Gov. Newsom promises accountability and faster progress on homelessness

The governor signed seven new laws on Wednesday aimed at addressing the state's homelessness crisis.

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Thursday, September 30, 2021
Newsom promises accountability and faster progress on homelessness
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The newly-formed California Interagency Council on Homelessness will review plans submitted by cities and counties with an emphasis on linking housing for the homeless with health care.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KABC) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom is taking action on his $22 billion housing affordability and homelessness package by signing seven bills on Wednesday, bringing accountability to the state's homelessness spending to speed up distribution of funds.

The newly-formed California Interagency Council on Homelessness will review plans submitted by cities and counties with an emphasis on linking housing for the homeless with health care.

"We will be doing something the state of California has never done in the past, and that is we will be reviewing local plans, and we'll be signing off on local plans," said Newsom. "No plan. No money. If the plans are approved and the six specific metrics that we lay out as minimum expectations are achieved, the state has actually set aside money to provide 18% bonuses to those governmental jurisdictions that actually produce real results."

With the eviction moratorium expiring on Thursday, Eyewitness News asked governor Newsom whether he's concerned those who can't pay rent will end up homeless.

"We extended beyond the moratorium protections that are the strongest in the United States through March 31st of 2022. Those protections will deny evictions, court order proven evictions, if a landlord and tenant seek and apply to get the rental assistance that the state has put aside," said Newsom.

In Eagle Rock Wednesday, Los Angeles Councilmember Kevin de Leon and city leaders broke ground on his district's second tiny homes village.

"We have to deal with the homelessness crisis," said De Leon. "If L.A. is the epicenter of homelessness nationwide, then the district I represent, that I inherited seven months ago, is actually ground zero for homelessness, and that's why this ground breaking ceremony [Wednesday] is really critical, especially for our Eagle Rock community, to get folks off the street, out of the alleyways, out of the parks, out of cars [and] into this tiny cabin shelters. Meanwhile, we look for the permanent housing that they deserve."

Among California's myriad problems - including wildfires, historic drought and a changing climate impacting them both - homelessness is perhaps the most visible, with tens of thousands of people living in encampments in cities large and small across the state.

California's homelessness crisis was the top talking point among Newsom's critics prior to the pandemic, a topic Newsom addressed in a big way when he devoted his entire 2020 " State of the State " address to the issue.

In the past three years, California has spent more than $2.4 billion of state and federal money on a handful of major homelessness programs, with most of it going to local governments for things like leasing hotels and motels for housing the homeless during the pandemic.

Newsom also signed a law requiring all of the state's 1,037 school districts, including charter schools, to identify their homeless students and refer them to services for them and their families.

"In California, there are enough homeless children to fill Dodger Stadium five times," said Rivas, a reference to a 2020 UCLA study. "We have to end that."

Newsom's administration has identified 100 of what he called the state's "high profile" homeless encampments and has "attached timelines and strategies to begin to clean them up permanently."

He hinted he would announce something soon with Los Angeles' mayor about that "infamous encampment that you all know well." That's a possible reference to LA's Skid Row, where a federal judge previously ordered the city and county to find housing for everyone, only to have that ruling overturned on appeal last week.

Newsom also signed a law requiring California to prioritize its share of federal housing money on projects that serve homeless people with chronic health conditions. California is projected to get about $130 million from the National Housing Trust Fund, according to a legislative analysis.

"Housing and health go hand in hand, and this law will save lives because it recognizes the importance of both," said Julie Snyder, director of governmental affairs for the Steinberg Institute, a nonprofit that sponsored the legislation along with other groups.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.