California governor seeks USD1B to target homelessness

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) — A billion-dollar investment last year has yet to curtail California’s growing homeless crisis, and with the state awash in revenue, Governor Gavin Newsom wants to spend a billion more on programmes aimed at getting people off the streets.

He signed an executive order on Wednesday creating what he intends to be a USD750 million fund that providers could tap to pay rents, fund affordable housing or aid boarding and care homes. Newsom also wants to use vacant state property to house homeless people and is seeking changes to the state’s Medicaid programme to increase spending on preventive health care.

In addition, the Democratic governor said the final portion of USD650 million in emergency homeless aid to cities and counties approved in June was being released Wednesday after a final federal homelessness count.

The report by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development found California’s homeless population increased 16 per cent last year, to about 151,000 people. That’s more than a quarter of the national total.

President Donald Trump continued his criticism of California’s Democratic leaders this week, and especially those in Los Angeles and San Francisco, for failing to adequately address homelessness. In a tweet, he called it a local issue but said that if city and state leaders “acknowledge responsibility and politely” ask for help, then his administration “will very seriously consider getting involved.”

Men hold up signs at a rally outside of City Hall in Oakland, California. PHOTO: AP