California’s homeless population has grown to more than 134,000 people, and key state government spending is taking a while to reach the streets.
In summer 2016 the state approved its largest homeless program, a $2-billion loan to help finance new housing, but the money is tied up in court. That same year, lawmakers allocated $35 million for rental assistance and emergency shelters, but staff shortages at the housing department delayed spending the money for 18 months. Last year’s package of housing legislation included more than $100 million for programs to help the homeless, but the state won’t begin spending those dollars until fall at the earliest. The spending difficulties come as the state’s homeless population has risen 16% over the past two years.
Some of the state’s sluggishness, advocates say, springs from a history of limited investment. But that could be changing. Legislators are considering proposals that could pump an additional $1.5 billion into homelessness prevention next year, efforts that could lead to thousands of new beds for those needing shelter — and stronger scrutiny of state spending.
“We are now seeing what has taken decades of neglect to fester,” said Sharon Rapport, associate director for California policy at the Corporation for Supportive Housing in Los Angeles. “When you don’t have programs for a long time and then you try to create something new, it does take a culture shift.”
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