On January 7, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced his statewide initiative to resolve the homeless crisis. The plan calls for a $1.45 billion budget, $750 million of which is from taxpayer money that will be designated for supportive housing, while the remaining $700 million will go towards health-related expenses.
“We have an unprecedented amount of investment, and with that, we want transparency and accountability,” Newsom later told KCRA in a televised interview. “We want to see a reduction in street population, we want more people rapidly rehoused, and we want [to provide] more access to behavioral health.”
Newsom began a statewide tour on January 13 to speak with California’s dispersed homeless population and local nonprofits to learn how best to spend the budget. “Californians have lots of compassion for those among us who are living without shelter,” said Newsom in a statement. “But we also know what compassion isn’t. Compassion isn’t allowing a person suffering a severe psychotic break or from a lethal substance abuse addiction to literally drift towards death on our streets and sidewalks.” The Governor also recently signed an executive order to invest in the search for vacant properties across California to develop them into affordable housing, with an emphasis on those next to highways, state roads, and other commonly-underdeveloped sites—although a recent raid on the nonprofit Moms4Housing in Oakland over squatting, complete with tanks, is seemingly at odds with this strategy.
Though many of Newsom’s plans for solving the homeless crisis were unsuccessful when serving as San Francisco’s mayor from 2004-2011, the recent announcement is an opportunity for Newsom to focus his attention on a statewide level with a significantly increased budget.
The plan comes shortly after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that 151,000 homeless people, nearly one-quarter of the nation’s homeless population, live in the state. While the amount of homelessness has decreased in other parts of the country, the report explains, the population has increased by 16 percent in California. Homelessness has been a significant issue in California given the skyrocketing cost of housing, mixed with a staggering shortage of affordable housing, making the issue a priority among California voters.