Gov. Gavin Newsom answered cries for help on homelessness from California’s big-city mayors by proposing $12 billion in new funding on Tuesday while appearing in San Diego.
California has an estimated 161,000 people experiencing homelessness — more than any other state.
“Gov. Newsom is once again showing his commitment to end homelessness, and for that I am very appreciative. His unprecedented proposal for $12 billion … in new homelessness funding will help cities like Fresno in the ongoing effort to help get our most vulnerable residents off the streets and ultimately into permanent housing.” — Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer
The spending is part of the Democratic governor’s $100 billion pandemic recovery plan for California. Newsom is rolling the plan out this week while facing a recall election mounted by Republicans.
Where is the $100 billion coming from?
The state budget surplus is estimated at $76 billion, and the state has $27 billion in new federal coronavirus funds.
Newsom said that the earmarked funding would “functionally end family homelessness” within five years.
Big City Mayors, Assembly Asked for $20 Billion
Last month, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer joined with 12 other mayors around the state in asking Newsom to deliver $20 billion over five years to address homelessness.
“We need long-term flexible funding to provide services and alternative housing models for the homeless population,” Dyer said at that time. “Absent that, we ultimately end up displacing homeless from one neighborhood to the next neighborhood without real solutions.”
Fresno saw a 68.9% increase in homeless people from 2019 to 2020.
On Tuesday, the mayor said he was squarely behind Newsom and his approach to ending homelessness.
“Gov. Newsom is once again showing his commitment to end homelessness, and for that I am very appreciative,” Dyer said in a statement to GV Wire. “His unprecedented proposal for $12 billion … in new homelessness funding will help cities like Fresno in the ongoing effort to help get our most vulnerable residents off the streets and ultimately into permanent housing.
“That said, as a former mayor himself, Gov. Newsom knows what we all know — this is a long game. To truly find a solution — and to partner with the Governor to ‘functionally end family homelessness’ within five years, to which I am fully committed — we will need a continued partnership that goes beyond the next two years. It should go, in fact, until we have succeeded in our mission to end homelessness.”
Assembly Member Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), chair of the Select Committee on Los Angeles County Homelessness, said that Newsom “heard our call for urgent action. Ending homelessness demands radical change in our approaches, a sense of emergency, and iron-clad accountability. $12 billion over two years is a big step in the right direction, but we need a long-term investment to end homelessness.
“We will keep pushing for $20 billion over five years as outlined in … the Assembly’s blueprint.”
Businessman John Cox, a Republican seeking Newsom’s job, said in a news release that “all we’ve seen is homelessness go higher and higher in Gavin Newsom’s 20-year political career. Now, facing a recall, he says his newest plan will take five years. We can’t afford to wait that long.”
250,000 Californians Sought Housing Help in 2020
A new state database shows that nearly 250,000 people sought housing services from local housing officials in 2020. Of that number, 117,000 await help. About 92,000 have found housing.
Newsom — a former mayor of San Francisco, where homelessness is very visible — seized the twin crises of homelessness and affordable housing before the pandemic’s start.
He launched projects “Roomkey” and “Homekey,” using federal funding to house homeless residents in hotels and motels during the pandemic and helped cities, counties, and other local entities buy and convert motels and other buildings into housing.
Newsom’s proposal includes $8.75 billion to expand on Homekey and to convert existing buildings into 46,000 units of housing.
Newsom officials said $800 million spent on the program last year created 6,000 more housing units from motels, houses, dorms, and other repurposed buildings. The effort provided shelter for 8,200 people.
$150,000 on Average to Convert Hotel Rooms into Housing
It costs an average of $150,000 to convert a unit into housing for homeless people, Newsom administration officials said recently. They said that is much cheaper than building housing from scratch.
Advocates for the homeless say there’s simply not enough affordable housing to help people who slip into homelessness, which is why tent camps and sleeping bags still clutter highway ramps and city sidewalks.
Newsom’s proposal also includes $3.5 billion in efforts to prevent people from becoming homeless, including rental payment assistance.
(Associated Press contributed to this article.)