California's capital city of SACRAMENTO The governor agreed to release $1 billion in state homelessness funding if local governments step up their efforts to reduce the number of homeless people in the state.
The Democratic governor said his afternoon meeting with about 100 mayors and local officials in person was productive, with leaders getting on the same page about what needs to be done and willing to step up on their goals
It was nice to hear that they were moving in the right direction. He told reporters that it was nice to hear that they had to get to another level. The streets of California need to be cleaned up. We would like to see people housed.
The growing number of unhoused individuals, some of whom camp out along city sidewalks and under highway underpasses, isasperating even the most politically liberal voters in the country.
He stunned the state when he announced two weeks ago that he would be withholding $1 billion in spending until cities and counties came up with better plans to reduce the homeless population.
Mayors and county officials, many of whom are Democrats, as well as advocates for low-income housing pushed back against his effort to not give money for shelter beds, outreach workers and other services for unhoused people. They asked the governor to give them more direction and funding to build more ambitious plans.
The amount of money his administration has spent on housing and homelessness has been a record. He said that the money had kept tens of thousands of people housed, but that people were not seeing results.
One has to be sober about finding new dedicated money as we enter into what could be a recession, just as they are sober about that with their budgets.
After the meeting, the mayor said that he understood the governor's need to get local governments to act. He praised Newsom for his leadership on the issue, from converting motels into homes to new mental health courts to treat homeless people.
Some people didn't understand the point of the meeting.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said there wasn't enough room for constructive dialogue. Several days ago, he and other mayors were told that the money would be released if they submitted a new plan.
Liccardo said that the governor seemed to be on a different page than the state housing department.
He said that there seemed to be countervailing notions about what was needed.
The California State Association of Counties didn't hold back.
One-time commitments are not enough to fix an ongoing crisis. Clear state, county, and city roles are needed for progress. Graham Knaus is the executive director of the association that represents the state's 58 counties.
The issue of homelessness has been left to local governments in California for decades, but the new leader of the state promised to own the problem as he took office in 2019.
The state's high cost of housing and historic under-building of homes resulted in an estimated 161,000 unhoused people in 2020. Advocates for the homeless say that they can't keep up and that many more lose their homes as a result.
After state officials said Wednesday that California will likely have a $25 billion budget deficit next year, the possibility of a separate funding stream for homelessness became dimmer.
In the third round of disbursements, the state's 13 largest cities, 58 counties and 44 groups of homeless service providers submitted 75 applications detailing their plans to spend $1 billion.
An additional $1 billion is on the table but only if the governments pledge to be more aggressive across the board. There are two weeks left for plans to be submitted.
More efficient methods of getting people into housing and streamlining the building of more homes for poor and extremely poor households must be implemented by applicants.
Many California cities and counties are reluctant to build more housing because they don't want the congestion and neighborhood changes that come with more people.
Kathleen Ronayne is a reporter for the Associated Press.