SACRAMENTO (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom began a week-long statewide tour Monday promoting his $1 billion effort to address one of California’s most pressing and politically fraught problems — its growing homeless crisis.
The Democratic governor started at Nevada County’s Homeless Outreach and Medical Engagement (HOME) project with a Republican state lawmaker.
Newsom has faced criticism from GOP President Donald Trump, who continued blaming the state’s Democratic leaders last week, particularly those in Los Angeles and San Francisco, for failing to adequately address homelessness.
“The fact that it’s on his radar is fabulous,” Newsom said. “We all need more support from the federal government.”
The governor declared himself California’s “homeless czar” Friday when he asked state lawmakers to approve a $750 million fund that providers could use to pay rents, fund affordable housing and aid boarding and care homes.
His proposed budget also includes $695 million of state and federal matching funds to boost spending on preventive health care, but his administration said part of that money could go to things such as rent assistance if it reduces recipients’ need for health care services.
Newsom planned to spend this week meeting with people experiencing homelessness and providers who work with them. He was initially joined by GOP Assemblywoman Megan Dahle at the program northeast of Sacramento that provides health assistance and low-barrier housing.
“Government matters, but not as importantly as community,” he said while standing in a dormitory lined with bunk beds.
Additional stops are to include a Southern California suburban area, Los Angeles County, the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. His office said he planned to tour outreach programs, recovery and behavioral health centers and transitional housing shelters.
His plan this year builds on $1 billion in spending he sought a year ago, though the final portion of $650 million in emergency homeless aid to cities and counties was just released last week.
Conservative critics have said the state also should streamline its strict environmental protections to speed up housing construction and address transients who may be resistant to help because of mental illness or drug addiction, perhaps by expanding involuntary treatment.
Newsom dismissed the idea that there is a widespread refusal to accept help if it is offered without barriers.
“I think that’s bunk,” he said. “The vast majority of people … will jump at the opportunity not to live out in the elements.”
Aside from the increased funding, Newsom also is offering 100 travel trailers and modular tent structures to cities and counties for use as temporary housing, as well as surplus state property that local governments or nonprofits can use for emergency homeless shelters. That could include property alongside highways or state roads; vacant hospitals and health care facilities; and state fairgrounds.
He began his tour the same day as a council of advisers led by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas released its recommendations. Newsom said many of his proposals last week were already based on their work.