Newsom blasts California cities for homelessness and pulls $1 billion in grants

Natalie Hanson

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Chasing California cities for their lack of “aggressive” planning on how to use state funding to address homelessness, Gov. Gavin Newsom has ended funding for a billion for homeless services – at least for now.

Newsom announced Thursday that he will convene city leaders this month to review current strategies for addressing the statewide homelessness crisis and to identify better approaches. For now, the third round of $1 billion Housing, Assistance and Homelessness Prevention Grants, around which cities build their homelessness service strategies, is on hold.

“As a state, we are failing to respond to the urgency of this moment,” Newsom said. “Collectively, these plans set the goal of reducing street homelessness by 2% statewide by 2024. At this rate, it would take decades to significantly reduce homelessness in California – this approach is simply unacceptable. Everyone must do better, including cities, counties and the state.

Grants are provided on the condition that each local government has a state-approved plan that reduces homelessness and increases permanent housing. Round three funding recipients have new requirements such as creating a homelessness action plan that details local actions to prevent and reduce homelessness. Plans should include the number of homeless people in a given community and identify all programs and sources of funding – with outcome-oriented outcomes and strategies to achieve targets – to address the crisis.

But the governor said some plans actually call for double-digit growth in homelessness.

Newsom cited years of efforts to address homelessness by investing $15.3 billion, including an effort with Caltrans since last year to clear more than 1,600 encampments across the state and eliminate more 2,200 tonnes of waste. The budget he signed this year includes $700 million for encampment resolution grants with $350 million earmarked to help those living on state right-of-way property.

The governor also spearheaded the Homekey and Project Roomkey programs to help get people off the streets. Partnering with cities across the state, Project Roomkey has sheltered more than 60,000 people since the pandemic began, and Homekey has funded 12,500 units since its inception in late 2020.

However, these programs have gained momentum on how some cities manage staff and funds, with calls for audits to understand how cities manage partnerships with nonprofits that rely on these fund cycles to manage their programs. And the state’s largest cities are embroiled in lawsuits over the legality of their approaches to moving people from the streets to shelters and whether there are enough shelters available, including the state capital. , San Francisco and Oakland.

Sacramento is expected to receive $13.3 million in aid. Mayor Darrell Steinberg said in a statement that Sacramento County has housed more than 17,000 people since 2017 and relies on those funds to maintain those resources.

“Let’s use this moment to create a legally enforceable obligation for all cities, counties and the state to bring more people into permanent housing,” he said.

“Let us use this moment to create a right to mental health care for the desperately ill people on our streets. It should not be optional, but mandatory, for counties to intervene directly in these many encampments where the suffering of people and our neighborhoods is so evident. We can attach new rights and obligations to people’s responsibility to accept housing and services when they are offered.

San Francisco expected to get $47.3 million from the state. Mayor of London Breed said the town is home to nearly 4,200 people and the county is one of the few in the state to have seen a 3.5% decrease in homelessness over the past three years , including a 15% decrease in homelessness.

“To effectively build on this success, we need state collaboration and clarity,” Breed said. “Instead, the state has decided to abruptly withhold funds that we had planned that will actually make a difference in our communities – all without any warning or conversation or opportunity to address their concerns.”

“While we welcome accountability, now is not the time to delay funds that will help get people off the streets. Now is not the time to create more obstacles for local governments without any clear explanation of what is needed.

Denny Machuca-Grebe, public information manager for the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said the department hasn’t received any direction on how to improve the plan. current action while finalizing a five-year strategy on homelessness. He said Newsom’s move puts more than 400 shelter beds, a youth drop-in center and transportation, case management and harm reduction services designed to help people transition from the streets at risk. and from shelters to housing.

Across the bay, Oakland has seen a 24% increase in homelessness. City officials did not respond to requests for comment on how much they depend on state homelessness funds. The city had prepared a companion plan setting goals to reduce homelessness with an estimated price tag of $65 million.

Alameda County used $102 million for Project Roomkey programs to shelter 5,301 people during the pandemic. The county said by email it spent $15 million to place people in purchased hotels and other buildings to be used for supportive housing, dubbed Project Homekey.

Bernard P. Love