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Governor calls homelessness ‘a human crisis’

LOS ANGELES — Gov. Gavin Newsom visited staff and residents at a board and care home in a Los Angeles neighborhood on the second day of his weeklong homelessness tour, calling the growing problem “a human crisis.”

Newsom stressed the need for the state to take a leadership role in addressing homelessness while also asserting the need to mandate that cities and counties across California take action.

“No longer can we volunteer our support,” Newsom said. “No longer can we encourage a response to this. We need to mandate it. We need accountability. We need to own this. And we need to own up to our responsibility to do more and do better.

“This is the wealthiest state in the world. It’s the fifth-largest economy on planet Earth. It’s running unprecedented surpluses. … And yet the homeless rate continues to climb and climb and climb. It’s unacceptable and we need to do better.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined Newsom on the visit. Ridley-Thomas is a co-chair of Newsom’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, whose work Newsom credits for inspiring many of his new proposals to address the homelessness crisis.

Newsom said his tour is highlighting the “staggering” numbers of homeless across the state.

“We no longer can assume that a city even as large as Los Angeles, a county even as extraordinarily large as Los Angeles County, can do this alone. The state of California needs to assert itself,” Newsom said.

“The state of California needs to take responsibility. The state of California needs a plan. The state of California needs to implement this plan. The state of California and its representatives, its governor, needs to call this what it is — a human crisis. And we need to respond accordingly.”

Newsom’s tour began Jan. 13 when he visited two homeless service providers and shelters in Grass Valley, about 60 miles north of Sacramento. He visited Riverside Jan. 14 before his stop in Los Angeles.

Newsom signed an executive order Jan. 8 as part of a comprehensive state response to homelessness.

The order includes creation of the California Access to Housing and Services Fund, expediting the availability of state land assets to temporarily house the homeless and directing the Department of General Services to supply 100 camp trailers from the state fleet and the Emergency Medical Services Authority to deploy modular tent structures to provide temporary housing and delivery of health and social services across the state.

In his state budget proposal released Jan. 10, Newsom formally announced more than $1 billion in homeless response funding, including $750 million for the Access to Housing and Services Fund, and making changes to the Medi-Cal system to better serve individuals experiencing mental illness and homelessness.

“The state of California is treating homelessness as a real emergency because it is one,” Newsom said in connection with signing the executive order.

“Californians are demanding that all levels of government — federal, state and local — do more to get people off the streets and into services, whether that’s housing, mental health services, substance abuse treatment or all of the above.

“That’s why we’re using every tool in the toolbox — from proposing a massive new infusion of state dollars in the budget that goes directly to homeless individuals, emergency housing and treatment programs to building short-term emergency housing on vacant state-owned land.”

Ridley-Thomas said Newsom’s action could allow the county to move more quickly and scale up solutions.

“I am pleased to partner with a governor who doesn’t just talk the talk — but walks the walk,” Ridley-Thomas said.

Before the tour, Ridley-Thomas previewed a motion — to be heard Jan. 21 — urging his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to adopt a crisis response informed by recommendations from the governor’s council.

“Implicit in Gov. Newsom’s proposal and the council’s recommendations is a call for state, county and city governments to respond to this crisis with new urgency, boldness and ingenuity,” Ridley-Thomas said.

Ridley-Thomas said he was pleased with Newsom’s action. 

“We know what works,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Los Angeles County established a flexible housing subsidy to support our most vulnerable residents and it has proven to be much more affordable and effective than watching homeless Angelenos cycle in and out of emergency rooms or jails. 

“I am pleased to see Governor Newsom taking this model, innovated in Los Angeles County, and proposing that it be scaled up in all corners of the state.”

Wave Wire Services