Governor Gavin Newsom has agreed to release $1 billion in state homelessness funding that he had previously withheld, having been dissatisfied with many local government’s efforts to reduce the number of unhoused across the state.
The governor said that his meeting Friday with roughly 100 mayors and local officials—held in person and virtually—showed significant productivity according to a press release from his office. Leaders across the state seem to be on the same page about how to step up their goals for tackling homelessness.
“It was nice to hear their progress. And it was nice to hear their recognition that we have to get to another level,” the Associated Press reports he said after the meeting. “What I want to see is what everybody wants to see: the streets of California cleaned up. We want to see encampments cleaned up, we want to see people housed.”
Newsom may have experienced a breezy reelection this month, but is due to be held to high expectations for his next term. Most notably, he must address the growing number of unhoused individuals, many of which have set up camps on city sidewalks and below underpasses.
His decision to withhold $1 billion in spending two weeks ago certainly shocked the state. The announcement was rooted in his overall disappointment with plans submitted by cities and counties.
Newsom said their plans were “simply unacceptable” as they would collectively reduce the state’s homeless population by a mere 2 percent over the next four years.
Many mayors and county officials—as well as advocates for low-income housing—rebuked his efforts to withhold funding, saying it was counterproductive in to hold the money needed for services for the homeless.
On Friday, Newsom reiterated that his administration had spent a record number on housing and homelessness, one recent commitment being $15.3 billion over the next three years. These contributions have kept tens of thousands of people housed, but he acknowledged the streets showed a far different result.
Newsom ensured he would still support local governments, but that “finding new dedicated money as we enter into what could be a recession with the headwinds, one has to be sober about that — just as they’re sober about that with their budgets.”
Though Friday’s meeting received the support of many, such as Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg who defended Newsom, some were left agitated.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who tuned in virtually, said the pure volume of the meeting was damaging to “forthright, constructive dialogue.” He added that several mayors were told weeks ago that Newsom would release the money if they submitted new plans.
The California State Association of Counties was far blunter in their criticism of Newsom’s actions of late.
“We can’t fix an ongoing crisis with one-time commitments. Progress requires clear state, county, and city roles aligned with sustainable, equitable funding. We need to get out of our own way and work together,” Graham Knaus, executive director of the association that represents the state’s 58 counties, told AP.