Poll: More than half of California voters say Gov. Newsom is responding poorly to homelessness

California
California Gov. Gavin Newsom listens to questions during a news conference in San Francisco on June 3, 2021. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom listens to questions during a news conference in San Francisco on June 3, 2021. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

An estimated 161,000 people are experiencing homelessness in California, more than in any other, and the crisis continues to grow. Advocates say they can’t house people quickly enough with a shortage of housing units and high rents.

An exclusive Inside California Politics / Emerson College poll asked respondents to rate Newsom’s response to homelessness in the state.

The poll of more than 1,000 registered voters, which has a margin of error of +/-2.9%, revealed more than half of respondents rated Newsom’s response to homelessness as poor. A total of 25% voted fair, 16% for good, and 7% of respondents said his response was excellent.

The Golden State is now investing $12 billion to address the homelessness crisis after Newsom signed the $100 billion California Comeback Plan into law on Monday in Sonoma County.

The funding package includes $12 billion over two years to confront homelessness. Of that money, $5.7 billion will be used for housing, $3.9 billion for mental health programs including behavioral veteran services and $2.2 billion for cleaning up homeless camps, removing hazardous waste and to provide assistance to local governments.

According to the poll, homelessness ties with housing costs at 19% as the number one issue the state is facing today. COVID-19 ranks close behind at 16%.

The state will use $5.8 billion of the California Comeback Plan funding to convert more than 42,000 hotel and motel rooms into housing units specifically for homeless residents and people struggling with severe mental health conditions.

Newsom said this is the largest effort in California history to confront the problem.

Since being elected in 2018, Newsom has frequently reiterated his intent to spur more housing development and, in turn, help homeless residents get off the streets.

“I don’t think homelessness can be solved, I know homelessness can be solved,” he said. “We are going all-in with innovative solutions that we know work, with a focus on creating housing to support people with severe mental health challenges, and with more money than ever to move people out of encampments and into safer situations.”

California is home to more than a quarter of the nation’s homeless people, according to federal data, and it has reached a crisis point in many cities. There are deep disagreements in how to solve a problem that goes beyond economics and is often complicated by mental illness and addiction issues that require treatment and can make people resistant to accepting shelter.

The city of Los Angeles has an estimated homeless population of more than 40,000, which is second only to New York’s.

Earlier this month, Newsom kicked off California’s $1.1 billion plan to clean trash and graffiti from highways, roads, and other public spaces, an effort he said will beautify the state and create up to 11,000 jobs.

The Clean California program funds are not allowed to be used to displace people experiencing homelessness.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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