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California Budget Introduces Bold Plan to Combat Homelessness

By: Mario Conde, Reporter

California Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled an ambitious budget proposal to combat homelessness in State.

For the past couple of years, homelessness has become a big issue for California as it has increased and no immediate action has been taken so far. In Imperial County, local agencies and cities have begun to meet and coordinate efforts on how to face the homeless problem while looking for solutions to help people that are at risk of homelessness.

Governor Newsom introduced his 2020-2021 budget proposal that included actions to tackle homelessness. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order that requires state agencies to take urgent and immediate action by January 31, 2020, to make available state properties and facilities to rapidly increase housing and shelter options.

“The State of California is treating homelessness as a real emergency – because it is one. 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,” said Governor Newsom. “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.”

The budget proposes a shift in the state’s involvement to augment local governments’ efforts to shelter the many unsheltered persons living in California, by launching a new state fund for developing additional affordable housing units, supplementing and augmenting rental and operating subsidies, and stabilizing board and care homes. The administration is asking the legislature to take early action to establish this fund so that it can expedite the contracts and be ready to deploy investments this summer.

The budget also proposes the Medi-Cal Healthier California for All Initiative that will transform the state’s Medi-Cal program to better serve people experiencing or at risk of homelessness that have serious health issues through enhanced case management and expanded investment in social determinants of health, like housing and social services.

Newsom included a $750 million one-time General Fund to establish the California Access to Housing and Services fund that will be administered by the state’s Department of Social Services. The primary goals of the proposed fund are to reduce homelessness by moving individuals and families into stable housing and to increase the number of units available as a stable housing option for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The fund will flow through performance-based contracts between the state and regional administrators and will be subject to at 10-percent administrative cap. Regional administrators will provide short and long term rental subsidies, make small and medium-sized contributions to encourage the development of new units in exchange for a rental credit, and stabilize board and care facilities by funding capital projects or operating subsidies.

Imperial County Supervisor District 1 Jesus Eduardo Escobar said they need to see how the funds will be utilized to support homeless people.

“The key here is transitional housing of not only giving them home but a future,” Escobar said. “If they have an addiction to drugs or alcohol we need to see how they can break that barrier so they can be successful in life again and be self-sufficient,”

Escobar added that is also important to help low income pay their rent and avoid losing their homes. He said that their needs be a balance when it comes to helping those that are without a home and low-income families.

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