(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Gavin Newsom hasn’t appointed a homelessness czar. The Legislature might force his hand

Jan. 7—If Gov. Gavin Newsom doesn’t appoint a homelessness secretary, the Legislature might force his hand.

Assemblywoman Luz Rivas on Monday introduced a bill to create an Office to End Homelessness run by a cabinet secretary for housing insecurity and homelessness who would report to the governor.

During his campaign, Newsom said he would appoint a cabinet-level secretary to advise him on homelessness, but has since backed away from that promise. Instead, he’s delegated homelessness issues to several advisers including Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who already have full-time jobs as city officials, and Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, whose portfolio as head of the state’s health agency extends far beyond homelessness.

Another cabinet secretary, Alexis Podesta, oversees the state’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. In December, Newsom also hired a former Trump administration official as a homelessness consultant.

Rivas’ proposal, Assembly Bill 1845, would create a cabinet position specifically focused on homelessness. In her announcement, Rivas praised the governor for appropriating money in the state budget to address homelessness, but said the state still isn’t doing enough on the issue.

“At this point, our response to homelessness has been all spokes and no hub,” the Los Angeles Democrat said in a statement. “By creating a designated office that coordinates communication and partnerships between our state departments and agencies, and with our local governments, the state can bolster its efforts to help communities that are struggling to respond on a local level.”

Some advocates have also called for Newsom to appoint a cabinet-level housing adviser who would focus on increasing home building, arguing his housing policy lacks leadership.

Housing and homelessness issues are closely linked in California, which has a disproportionate share of the country’s homeless population and a massive housing shortage.

President Donald Trump has frequently criticized California leaders for their inability to solve the state’s homelessness issues and has threatened federal intervention if they can’t fix the problem.

By Sophia Bollag

The Sacramento Bee

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