California Governor's State Of The State Speech Is Almost All About Homelessness

Over a quarter of the nation’s homeless population resides in California, according to a federal report.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) delivered his State of the State address on Wednesday and dedicated nearly the entire speech to one issue: homelessness.

After kicking off his remarks to lawmakers at the state Capitol in Sacramento by celebrating several wins for the state — including an increase in jobs and providing two years of free community college — Newsom said, “No amount of progress can camouflage the most pernicious crisis in our midst, the ultimate manifestation of poverty: homelessness.”

“Let’s call it what it is, a disgrace, that the richest state in the richest nation — succeeding across so many sectors — is failing to properly house, heal and humanely treat so many of its own people,” he said.

Amid an affordable housing crisis nationwide, more than half a million people across the U.S. were homeless on a given night in 2019 — and more than a quarter of these lived in California, per a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The number of homeless residents in California went up an alarming 16% from 2018 to 2019 alone, according to the report.

Newsom spotlighted systemic issues contributing to the problem, such as a decades-long disinvestment in the state’s social safety net and gentrification that pushes lower-income communities of color out of neighborhoods they had lived in. One result of such factors: While Black people represent about 9% of Los Angeles County’s population, they make up an estimated 33% of its homeless residents.

Earlier this year, Newsom signed an executive order that set up a fund to combat homelessness, made travel trailers available for emergency housing and ordered state agencies to identify land and property that can be used to provide temporary shelters.

In his Wednesday address, the governor announced that the first trailers had been sent to Los Angeles and Oakland and that more could be going to Sonoma County and other jurisdictions. He also said that 286 state properties — including vacant lots and fairgrounds — had been identified for potential use for free by local governments for the housing for homeless residents.

Newsom also decried the “underproduction of affordable housing.” He added that while he “respect[s] local control,” it should not come “at the cost of creating a two-class California” — an apparent reference to the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) movements that have repeatedly sought to block the building of more multi-family, affordable housing in higher-income areas.

The governor urged state lawmakers to pass legislation that wouldeliminate red tape and delays” to build more affordable housing, particularly near transit hubs. A controversial bill by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) — SB50 — which sought to do just that failed in the Legislature earlier this year. Wiener said last week that he plans to rework and reintroduce the legislation.

Newsom also called for more support from the Trump administration, saying the federal government “has an obligation to match its rhetoric with specific, constructive and deliverable results.”

President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked California’s Democratic elected officials over the high rates of homelessness in the state’s major cities. At one point last year, he said that people living on the streets were ruining the “prestige” of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Despite such rhetoric, Trump’s 2020 budget request proposed sweeping cuts to affordable housing programs.

A February poll by the University of Southern California found that likely voters in California ranked homelessness or housing as the top issue facing the state (23%), followed by climate change or the environment (15%), immigration (9%) and “Trump” (7.5%).

An alarming 37.5% of California voters said they were afraid they or someone in their family could become homeless.

“The state of California can no longer treat homelessness and housing insecurity as someone else’s problem,” Newsom said in his speech. “It is our responsibility. And it must be at the top of our agenda.”

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