The federal government is giving Bay Area counties another $191 million to combat homelessness, part of what officials describe as a “historic” nationwide investment, but some advocates say it amounts to a drop in the bucket.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this week announced almost $3.2 billion in grants for thousands of homeless housing sites and service programs across the country. That includes $53.8 million for San Francisco, $51.5 million for Alameda County, $39.5 million for Santa Clara County, $19.3 million for Contra Costa County and $14.6 million for San Mateo County. Napa, Sonoma, Marin and Solano counties also will receive funding. The agency awarded the money based largely on how well county agencies are working together to end homelessness.

“Now, more than ever, we are doing all we can to get people off the street and into permanent homes with access to services,” HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said in a statement. “That is why we are making sure the service providers on the frontlines of this crisis have the resources they need.”

The money comes as homelessness has swelled across the Bay Area and California in recent years and a frustrated public sees little improvement despite unprecedented billions of dollars already spent to stem the crisis.

Since 2019, the nine-county Bay Area’s homeless population has spiked roughly 35% to an estimated 38,000 people. The surge has been propelled by a chronic affordable housing shortage, an intensifying fentanyl emergency and an overburdened mental health system — all exacerbated by the economic upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic.

While federal officials lauded the new funding as the largest annual amount ever dedicated through HUD’s “Continuum of Care” program, some housing and homeless advocates say it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

“The federal government has been chronically and deliberately underfunding housing and homelessness for decades,” said Jennifer Loving, chief executive of Silicon Valley homeless solutions nonprofit Destination: Home. “Our homelessness crisis is exacerbated year over year by the lack of our nation’s focus in building housing at the deepest level of affordability.”

For comparison, Loving said her nonprofit plans to distribute about $40 million raised through private donations to boost affordable housing and aid homelessness services in Santa Clara County — about what the county is receiving in the latest round of HUD funding.

Even so, local governments also receive millions in other state and federal dollars for housing and homelessness programs. California alone has set aside about $20 billion over the past five years to help unhoused people get off the street and to build more affordable homes.

How much money, then, would it cost to actually solve the crisis?

According to the Corporation for Supportive Housing, a national nonprofit that advocates for homeless housing, California would need to invest $8.1 billion annually over roughly the next 12 years to build more than 112,000 affordable apartments and provide supportive services and rental subsidies to hundreds of thousands of residents.

More money may be needed for housing and services. But increasingly, state and local officials — under growing pressure to get a handle on sprawling encampments and jarring public displays of human suffering — are turning toward more forceful measures to move people off the street.

In San Jose, Mayor Matt Mahan is pushing to ban homeless camps along the Guadalupe River downtown. San Mateo County, meanwhile, this week approved criminal penalties for homeless people who decline shelter. Oakland, Milpitas, Santa Cruz and Sacramento also have recently enacted rules restricting encampments.

At the state level, lawmakers recently reformed conservatorship rules to force more unhoused residents into treatment. They’ve also established a new CARE Court system that allows health care professionals, family members and others to petition judges to order homeless people into mental health programs.

The moves by the state have raised concerns among local officials about whether the state’s decaying mental health system can handle an influx of new patients. To close the gaps, state officials are pushing for even more money in the form of a March 2024 ballot measure that would raise $6.4 billion for around 10,000 new treatment beds and supportive housing.