Addressing the Homeless Crisis
By Assemblymember Phil Ting
You see tent encampments growing all over the Bay Area, and there are more and more people living in their cars or RVs. Homelessness persists in California because we have not built enough housing to keep pace with job growth. That has resulted in a shortage that drives up the cost of existing housing.
The latest federal statistics show the state had more than 151,000 people who were homeless in 2019, a 16% jump from the prior year. It is most acute in urban areas like San Francisco, where according to last year’s point-in-time homeless count the unsheltered population had topped 8,000, a 14% increase over the previous count in 2017.
As state leaders, we know we need to do more. The latest poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found homelessness is the most important issue residents want us to address. We hear you loud and clear. Beginning with Gov. Jerry Brown and continuing with Gov. Gavin Newsom, your state government has made homelessness a top priority. While we enjoy a budget surplus, we are using it to support local leaders as they implement solutions to get people off the streets.
In 2018, I worked with the mayors of California’s largest cities to create the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), directing $500 million from the state budget for shelters and services. The following year, I secured another $650 million in state funds. The additional money will go toward creating new shelter beds, expanding mental health services, increasing eviction prevention assistance and providing more rapid rehousing – just to name a few.
San Francisco’s share of these funds will total more than $67 million, with a percentage earmarked for homeless youth. This is on top of the $10 million in state aid I championed for the City in 2017. Those funds went into building more navigation centers, including the latest one along the Embarcadero. These facilities are effective because clients are allowed to bring their belongings while receiving services such as mental health care, addiction treatment and job search assistance on-site. To further our efforts to build more Navigation Centers, I also authored two pieces of legislation now in effect that streamline the approval process for shelters and allow them to be located on surplus CalTrans land.
The state is poised to provide even more help. Gov. Newsom’s latest budget proposal allocates $750 million to combat homelessness, including rent subsidies and building more housing. As chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I look forward to playing a part in developing our state’s homelessness funding plan during the budget process between now and June.
Additionally, in my role as chair, I will be holding a Budget Committee hearing here in San Francisco to ask groups working directly with the homeless what is working and where we need to improve. I want to make sure our investments are targeted to solve the crisis before we approve more funding. For details, visit my website: https://a19.asmdc.org.
Ending homelessness takes time. It is a complicated issue with no magic solution. We will get there. It is just a matter of when.
Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.
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