SAN DIEGO — A bill that would have established a three-year transitional housing pilot program for homeless LGBTQ+ youth in San Diego was vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday.
Assembly Bill 589, introduced by Encinitas Assemblymember Tasha Boerner, sought to support young people that are at-risk of homelessness after experiencing rejection from their families through temporary accommodations due to their queer identity.
The proposal would have required the Department of Housing and Community Development to establish the pilot — called the “Unicorn Homes Transitional Housing for Homeless LGBTQ+ Youth Program” — in the counties of San Diego and Sacramento.
Community-based organizations would operate the service, which would be accessible to those between the ages of 18 to 24, that has the “goal of reunification with the youth’s original family.”
Prior to the veto on Saturday, there were no registered opponents of Boerner’s bill.
In a veto letter, Newsom explained his decision to quash the bill due to ongoing efforts to close a $30 million budget deficit without cutting major programs “relied on by millions of Californians” — language repeated in dozens of messages issued over the weekend.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee estimated that the pilot program would have required the allocation of funds somewhere in the low millions of dollars annually over three years, as well as ongoing costs of $576,000 each year for required staffing to run it.
“While I appreciate the author’s commitment to providing housing for homeless LGBTQ+ youth, AB 589 creates an unfunded grant program that must be considered in the annual budget in the context of all state funding priorities,” the governor said.
He added that the state legislature “sent me bills outside of this budget process that, if all enacted, would add nearly $19 billion of unaccounted costs in the budget.”
Boerner, a Democrat, expressed disappointment with the governor’s decision to return the bill unsigned in a statement released on Saturday.
“These ‘Unicorn Homes’ would have served a population of young people who are often more likely to find themselves at risk of homelessness, while at the same time also face greater difficulty finding shelters that accept and respect them,” she said. “No state housing program targets LGBTQ+ youth at risk of homelessness specifically, and many nonprofit organizations that would help meet this need are struggling.”
Only about one in three LGBTQ+ youth live in LGBTQ-affirming homes, according to a 2021 survey conduced by the Trevor Project. The survey also found that about 28% of LGBTQ+ youth reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives.
Of those that experienced housing instability, they were about two to four times more likely to report struggling with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation compared to their counterparts with stable accommodations — like those in an LGBTQ-affirming home.
Locally, elected officials have taken steps to expand programs to help unhoused LGBTQ+ youth. Earlier this year, the San Diego Housing Commission announced that it would be opening a first-of-its-kind shelter and outreach program for queer young adults.
The emergency shelter, which is administered by the San Diego LGBT Community Center, currently has about 21 non-congregate beds and supportive services for displaced queer youth between 18 and 24 years old.
According to SDHC, about 40% of homeless youth in this age demographic identify as LGBTQ+.
Boerner added in the statement on her bill that she remains resolved to find other ways to allocate state resources to this group of young people that could provide them with a “safe, affirming place to go when their own family situation is no longer an option.”