Mayors of California’s 11 largest cities on Monday asked Governor Gavin Newsom and the state legislature to approve $3 billion over three years in the state budget for flexible funding for the homeless directly in the towns.
The mayors said flexible homeless funding is approved annually and they are asking for a three-year commitment from lawmakers and the governor.
They said funds from the Homelessness Housing, Assistance and Prevention Program have enabled them to find innovative ways to tackle homelessness in their cities, including building tiny shacks and landscaping. for people living in motorhomes and other vehicles. The funds enabled mayors to add 9,000 new accommodation beds and help 25,000 homeless people, they told a joint press conference.
California last year approved $7.4 billion for about 30 housing and homelessness programs, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. This money will be spent over three years. This year, Newsom proposed $2 billion in new spending to address homelessness over the next two years, in addition to money already approved.
In San Jose and Oakland, mayors used the funds to build tiny shacks to shelter homeless people who were unwilling to go to a gathering place. In Fresno and Stockton, mayors used part of the flex funds to hire outreach and response workers. Oakland also built a secure RV parking site – the first city in the state to do so.
“We’re using all of these dollars to really make the whole homeless system work better and that’s going to continue, and it needs to continue without interrupting funding to about two-thirds of our existing shelter systems,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff.
If funding stops, “these innovations will fall off a budget cliff,” she added.
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said about 16 months ago there were 650 homeless people living near Fresno’s freeways, but thanks to state funds, he was able to hire a team of 18 outreach workers. who helped them move to shelters or permanent housing.
“Today, not a single homeless person lives on our highways. There is not a single tent erected on our highways, and that is thanks to the funding we received from the State of California through HHAP and Project Homekey,” he said.
Homekey Project funds have helped cities purchase and/or restore buildings that used to house homeless people, but these funds cannot be used for other purposes, such as operating housing in new buildings, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said.
Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento said not getting the state funds would mean having to dip into general city funds, which would lead to cuts or delays in funding for other programs, including parks, public safety and infrastructure.
Even with state funding, the city of Santa Ana has had to use more than $25 million of its general fund to address homelessness, he said.
“Cities are not the agency with this responsibility,” he said. “But we can’t ignore the problem either. Nor can we evade the problem.”