Governor Newsom Takes Action Regarding Homelessness Crisis

Illustration by Alyssa Long

Jade Martinez-Pogue
National Beat Reporter

On Jan. 10, Governor Gavin Newsom released his proposal for California’s 2020-2021 budget plan. Of the many things Newsom allocated money to, including addressing the healthcare affordability crisis and education expenditures, one of the most prominent points of the plan was the over one billion dollars set aside to combat the homelessness crisis in California. 

As of January 2018, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reported that California had nearly 130,000 homeless civilians, making California the state with the largest population of homeless people. A 2019 report released by HUD stated that the rest of the country actually saw a decrease in homelessness, but the chronic rate of homelessness in the west — specifically California and Oregon — offset the nation wide decrease.

The budget allocates $750 million to a new California Access to Housing and Services Fund to address behavioral health needs that contribute to street homelessness. The Department of Social Services (DSS) will also be awarding funding to eligible counties to assist in reducing family homelessness. 

Together, the DSS and the new service fund will aim at paying rent for individuals facing homelessness, add more dwelling units to certain regions, and help stabilize board and care facilities. The money will go directly to homeless service providers.

Part of Newsom’s proposed plan included an executive order requiring state agencies to take immediate action by the end of the month. They will make available a supply of 100 trailers that can be converted into temporary housing, effective immediately. He will also send out mobile health and social service clinics that homeless people would otherwise not have access to.

The executive order requires state and local governments to develop accountability metrics and release progress updates to ensure that progress is being made. Along with actions to reduce homelessness, Newsom called on the California Health and Human Services Agency to conduct a comprehensive study to unveil the root causes of homelessness and understand the situation in more depth. 

Newsom himself has also set out on a week-long homelessness tour, visiting different counties to analyze their homeless population. In this tour he has visited homeless facilities, talked to board members of those facilities, and participated in homelessness outreach.

Homelessness is a problem that California has been tackling for years. Newsom signed 13 bills into law just in September of last year to combat the crisis. Newsom also called on the Trump administration for help and requested 50,000 additional Housing Choice and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Vouchers.

In the spin room at the Dec. 19 democratic debate, Governor Newsom slammed the Trump Administration for not taking the right steps to help fight this problem. “Housing and supportive services help solve homelessness. Housing first,” Newsom said. “There is a new director on the Interagency Council of Homelessness in the United States, appointed by Donald Trump, that says housing fourth. They’re not serious about this issue.”

Often butting heads with Democrat Newsom, the president blamed the homelessness “epidemic” on the democratic leaders of the state and did not look to other causes. In a tweet on Christmas of 2019, Trump wrote, “Governor Gavin N has done a really bad job on taking care of the homeless population in California.”

He also took a stab at Democratic speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi, on Twitter the following day. “Nancy Pelosi’s District in California has rapidly become one of the worst anywhere in the U.S. when it come(s) to the homeless & crime. It has gotten so bad, so fast,” he tweeted. “She has lost total control and, along with her equally incompetent governor, Gavin Newsom, it is a very sad sight!”

Whoever or whatever is to blame for the vastly spreading homeless crisis, California is increasing effort to combat the issue. A January 2019 survey found that California’s homeless population grew by about 21,000 people, creating an increase of more than 16 percent.

“We have a crisis on our hands — and it must be addressed,” Newsom tweeted back in July.