming more distrustful of shelters and wanting to continue their independent lives. “[The] reasons [for homelessness] are several. Independence. Fear of the unknown. Concern for safety. Lack of confidence [and] pride,” states the Bowery Residence Committee online. 

Secondly, shelters have structures and rules, such as eating times, or restrictions to alcohol/drugs, which are a few reasons for addicts to stay away from shelters. To the homeless, BRC states that “Living in a shelter [can] also [mean] living among people you don’t know, may not trust, or even fear.”

If a citizen wants to help with this issue, Lukeheart stated they should “determine the city resources and the non-profits in their area, so they can refer homeless people to them. [They should also do some] research on the best nonprofits and donate to them, and find out if there are any volunteer opportunities.” 

Some non-profits in Huntington Beach include Build Futures, Robyne’s Nest, Colette’s Children’s Home, and Off the Streets; almost all of these organizations offer donation and volunteer opportunities for Huntington Beach residents that want to contribute. 


Build Futures: 714-907-7358 / [email protected] / 

Robyne’s Nest: 714-369-6102 / [email protected] / 

Colette’s Children’s Home: 714-596-1380 / [email protected] / 

Off The Streets: 717-256-3282 / [email protected] /