California’s homeless crisis is on the rise as the state grapples with solutions to help the homeless community.
The Golden State will continue building tiny homes in four of its largest cities and reward cities committed to cutting homelessness with a piece of a $1 billion prize, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.
Newsom stopped in Sacramento as part of a statewide tour to announce major policy developments. To the crowd gathered at Cal Expo, Newsom focused on the issue of homelessness.
Newsom told the event that California was on track to cut the number of unsheltered people by 15 percent in two years, reported the Los Angeles Times.
As part of his plans, he said at least 1,200 tiny homes will be available to use as interim housing for unsheltered people. They can be assembled within one hour, depending on brand and size, and the state will help install and identify available land to place them.
Two hundred will go to San Jose, 500 to Los Angeles, 350 to Sacramento, and 150 to San Diego County.
“We’re hoping to get them constructed in a matter of months, not years,” he said. “The press may attack us if we fall short, so we’re saying in the fall.”
Newsom also said cities, counties, and regional agencies across the state turned in plans committing to cut homelessness to 15 percent by 2025. He said they will be held accountable to earn a piece of a new $1 billion to use toward their stated plans.
Tiny homes became a popular solution for cities seeking to rapidly shelter homeless populations during the pandemic because of the relative ease and cost-effectiveness of using prefabricated, modular units.
Jason Elliott, a top adviser to Newsom, said the funding will come from unspent funds previously appropriated in the state budget for behavioral health programs.
Republican state Senate Leader Brian Jones criticized the proposal, saying it’s another example of Newsom “throwing money” at the problem without solutions.″
“While I appreciate the governor’s creativity to construct 1,200 tiny homes, that is a drop in the bucket,” he said in a statement.
There are more than 171,000 homeless people in California, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (pdf) That’s a 6.2 percent increase since 2020.
“California accounted for half of all unsheltered people in the country,” said the department’s 2022 report on homelessness to Congress. “This is more than nine times the number of unsheltered people in the state with the next highest number, Washington.”
Between 2019 and 2022, the number of unsheltered homeless people in Sacramento grew to 6,664 from 3,900.
Data released Wednesday by the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness showed 725 individuals were housed in February, with most renting places themselves, while 1,036 individuals experienced homelessness for the first time.
In Los Angeles, where skid row is located, newly elected Mayor Karen Bass declared a state of emergency in the City of Los Angeles on Dec.12, and the Board of Supervisors pledged a week later to support those efforts. On Jan. 10, the Board went further, declaring a state of emergency in the County of Los Angeles.
“My mandate is to move Los Angeles in a new direction, with an urgent and strategic approach to solving our city’s toughest challenges and creating a brighter future for every Angeleno,” Bass said. “Today, on my first day in office, we hit the ground running, with a sea change in how the city tackles homelessness.”
Since her first day in office, Bass launched the Inside Safe program to quickly move unhoused Angelenos indoors. The vast majority are in a temporary motel or hotel rooms, though the goal is to place them all in permanent housing while providing mental health services, substance abuse treatment, or other support services.
Despite her efforts, Bass has a different set of concerns for the rising homeless population.
“(With) the eviction moratorium ending, I’m very, very worried that we’re going to see another spike in homelessness,” Bass said. “Now, you know the City Council passed tenant protections, but … I’m worried that a lot of people won’t know that the tenant protections actually are there, so we are setting out to do outreach to make sure that tenants know.”
Bass’s goal is to house more than 4,000 homeless Angelenos will have been housed, including more than 1,000 through her Inside Safe initiative, by next week when she hits her 100-day mark in office.