Mayors from California’s largest cities are asking the state Legislature for a $20 billion, five-year commitment to addressing homelessness.
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer appeared with the Big City Mayors group at a Thursday virtual new conference for the big ask.
Despite being introduced as “Jerry Dryer” by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Dyer talked about Project Offramp and purchasing and renovating motels with state Project Homekey dollars.
“It is our plan to take Project Offramp and replicate it citywide and neighborhood by neighborhood,” Dyer said. “In order to do so, we need long-term flexible funding to provide services and alternative housing models for the homeless population. Absent that, we ultimately end up displacing homeless from one neighborhood to the next neighborhood without real solutions.”
Dyer said the city has purchased five motels as temporary and permanent housing for homeless people. Funds come from the general fund, as well as state and federal dollars.
That would add nearly 325 rooms according to a presentation made to the city council on Wednesday from City Manager Thomas Esqueda. The average cost for these new rooms is more than $62,000 per unit.
The city saw a 68.9% increase in homeless from 2019 to 2020.
Dyer said more funding would be spent on outreach workers and transitional housing.
Without an exit plan, Dyer warns that the homeless plan may stagnate.
“We need all those services over a multiple period of time,” Dyer said.
Big City Lobbying
All 13 Big City Mayors delivered brief remarks about how they have dealt with homeless people during the pandemic.
“We stand together to say that we need to treat homelessness like the crisis that it is,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said.
The mayors are asking for the state to spend its budget surplus on the homeless. But there are many competing interests at this time. For example, on Thursday, Democrats in the state Senate rolled out their plan to spend $3.4 billion on drought relief.
“With the state’s budget surplus and one-time federal stimulus dollars, I believe we have a unique opportunity to make transformative investments in our communities, putting an end to homelessness once and for all,” Dyer said.
The money would be allocated through counties. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg wants “maximum flexibility.” Ultimately, the mayors said, it is up to the Legislature to determine where the money is allocated.
Several of the mayors included a picture of a success story on their backdrop. Dyer showed a before and after picture of a cleaned-up homeless site as part of his Beautify Fresno project.
“Our freeways, which quite frankly once resembled urban campgrounds, are very close to becoming homeless free in Fresno, thanks to Project Homekey, and our state legislative leaders and Governor Newsom,” Dyer said.