Governor Newsom on Homelessness During COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has caused incredible hardship across the world. Currently, it has the capability to turn California’s homelessness crisis into a catastrophe.

Governor Gavin Newsom held a press conference addressing homelessness and his move to protect the most vulnerable on Wednesday afternoon. He reiterated how coronavirus job losses have led to an inability to pay rent monthly. Newsom reported 50% – 66% of renters have had a drop in income and cannot afford to pay rent. Up to 5.4 million renters are at risk, with Black and Latino individuals disproportionately at risk.

Governor Newsom signed an eviction bill this week to ban evictions for rent non-payment until February 1, 2021. Renters will have to pay rent back eventually and will start paying full rent March 2021. There will also be protections for small property owners and homeowners by expanding homeowners bill of rights and borrowing rights.

California committed to increasing its $1 billion budget for homelessness in 2019-2020 and to $1.25 billion in 2020-2021. The $1.25 billion budget includes $628 million for emergency aid for homelessness and $600 million for Project HomeKey. Project RoomKey has served 3 tribes, 22,000 people in 16,400 rooms in 344 hotels and 55 counties. In addition, the state has delivered 1,345 trailers in 26 counties helping numerous families and 2 tribes. The $600 million will also be used to purchases hotels, motels, and apartment buildings for Project HomeKey. The state has already received 138 applications received from 67 jurisdictions. Newsom said the units will be acquired by end of the calendar year, tracking at below original cost estimates.

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Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf believes the state needs to take additional action immediately with Assembly Bill 1845. “Assembly Bill 1845 by Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, D-Arleta (Los Angeles County), and Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, offers a timely, cost-saving and bold systematic solution to California’s response to homelessness. AB1845 would establish the first state Office to End Homelessness, housed in the Governor’s Office. A newly created secretary on homelessness would lead the office and report directly to the governor.”

Schaaf continued to explains, “Over decades, the state has implemented multiple programs to address the needs of populations experiencing homelessness — veterans, families, children in school, people with disabilities or serious mental illness. As a result, from eight to 13 state departments administer over 30 programs funding housing and services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. All operate independently without clear oversight. This fragmented response creates chaos. Staff across departments are charged with similar or the same responsibilities. Local governments and providers must work through bureaucratic hurdles to apply to multiple programs, often with conflicting requirements, to access critical funding. The state is also funding some programs based, not on evidence accumulated over decades of research, but on anecdote.”

Governor Newsom expressed his focus on homelessness and the importance of providing individuals a lock, key and place to call their own. He aims to end the homelessness crisis with the 2020-2021 budget and plans.

“With the emergence of COVID-19, and using history as our guide, we must acknowledge that it is our statewide structure for combating homelessness that bottlenecks our every attempt to respond to the growing crisis. We must turn the corner, we must be bold, we must be willing to look back and say we did everything we could to respond to this pandemic and human crisis. We cannot afford to look back and say, “We could’ve, should’ve, would’ve” responded differently. We owe it to all Californians to do everything possible to lead our way out of this human crisis. We need AB1845.” Reported Mayor Libby Schaaf and Mayor Michael Tubbs via the SF Chronicle.

Watch Newsom’s full press conference here.


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