Leg­isla­tive an­a­lyst crit­i­cizes Cal­i­for­nia’s home­less plan

Antelope Valley Press - - NEWS -

SACRA­MENTO (AP) — Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Gavin New­som’s bud­get pro­posal likely won’t have a mean­ing­ful im­pact on the na­tion’s largest home­less pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to a new anal­y­sis from the state’s non­par­ti­san Leg­isla­tive An­a­lyst’s Of­fice.

New­som’s pro­posal “falls short of ar­tic­u­lat­ing a clear strat­egy for curb­ing home­less­ness in Cal­i­for­nia” by shift­ing de­ci­sion-mak­ing author­ity away from lo­cal gov­ern­ments that have his­tor­i­cally han­dled the bulk of home­less ser­vices in the state, the LAO wrote in a re­port re­leased Tues­day.

State of­fi­cials have taken a more ac­tive role in fund­ing home­less ser­vice pro­grams, send­ing $1.2 bil­lion to lo­cal gov­ern­ments over the past two years to bol­ster their ef­forts.

This year, New­som wants to spend an­other $750 mil­lion. But in­stead of giv­ing it to lo­cal gov­ern­ments, the money would flow to re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tors who would de­cide how to spend it. Those ad­min­is­tra­tors would be cho­sen by the state Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices.

“Lo­cal gov­ern­ments are most knowl­edge­able about the spe­cific home­less­ness-re­lated chal­lenges fac­ing their com­mu­ni­ties and are well po­si­tioned to im­ple­ment the com­bi­na­tion of strate­gies that will work best for them,” the LAO wrote in a re­port pre­pared by an­a­lyst Lour­des Morales and oth­ers.

While home­less­ness in most states de­clined be­tween 2018 and 2019, Cal­i­for­nia’s home­less pop­u­la­tion in­creased 16% to about 151,000 peo­ple as of Jan­uary 2019. That in­crease is re­spon­si­ble for the jump in home­less pop­u­la­tions na­tion­wide, prompt­ing a feud be­tween the New­som and Trump ad­min­is­tra­tions about who is re­spon­si­ble.

“As the Gov­er­nor said when he un­veiled this pro­posal, if you keep do­ing what you’ve done, you’ll get the same re­sult,” New­som press sec­re­tary Jesse Mel­gar said. “We strongly dis­agree with the as­ser­tion that emer­gency fund­ing to fight home­less­ness should be spread thinly, with less ac­count­abil­ity and in keep­ing with busi­ness as usual.”

Un­der New­som’s pro­posal, state tax­pay­ers would put $750 mil­lion into a fund to pay for home­less ser­vices. Oth­ers, in­clud­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ments, char­i­ties and com­pa­nies, could also con­trib­ute to the fund.

The plan is based on a sim­i­lar fund in Los An­ge­les County, which be­gan with an ini­tial con­tri­bu­tion of $14 mil­lion from tax­pay­ers and $4 mil­lion from do­na­tions. New­som has sug­gested the money could help peo­ple on the verge of home­less­ness pay their rent. And it could also pay for im­prove­ments to pri­vate homes that serve adults and se­niors — homes the gov­er­nor’s of­fice says have been clos­ing re­cently be­cause they can’t af­ford to stay open.

“The Gov­er­nor’s pro­posal aims to use the new fund as a cat­a­lyst for wrap­around ser­vices to get peo­ple off the street and calls on lo­cals to do the same,” Mel­gar said. “It’s in keep­ing with the Gov­er­nor’s ag­gres­sive and far-reach­ing ap­proach to home­less­ness and hous­ing since tak­ing of­fice — de­ploy­ing more state re­sources to cities and coun­ties than ever be­fore and en­act­ing new laws to speed hous­ing con­struc­tion.”

But the money New­som is putting in the fund is “one­time money,” mean­ing it won’t be avail­able again next year af­ter it’s been spent. That’s why the LAO says it is not a good idea to use it to pay for re­cur­ring ex­penses, like rent sub­si­dies.

“As a re­sult, whether the Gov­er­nor’s pro­posal would have an en­dur­ing ef­fect on pre­vent­ing home­less­ness among at-risk in­di­vid­u­als is much less clear,” the LAO wrote.

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