A tent sits on the sidewalk at Hayes and Laguna streets in Hayes Valley on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A tent sits on the sidewalk at Hayes and Laguna streets in Hayes Valley on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Gavin Newsom wants to spend billions to fight homelessness in California

Hannah Wiley

The Sacramento Bee

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday a proposal to spend $12 billion on affordable units and prevention services to help solve homelessness as part of his $100 billion COVID-19 economic recovery plan.

Newsom this week is touring the state to unveil elements of his budget proposal that’s due to the Legislature by Friday. Newsom announced on Monday that California should expect to see a $75 billion surplus this year, along with another $27 billion in federal aid.

That jaw-dropping number allows for historic investments in solving California’s most significant problems. The $12 billion investment is 10 times the amount California has spent on homelessness solutions in recent years. The money would help finance 46,000 new units to help get people off the streets and into shelter, Newsom said.

He said what’s happening now on California streets and sidewalks is “unacceptable.”

“What we’re announcing here today is truly transformative. What we’re announcing here today is truly historic. It’s unprecedented not just in California history, but what we’re announcing here today is simply unprecedented in American history,” Newsom said at a press conference.

Specifically, $7 billion would help expand Homekey, a program Newsom established during the pandemic to provide grant money for local governments and agencies to purchase hotels and other buildings and convert them into supportive and permanent housing.

Homekey was an expansion of Project Roomkey, which was set up as a temporary shelter program for for at-risk and older homeless people vulnerable to COVID-19. Newsom also wants to provide $150 million to help rehouse Project Roomkey participants.

Since then, according to Newsom’s office, the two programs have helped finance 6,000 affordable units and served 36,000 Californians.

Newsom’s proposal would also set aside $1.75 billion for affordable housing and $447 million to combat homelessness on college campuses.

Another $3.5 billion is included in the plan to help end family homelessness within five years. This funding would provide housing and rental support for homeless families.

Newsom also proposed another $1.5 billion to clean up roadways and public spaces.

An estimated 151,000 people are experiencing homelessness in California, according to 2019 federal data. In 2019, Newsom’s first year in office, the budget included $1 billion for homelessness. A year later, after dedicating his February State of the State address to the homelessness and housing crises, Newsom signed a pandemic budget that allotted $600 million for Project Roomkey and $300 million for preventative care.

According to Newsom’s office, the $12 billion would help house 65,000 people and provide housing stability for another 300,000 individuals. An additional 28,000 beds would be provided for seniors and those with behavioral issues.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said Newsom’s plan would help “break the cycle of homelessness.”

“This is transformational. This is game-changing,” Gloria said.

In a statement, former Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who’s now running to replace Newsom in the recall election, criticized the proposal as inadequate.

“No amount of money will solve this crisis without a leader who has the political will to buck the status quo and take bold actions to get people off the streets and indoors to receive the help they need,” Faulconer said.

So far, Newsom’s $100 billion economic recovery blueprint also includes sending $600 stimulus checks for two-thirds of Californians, and an additional $500 for families with children. He also wants to set aside more than $7 billion to help Californians pay down rent and utility debt.

After the Friday deadline, legislators will review Newsom’s proposal and make their own recommendations before a June 15 mandate to pass the 2021-2022 budget.

Bay Area NewsCaliforniaHousing and HomelessnessPolitics

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