Some lawmakers and mayors expressed skepticism Thursday over California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to give $750 million to state-selected regional administrators rather than to local government to address the state’s growing homelessness crisis, signaling the Democrat may have a budget fight on his hands.
The comments were made at a budget subcommittee hearing that marked the first in-depth hearing on the proposal and came on the heels of a critical review by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, which said the proposal does not articulate “a clear strategy for curbing homelessness.”
Assembly budget chairman Phil Ting, a Democrat from San Francisco, said he needed many more specifics from the governor before green-lighting a “$750 million check without a lot of balances.”
While homelessness has decreased in other states, the homeless population in California grew 16% to more than 150,000 people in January 2019. State government has taken a more active role in trying to combat growing homelessness in the nation’s most populous state, sending $1.2 million in one-time funding to cities and counties over the last two budget years.
Saying that he’s “treating homelessness like the emergency it is,” Newsom is deploying travel trailers throughout the state to provide temporary shelter, including a first wave of 10 to Los Angeles County on Thursday.
Previously used by Camp Fire first responders, the trailers will house homeless families with children at 8509 S. Broadway in the Florence neighborhood. The site, called Safe Landing for Families-Broadway, is being leased by the city.
The $750 million proposed by Newsom could go toward rent vouchers, legal support and mediation services, but it would be handled by organizations selected through the state’s Department of Social Services and not by cities, counties or other established local groups that have traditionally delivered the bulk of services to the homeless.
Jennifer Troia, a chief deputy director at the California Department of Social Services, said the crisis demands regional, coordinated responses but did not have specifics on how the regions would be divided or which entities might serve as administrators.
“I appreciate your desire for more specificity,” she said. “I hear you.”
Ting responded: “OK. It sounds like we’re going to have more hearings.”
Assemblymembers David Chiu and Richard Bloom, both Democrats, also expressed reservations over the lack of specifics and the method of delivering funding.
The report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office dinged the proposal for using one-time money, which means it won’t be available next year, and for going around cities and counties.