SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - A group of eleven California mayors joined state legislators in Sacramento on Wednesday to ask for help with the growing homeless crisis across the state and introduced an assembly bill that would set aside $1.5 billion to address the situation.
If approved, the $1.5 billion measure, 25 percent of the state’s surplus budget, would go to help cities address their growing homeless crisis. Each city would have to match the state’s funds, which would go to shelter, rapid and permanent supportive housing, according to the authors of Assembly Bill 3171. That would bring the total investment to $3 billion to combat the state’s homeless crisis.
Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, introduced the bill and under it, the state would create the Local Homelessness Solutions Program and a state account to provide funding to cities “to create innovative and immediate solutions to the problems caused by homelessness,” according to the bill.
“Homelessness is a state crisis, but we cannot do it alone,” Ting said in a statement. “This year, we need to identify resources to partner with cities to build more shelters and augment additional services, so we can get people off our streets and into shelter as fast as possible.”
On Wednesday, Los Angeles city officials pledged to create 3,330 supportive housing units or 222 for each of the city's 15 districts over the next 3 years in response to its housing shortage. Los Angeles County officials said in a recent planning report that the county was not meeting the demand for affordable housing.
At a homeless and poverty committee meeting, Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes Skid Row where on average 2,000 people sleep on the streets, requested a comprehensive study of the city's available resources to assist the homeless population in downtown Los Angeles.
The study would locate city-owned property that might be used to host a temporary emergency shelter that would serve the people in Skid Row. The model would include outreach workers who could provide people with necessary transition to permanent housing.
While local voter-approved revenue measures and state funding does provide assistance to homeless services, the authors of the bill say there needs to be substantial assistance from the state to tackle the homeless crisis.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who was at the state capital on Wednesday, was joined by the mayors of San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Fresno, Long Beach, Sacramento, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim and Santa Ana.
“Homelessness is not just an issue. It is the most pressing issue facing California cities today,” Faulconer said in a written statement. “Cities are responding to this crisis with more local resources and programs, and we need support from our partners in the Capitol too. We are asking State leaders to help us make a real difference on our streets.”
In recent years, San Diego has opened three shelters with a total of 700 beds, helped more than 1,000 homeless veterans transition to housing, expanded its safe parking program that gives people in their cars a secure place to park at night and increased its cleanup efforts in downtown and in riverbeds.
In 2017, San Diego experienced a deadly outbreak of hepatitis A that spread through fecal matter contamination. That outbreak impacted the homeless population and illicit drug users and left 20 dead and 544 infected, according to US Centers for Disease Control.
Earlier in February, officials from several Orange County cities met in a federal courtroom to coordinate a plan to clear a 2-mile wide homeless encampment along the Santa Ana riverbed.
County officials agreed to pay for 400 hotel vouchers for 30 days as city officials scrambled to organize shelter space and other services.
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