A homeless person with their possessions. Photo via Pixabay
A homeless person with their possessions. Photo via Pixabay

Southland leaders Wednesday hailed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of an executive order aimed at prioritizing the issue of homelessness and calling for $1.4 billion in funding to address it.

“Solving homelessness is the top priority for Angelenos and people across California, and our state budget ought to reflect that urgency,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “Gov. Newsom has been a champion on this issue throughout his career, and with this executive order he’s making an even bigger investment in confronting the homelessness crisis.

“I look forward to working with the governor and state leaders through the budget process to make certain we are building on the progress we’ve made through state support of critical city initiatives, like our 2,300-bed emergency shelter program,” he said.

Newsom’s order mandates that by the end February, state agencies must develop a strategy to provide resources to help house people. It also calls for a $1.4 billion allocation to help homeless people throughout California.

Los Angeles is already expecting to receive $117 million from the state this year in grant funding for homeless assistance.

Newsom’s executive order will establish the California Access to Housing and Services Fund and will require the state agencies to make assessments of available land assets for housing, and it will create a state homeless crisis response team.

“The state of California is treating homelessness as a real emergency because it is one,” Newsom said. “Californians are demanding that all levels of government, federal, state and local, do more to get people off the streets and into services, whether that’s housing, mental health services, substance abuse treatment or all of the above.”

The order will also make 100 camp trailers available for temporary housing along with mobile health and social services clinics to be deployed across the state.

Of the proposed $1.4 billion budget, $750 million will be dedicated to getting people off streets and into supportive services “quickly,” according to the governor’s office. The money will pay rent for homeless people, support areas to create dwelling units and help stabilize board-and-care facilities — with the money proposed to go directly to service providers, the governor stated.

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called it a “relief to have a governor who recognizes that our homeless crisis is not going to go away on its own.”

“Our Golden State — the fifth largest economy in the world — has for far too long not been golden for everyone,” Ridley-Thomas said. “The governor recognizes this for what it is, an undeniable emergency, and is showing that he can bring to bear both ingenuity and prudence to right the course of our state’s history.”

California state legislators on Monday introduced a bill that would create a new state agency, the Governor’s Office to End Homelessness.

“People are frustrated and want to see results now,” said Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, and chairman of the Select Committee on Los Angeles County Homelessness. “As the representative of skid row, I’m ready to double-down on our efforts to combat this crisis with a sense of urgency and I look forward to working with the governor and my colleagues to deliver more solutions.”

Figures from the most recent Southland homeless count found that more than 36,000 people are homeless in the city of Los Angeles, an increase of 16% since the previous year. Countywide, the homeless population jumped by 12% year-over-year to about 59,000.

This year’s count will take place Jan. 21-23 throughout the county, and the data will likely be released in the summer.

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