California Asks White House for More Housing Vouchers to Aid Homeless

Tents, shelters and belongings line a street near downtown Los Angeles. (Nathan Solis / CNS)

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Days after officials from the Trump administration toured cities with large homeless populations in California, the Golden State’s governor said Monday he wants more funding for affordable housing vouchers to help people who are living on the street.

In a speech to the House Republican Conference last week, President Donald Trump said the conditions in Los Angeles and San Francisco would require some type of federal intervention to combat homelessness.

“We can’t allow it. And in the not too distant future, you are going to see we are going to step in,” said Trump.

Multiple news outlets reported the Trump administration was considering placing homeless people into federal facilities.

Elected officials across the state reacted with shock and dismay over the idea that homeless people would be placed in federal facilities to crackdown on the homeless population.

“This is chilling. @realDonaldTrump wants to ‘crackdown’ on homelessness and put people into ‘government facilities,’” Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin wrote. “We’ve buried refugee children held hostage in his damn facilities. What inhumane treatment will he sanction for the unhoused?”

In a statement, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said, “We need federal support and resources to build more housing for people living on the streets. But simply cracking down on homelessness without providing the housing people need is not a real solution.”

On Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom sent a letter to Trump requesting 50,000 additional housing vouchers to provide rental assistance to people without permanent housing. Newsom also asked for a boost in the value of the vouchers to address rising rents and an incentive program for landlords to work with people with vouchers who are looking for housing.

Newsom said the current administration has proposed deep cutbacks to federal public housing programs.

“We can all agree that homelessness is a national crisis decades in the making that demands action at every level of government – local, state, and federal,” Newsom wrote. “In California, state and local governments have ramped up action to lift families out of poverty by investing in behavioral health, affordable housing, and other homeless programs.”

“Mr. President – shelter solves sleep, but only housing solves homelessness. With 50,000 additional vouchers, California could address a significant proportion of our unsheltered population, including thousands of Veterans, with a time-tested strategy to prevent or end homelessness: stable housing.”

U.S. Rep. Judy Chu said homeless people in her district have been housed thanks to supportive housing developments and outreach work. As opposed to placing homeless people into federal facilities, Newsom’s letter would continue that outreach work.

“This is especially important now as President Trump has floated a mystery plan to relocate the homeless population. We need to be clear that relocation is not a solution, it’s an abdication of responsibility,” said Chu, a Democrat representing a district near LA.

In LA County, the Board of Supervisors approved a permanent rent cap ordinance last week, which gives tenants legal defense from eviction. Supervisor Hilda Solis supports Newsom’s call for more housing vouchers, because despite providing permanent housing to 21,631 homeless people last year, the county still saw a 12% increase in its homeless population from the previous year.

“Unfortunately, no matter how many people are coming forward and accepting services, shelter, and housing, more people are falling into homelessness,” Solis said.

Meanwhile, Humboldt County reported just under 1,500 homeless people in a county of 136,000. County Supervisor Virginia Bass said the number in a rural area may be smaller than Los Angeles or San Francisco, but there are fewer resources available to mount a response, build housing or conduct outreach.

Every little bit helps, said Bass.

“Looking at the big picture, however, we really can’t focus on our individual situations but must work together,” Bass, also acting president of the California State Association of Counties – which co-signed Newsom’s letter – said.

Newsom said larger appropriations would be needed to make these sustainable and asked Trump to work with Congress to pass the Ending Homelessness Act of 2019, introduced by U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters of California.

Thirteen California mayors, the State Association of Counties and California League of Cities all signed on to the request.

Approximately 130,000 people experience homelessness on any given night in California, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s data from 2018. Federal rental assistance programs in 2018 topped $5.8 billion in California, with 301,100 homes receiving housing choice vouchers and 27,300 receiving public housing. There were 98,100 in Section 8 project-based housing, and 30,000 residents in rural and elderly assistance programs according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Newsom requested 50,000 additional vouchers in the housing voucher program and the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing programs.

Trump will visit California this week for a series of fundraisers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles and San Diego that could net $15 million for his re-election campaign.

An email and phone call to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for comment was not immediately answered.

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