Newsom has long promised progress for a problem that has been decades in the making. In July, he signed a funding package that will direct $12 billion toward addressing homelessness over two years and another $10.3 billion to building affordable housing. But many Californians are impatient for results — and some plan to express that frustration either by voting to recall Newsom or not participating in the election at all.
Those stunning statistics have created an easy target for GOP recall candidates like Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego who won accolades from leaders of both parties for his efforts to reduce outdoor homelessness in his city. He has argued on the campaign trail that homelessness has “exploded” in California, because Newsom “has not taken the necessary steps to make a difference.”
‘Everything was kind of put on hold’
Before the Covid-19 pandemic struck last year, Newsom’s commitment to ending homelessness had been one of his marquee issues. He centered his February 2020 State of the State address around his plans to address the crisis, noting the state had allocated $1.5 billion during the previous two years for local governments aimed at dealing with the problem. He acknowledged that the public had lost patience, adding, “I’ve lost patience.” To “reverse decades of neglect and turn around a crisis this deep-rooted,” he argued he would need cooperation from lawmakers to find a long-term funding strategy, centered on constructing more housing.
Reflecting on how those challenges delayed progress on his goals for reducing homelessness, Newsom said Tuesday that “everything was kind of put on hold.” He noted that he’s only been in office for two and half years and still has nearly a year and a half left in his term. But he said he understands why his constituents feel frustrated that they are not seeing measurable change.
“I’ve put $12 billion into a specific strategy and plans — unprecedented in California history and unprecedented in American history. It’s a detailed plan, with real money and political will,” Newsom said during a stop-the-recall campaign event in San Francisco.
The $12 billion homelessness funding package that Newsom approved in July would make a much longer term investment and is part of the Democratic governor’s larger $100 billion “California Comeback Plan” that was possible because of the state’s budget surplus.
Within the homelessness package, about $5.8 billion will be directed toward Project Homekey, which is focused on acquiring hotels and motels and quickly turning them into more than 42,000 long-term housing units. (About $3 billion of that Homekey money is dedicated to housing with wrap-around services for people with severe social, emotional and behavioral health problems).
The legislation that Newsom signed also sets aside $1.75 billion to make 7,200 units that are in the pipeline available for the poorest families and those exiting homelessness. Another $45 million will be dedicated to services and housing for homeless veterans. His broader $100 billion plan also includes $1.1 billion that will be spent — in partnership with local governments — on cleaning up trash in downtown areas, as well as along the state’s streets and freeways.
“We’re just winding up. I’m really motivated and excited,” Newsom said Tuesday.
To all the voters who perceive a lack of progress on the homelessness issue, he said: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”