County, city react to Newsom’s $1.4B proposal to tackle homelessness

FILE PHOTO Gavin Newsom, candidate for Governor of California speaks at the podium as he is applauded by, from left, wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Katie Hill, candidate for Congress, Kamala Harris - U.S. Senator and Christy Smith, candidate for Assembly during a campaign rally held at the Newhall Family Theater in Newhall on Saturday, November 3rd, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal

City of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County officials expressed appreciation for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest push to tackle homelessness across California, which includes a proposed $1.4 billion plan for affordable housing and preventative health care services.

On Wednesday, Newsom previewed his 2020-21 governor’s budget proposal with $750 million intended to be placed in a fund to pay for the rents of those facing homelessness and to cover the construction of affordable housing and care homes.

The money, which is proposed to go directly to service providers, would be taken from a one-time fund of surplus tax revenue collections.

The proposed budget also sets aside $695 million to transform California’s Medicaid program “to boost preventative health care that brings down the cost of health care — all designed to pull down matching federal funds to do so,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.

More specifically, funding would cover tenancy support services, housing navigation services, recuperative care, and could include targeted rental assistance if housing insecurity is tied to inappropriately high utilization of costly health care services.

The governor also signed an executive order on Wednesday that aims to address homelessness with a focus on prevention and early intervention. In it, he directs agencies to identify excess state land and facilities that can be used by local partners, including cities and nonprofits, for short-term emergency shelters.

The order also calls for the supply of 100 travel trailers for temporary housing and the development of a multi-agency, state strike team to connect those facing homelessness with resources.

In Santa Clarita, the approach of a multi-agency team has already been deployed with the creation of a local homeless task force. Mayor Cameron Smyth, who is also the task force’s chairman, said this approach is helping the city better identify who and how many people are facing homelessness and he hopes the state’s approach will work as well.

“We appreciate the administration for treating this issue with the urgency it requires. We will wait and see how that money is expected to be allocated because the hope is that local jurisdictions will have access to those dollars and the flexibility on how to use them,” he added.

Also on Wednesday, Kathryn Barger, L.A. County 5th District supervisor, said in a statement that she looked “forward to working with Gov. Newsom” and emphasized the need to “consider mental health issues and substance use treatment to provide holistic support for those in need. And I am pleased to see the state’s recognition of the importance of board and care facilities, and the catastrophe we could potentially face should they close due to lack of viable operational funding.”

The state budget proposal is expected on Friday and there is a June 15 deadline for the Legislature to pass it.

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