Governor Newsom’s proposed budget includes $1.4 billion to help homelessness

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Governor Newsom’s proposed budget includes $1.4 billion to help homelessness

Picture of California Governor Gavin Newsom

Picture of California Governor Gavin Newsom

Courtesy of the Governor's office

Picture of California Governor Gavin Newsom

Courtesy of the Governor's office

Courtesy of the Governor's office

Picture of California Governor Gavin Newsom

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California Governor Gavin Newsom introduced his proposed $222-billion state budget for 2020-21 last week that includes more than $1.4 billion in measures addressing homelessness, according to a Jan. 8 statement from his office.

“The State of California is treating homelessness as a real emergency,” Newsom said in the statement.

“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.”

Pending the state legislature’s approval by June 15, the budget allocates $750 million toward a new California Access to Housing and Services Fund (CAHSF), created by executive order to support homeless services, including paying rent for those facing homelessness and adding more dwelling units and shelters statewide.

The Jan. 8 executive order– citing about 151,000 homeless individuals in California in 2019, 108,000 of whom are completely unsheltered– calls for the State to identify properties from a digitized inventory of its excess lands by the end of January that counties, cities or nonprofits can use for short-term emergency housing.

Those local agencies can also use Caltrans property adjacent to highways and state roads as well as vacant healthcare facilities and fairgrounds for short-term emergency housing.

In addition, the executive order directs the State to provide 100 travel trailers from its fleet along with modular tents to allow temporary housing and deliver health and social services, through the end of September.

Newsom’s budget proposal also calls for $695 million (including federal funds) to reform Medi-Cal to better address challenges facing chronically unsheltered populations, especially with housing-related funds.

“[The reform provides] funding for tenancy-support services, housing-navigation services, recuperative care and could include targeted rental assistance if housing insecurity is tied to inappropriately high utilization of costly healthcare services,” the governor’s office stated. “This reform will also change how counties operate behavioral health services, making them more closely integrated and act more like physical health services.”

How the proposed new funds would benefit Long Beach– a city with about 1,900 homeless individuals, according to the latest 2019 count– is not yet known.

City spokesperson Kevin Lee told the Signal Tribune that the City will be closely reviewing Newsom’s proposed budget regarding homeless funding.

“The mechanisms for how funding will be distributed aren’t yet outlined so we don’t yet know the possible impact for Long Beach,” Lee said. “We will be supporting funding that both goes directly to Long Beach and [its] regional partners doing work to end homelessness.”

Despite the City Council’s decision last week not to move forward with placing a $298-million housing bond on the November ballot for voters to decide on, Lee said that ending homelessness remains the City’s top priority.

“We are always looking for funding opportunities to bolster current programs that directly impact homelessness and to help develop new and innovative initiatives,” he said.

Lee cited the City’s Homeless Services Outreach team’s efforts and creation of a 125-bed bridge-housing facility opening this year at 6841 Atlantic Ave. as evidence of the City’s commitment, along with its Everyone Home Long Beach initiative launched in 2018. The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services will conduct a 2020 point-in-time homeless count on Jan. 23 with the help of 200 volunteers.

“We are dedicated to providing critical assistance to people in our community that are experiencing homelessness,” Lee said, “and those who are at risk of falling into homelessness.”