Continuing a statewide tour, Gov. Gavin Newsom visited a mental health crisis center in Fresno on Wednesday, announcing that $11.5 million in help is coming to the area.
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The funding will be in the form of emergency grants for the city and Fresno County.
“Enough is enough. We got to own this. We got to meet this moment. This issue is a crisis. It’s a state of emergency,” Newsom said. “People are down on the streets and sidewalks. There is no compassion stepping over people.”
Newsom is spending this week touring facilities that provide services for the homeless. Last week, he announced $1 billion in the state budget in homeless response funding.
“Shelter solves sleep. Housing and supportive services solve homelessness as we frame a housing first model,” Newsom said.
Brand: Equitable Distribution of Beds
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said the money won’t come all at once as Newsom implied, rather over four-to-five years. It will be used to expand the 241 emergency beds available now to the homeless.
“It is not going to be in one area of town,” Brand said as to where more bed space would go. “It’s going to be done on a fair and equitable basis … we don’t want to have one massive encampment in one area.”
The mayor also wants more mental health services.
Support for Low Barrier Shelters
Newsom said that if homeless people refuse services, service providers just need to keep on trying.
The governor discussed the many restrictions shelters may have, including being clean and sober.
“I love that. The clean and sober is one of the biggest damn mistakes this country ever made,” Newsom said.
He said he “self medicates” with a nightly glass of wine and understands why the homeless do as well.
“It is hard to moralize that (clean and sober requirements). My point is, we have to provide more options, more choices,” Newsom said.
100 in 100 Challenge
Newsom said he wants to implement a challenge to cities — in 100 days, he wants 100 people off the streets. But, it could be “100 whatever” Newsom added, saying local jurisdictions could alter the incentive for their needs.
He added that of the $750 million for his Access to Housing and Services Fund going to regions “there will be contracted obligations to put (the region’s) goals out in transparent ways and meet and measure those goals and finance those goals. That is something we’ve never done on a regional basis.”
For Brand, his first goal is to end the increase in homelessness.
“The first is to maintain (so we) don’t go any higher. After that is dropping it slowly by introducing all these services and having the funding, which is the key thing, to do a variety of services, learning from what you are doing, not throwing money away,” Brand said.
The next point-in-time homeless count is Tuesday, Jan. 28.
Newsom Wants to Hold Cities, Counties Accountable
Newsom said he supports a plan announced this week by his Council of Regional Homeless Advisors to hold cities and counties accountable to address the problem. That could come in the form of a state constitutional amendment on the November 2020 ballot.
“You have to meet the moment with more than just encouragement,” Newsom said. “I am frustrated as you are. The difference is I have a deep sense of responsibility and I want to meet this moment and do justice to that anxiety.”
Newsom said they are working on the details but are sensitive to local needs as he turned to Brand and Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria. The councilwoman toured the mental health crisis center with Newsom and stood by his side for the news conference.
Soria serves on the governor’s homeless advisory group.