The following is an excerpt from the September 2019 PPTFH Newsletter. To read the Newsletter in full, please click here.
Pictured: Governor Newsom and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas
Gov. Newsom Appoints a Homelessness Task Force
Every year, US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conducts a count of the homeless population, county by county. This year’s numbers in California underscore a rapidly escalating crisis across the entire state. Nearly 130,000 people in California are homeless, 90,000 of whom are unsheltered. Fueled by increased housing costs and few low-income options, most counties last year, from urban districts to rural areas, saw significant growth in the number of homeless in their communities. In Los Angeles, the homeless population rose 12% to 59,000 (with around 45,000 unsheltered), making it the largest homeless population in the state.
These findings findings have mobilized state and county leaders to commit resources to fighting the homeless epidemic. “What we’re experiencing now is the likes of which I have never seen, in every city in this state,” declared Governor Gavin Newsom. “And it requires a massive intervention. Finally, the state of California is going to be part of that [intervention].” On May 21, Governor Newsom announced the formation of the Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force, appointing Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor, Mark Ridley Thomas as its co-chairs. Governor Newsom also pledged $1 billion to start fighting the problem, with a particular focus on early intervention, diversion, and prevention. This is in addition to about $2 billion already approved to increase housing. $250 million of the $1 billion will be earmarked for LA city and county. Adds Newsom, “Let us start targeting our single adult street population as the top priority because that is the most vexing, challenging, and frustrating thing happening in our state.”
Steinberg and Ridley-Thomas presented their first plan in August 2019, modeled on New York’s “right to shelter” policy, which states that every homeless person is entitled to shelter indoors. Their proposal for California, however, would take it further adding that if enough beds are available to shelter every homeless person in the state, individuals could be forced to accept shelter. Governor Newsom rejected the plan claiming that the state could not pay for the construction of that many shelter beds. However, he welcomed the proposal and the debate it stimulated, and cautioned about “compassion fatigue.” He said quoting Aristotle, “We ‘can’t live a good life in an unjust society’…All of us have a role to play. All of us should recognize our fate is tied to the fate of others.”
At PPTFH, in our work to help our community’s homeless get services and into housing, we’ve experienced the numerous roadblocks firsthand. Chief among those roadblocks is first and foremost a lack of permanent supportive housing. This year the shortage is particularly acute. Given our experience as well as our own data, we have found that the creation of more permanent housing should be a necessary part of any plan. We will continue tracking the progress of Newsom’s advisory task force with great interest and hope.