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California Big City Mayors Unite, Urging Ongoing State Commitment to Tackle Homelessness

-Editorial

In a press conference held at the State Capitol, the California Big City Mayors, a bipartisan coalition of leaders from the state’s 13 largest cities, emphasized the crucial need for ongoing state funding to combat the widespread issue of homelessness.

Led by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, who chairs the coalition, the mayors representing California’s most populous cities joined forces to urge state leaders to increase funding for the Homelessness Housing, Assistance, and Prevention (HHAP) program and make it a permanent initiative. They also called for funding for all applications in the current round of the Homekey program, which enables local governments to swiftly establish new housing through innovative models like hotel conversions or manufactured housing.

“Big cities are actively tackling homelessness and making significant progress. We have witnessed the establishment of thousands of new homeless shelter beds and the housing of tens of thousands of individuals and families every year. However, this is a collective effort that requires the participation of all stakeholders,” stated San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “Today, California’s Big City Mayors stand united in our appeal for sustained state funding directly allocated to cities. This will enable us to continue assisting unsheltered individuals and families, helping them transition from dangerous encampments to secure housing. Addressing this crisis demands urgent attention from all levels of government, and we are committed to working collaboratively with the state, counties, and other cities to achieve tangible results.”

Since 2018, the State of California has provided one-time grants to large cities, counties, and continuums of care through programs like the Homelessness Emergency Assistance Program (HEAP) and HHAP. In the recently released May Revision to the state budget, Governor Gavin Newsom maintains HHAP funding at $1 billion but only commits to it for one additional year.

To facilitate a more effective and long-term approach to homelessness, Big City Mayors are appealing to state leaders to double HHAP funding to $2 billion per year and establish it as an ongoing program. This would enhance the ability of the state and local governments to strategize their long-term initiatives, allocate funds more efficiently, and ensure accountability for progress in reducing homelessness.

The coalition has also published a report outlining the impact of these funds, highlighting the following achievements:

• 15,755 new emergency shelter beds and interim homes created

• 121,170 individuals served

• 19,474 individuals placed into housing interventions

• 5,101 permanent homes established through the Homekey program

Additionally, the coalition’s report proposes a framework for ensuring accountability and measuring progress in reducing unsheltered homelessness and encampments. This framework includes the following elements:

• Direct allocations to big cities with funding being made permanent

• Flexible funding to address crisis management and scale innovative homelessness solutions

• Outcome goals focused on reducing unsheltered homelessness and increasing permanent housing placements

• Immediate release of bonus funding ($360 million budgeted but not yet released) to address the current crisis

• Requesting the state to consider land-use waivers for city projects funded by HHAP

• Encouraging the state to prioritize funding for new shelter or housing capacity, following the successful examples set by the mayors

• Promoting collaboration to ensure that counties and continuums of care also utilize their funds to address the needs of big cities.

By prioritizing ongoing state commitment and bolstering funding for homelessness initiatives, California’s Big City Mayors are aiming to create lasting solutions, effectively combat homelessness, and improve the lives of vulnerable individuals and families across the state.

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