Governor Newsom Wants ‘Massive’ Federal Aid for the Homeless Crisis

As a recall election looms, the governor is on the ground surveying the state of a fraught issue that’s become a political weakness

Governor Gavin Newsom said scores of people living on the streets and along highways is “not acceptable” and that a solution will require “massive” federal aid as he watched Caltrans workers clear a Stockton homeless encampment on the 5 Freeway Thursday.

“You got to be honest, this is not acceptable,” Newsom told the Los Angeles Times. “People shouldn’t be living out in the streets and sidewalks…and the notion that until everything is perfect, we can’t do anything, I completely reject. I also think it lacks compassion, because so many people’s lives have been changed, despite their obstinance in opposition to these things. It forces a different pathway in decision making.” Newsom also said he supported recent encampment cleanups in Echo Park and Venice.

At the same time, Newsom admitted that the billions California has spent on the crisis since he took office—with another $12 billion earmarked in the latest budget—hasn’t yielded substantial results, which puts him a perilous position as the September 14 recall election closes in.

With one recent poll indicating he’s anything but a shoo-in with likely voters and another showing that they’re particularly unimpressed with his handling of homelessness, his solution could sound less than novel.

“We’re going to need the federal government’s help at a massive level,” Newsom told the Times. “We’re talking to the feds about it now. We need a massive intervention of support to get under the hood here and turn this around.”

While in Stockton, where the homeless population has grown to 1,000 in the last few years, Newsom also heard firsthand why offering unhoused people four walls wherever they happen to be available is not a solution for everyone.

A couple he spoke with, who were living in a tarp-covered structure near the freeway, explained that interim shelters don’t allow couples to stay together, even married adults, and also that it’s been hard to get their footing when they’re frequently being relocated by police and Caltrans workers.

“What you describe is that perverse dilemma,” Newsom told them. “You need that stability in order to then figure all the rest out. We’re demanding you figure the rest out before you get the stability. It doesn’t make any damn sense.”

Newsom also expressed his frustration with local governments that seem to take a lot of state money to assist unhoused people but have little to show for it—and suggested that future funding will go to areas that can demonstrate they’re making good use of the money.

“I’d be candid with you,” he told the Times. “The resources we provided the cities in the last couple years, I haven’t seen the commensurate results. I think people have been too passive at the local level. I don’t think it. I know it. I mean, look around.”

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