SACRAMENTO (INSIDE CALIFORNIA POLITICS) — Across California, the homelessness crisis continues to grow.
An estimated 161,000 people are experiencing homelessness in the nation’s most populous state, more than in any other. Advocates say they can’t house people quickly enough with a shortage of housing units and high rents.
An exclusive Inside California Politics / Emerson College poll asked respondents to rate Newsom’s response to homelessness in the state.
The poll of more than 1,000 registered voters, which has a margin of error of +/-2.9%, revealed more than half of respondents rated Newsom’s response to homelessness as poor. A total 25% voted fair, with 16% voting good. Seven percent of respondents said his response was excellent.
Now, the Golden State is investing $12 billion to help the state’s homelessness crisis. Newsom signed the measure Monday in Sonoma County.
It is part of the $100 billion California Comeback Plan.
Newsom signed the funding package, which includes $12 billion over two years to confront the homelessness problem. Of that $12 billion — $5.7 billion will be used for housing, $3.9 billion will be used for mental health programs including behavioral veteran services, $2.2 billion will be used for cleaning up homeless camps, removing hazardous waste and to provide assistance to local governments.
According to the poll, homelessness ties with housing costs at 19% as the number one issue the state is facing today. COVID-19 ranks close behind at 16%.
The state will use $5.8 billion of the funding to convert more than 42,000 hotel and motel rooms into housing units specifically for homeless residents and people struggling with severe mental health conditions.
Newsom said this is the largest effort in California history to confront the problem.
Since being elected in 2018, Newsom has frequently reiterated his intent to spur more housing development and, in turn, help homeless residents get off the streets.
“I don’t think homelessness can be solved – I know homelessness can be solved,” Gov. Newsom said. “We are going all-in with innovative solutions that we know work – with a focus on creating housing to support people with severe mental health challenges, and with more money than ever to move people out of encampments and into safer situations.”
California is home to more than a quarter of the nation’s homeless people, according to federal data, and it has reached a crisis point in many cities. There are deep disagreements in how to solve a problem that goes beyond economics and is often complicated by mental illness and addiction issues that require treatment and can make people resistant to accepting shelter.
The city of Los Angeles has an estimated homeless population of more than 40,000, which is second only to New York’s.
Earlier this month, Newsom kicked off California’s $1.1 billion plan to clean trash and graffiti from highways, roads, and other public spaces, an effort he said will beautify the state and create up to 11,000 jobs.
The Clean California program funds are not allowed to be used to displace people experiencing homelessness.
Newsom pointed out that he has proposed $12 billion to get more people experiencing homelessness off the streets and into homes of their own.
“When our teams are out there on encampments notifying people of our intent to clean up an encampment, we’re doing so with more resources than any time in California history to follow through on our commitment to get people housed, and get people out of these dangerous environments,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.