Unhappy with Homelessness, Newsom Withholds $1 Billion, Scolds Locals

Gov. Newsom demands that officials around the state “do better” against homelessness, and is keeping $1 billion until they do

Demanding that local leaders “do better” in solving the homelessness crisis, Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday that he’ll be holding onto the state’s third round of Homelessness Housing, Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) grants—worth a tidy $1 billion to the state’s myriad fund-hungry political fiefdoms—until someone puts forth what he considers a serious idea to legitimately confront the issue.

The statement from the governor’s office opens with Newsom’s claim that the combined proposals submitted by every participating municipality across the Golden State would at best see a two-percent reduction of homelessness over the next several years.

“Californians demand accountability and results, not settling for the status quo,” Newsom said. “As a state, we are failing to meet the urgency of this moment. Collectively, these plans set a goal to reduce street homelessness 2% statewide by 2024. At this pace, it would take decades to significantly curb homelessness in California – this approach is simply unacceptable. Everyone has to do better – cities, counties, and the state included. We are all in this together.”

While Newsom did credit some officials for “taking aggressive action to combat homelessness,” he found that “others are less ambitious – some plans even reflect double-digit increases in homelessness over four years.”

In order, presumably, to encourage better-doing everywhere, Newsom is going to keep that $1 billion in state homelessness spending in his hip pocket until pols and their functionaries from across the state gather at an upcoming mixer to brainstorm, if not hammer-out, something like an idea.

Newsom is calling “all local jurisdictions together for a meeting in mid-November to coordinate on an approach that will deliver more substantial results. This meeting will be an opportunity to learn from one another about what works, as well as to identify barriers that inhibit the progress we all want to make and strategies to remove them.”

Emphasizing that the state paid out over $1.5 billion in flexible emergency funds through the Homeless Emergency Aid Program and the first two rounds of HHAP funding, Newsom’s office laid out the new conditions under which the money will be doled out to jurisdictions—and, presumably, their bosses:

“Now, for the first time, recipients of the third round of HHAP funding have new requirements and must create a Homelessness Action Plan that addresses, in detail, local actions to prevent and reduce the number of individuals experiencing homelessness at the community level.”

Additionally, the state now requires that “plans must include a landscape analysis that assesses the current number of people experiencing homelessness in a given community and identify all existing programs, and all sources of funding aimed at tackling this crisis. Additionally, the plans must include outcome-driven results and strategies for achieving these goals using clear metrics to track success.”

Some who may perceive themselves as targets of the message were not receptive to it.

“Now is not the time to play politics when people’s lives are at stake,” Carolyn Coleman, executive director and CEO of the League of California Cities, told SFGate. “Failing to release state funding will not put roofs over the heads of Californians or deliver desperately needed supportive services.”

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