California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order on Wednesday that sets up a fund to combat homelessness in the state and orders state agencies to identify state land and property that can be used to provide temporary shelter for unhoused residents.
Newsom also previewed part of his budget proposal for 2020-2021, which includes over $1 billion to address homelessness, with $750 million of that to go to the new fund. The fund, which will also accept contributions from private and philanthropy sectors, aims to provide rental subsidies for homeless residents and create more affordable housing.
State lawmakers still have to approve the governor’s new budget ― the full version of which will be released by end of the week.
Newsom’s executive action gave state agencies an end-of-the-month deadline to identify the state land and property that can be used to provide shelter for unhoused residents ― including vacant hospitals and fairgrounds. It also makes 100 travel trailers from the state fleet available to serve as emergency housing or to provide health and social services for homeless residents.
“The State of California is treating homelessness as a real emergency ― because it is one,” Newsom said. “That’s why we’re using every tool in the toolbox ― from proposing a massive new infusion of state dollars in the budget that goes directly to homeless individuals’ emergency housing and treatment programs, to building short-term emergency housing on vacant state-owned land.”
In California’s 2019-2020 budget, Newsom proposed and the Legislature approved $1 billion to address homelessness ― doubling the amount called for by former Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who left office during the first week of 2019.
On Wednesday, Newsom also said that final payments from the $650 million allocated for emergency aid to cities and counties to address homelessness had been sent to those jurisdictions.
The lack of affordable housing is a nationwide crisis, and California has one of the highest rates of homelessness. On any given day in January 2018, more than 500,000 people were homeless in the U.S. ― and nearly a quarter of these lived in California.
Homelessness rates have worsened in California in recent years, with a spike in the number of homeless residents in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Los Angeles over the past two years.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly spotlighted these high rates of homelessness in California, and particularly in San Francisco, in recent months ― using the problem to attack the Democratic officeholders who dominate the state’s politics. At one point last year he said that homeless people living on the streets were ruining the “prestige” of Los Angeles and San Francisco.