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Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. (Photo: youtube)

The Back Story of California’s Homeless Surge

Darrell Steinberg’s Mental Health Services Act did nothing to keep people off the streets

By Lloyd Billingsley, September 17, 2019 8:40 am

As the Sacramento Bee reports, the number of homeless people in Sacramento County has increased to 5,570, a jump of 52 percent from 2017. In February, Gov. Gavin Newsom named Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg to lead the Commission on Homelessness and Supportive Housing, with the goal of addressing the underlying causes that keep people on the streets. The governor explained that many of the homeless are struggling with mental illness, which might recall mayor Steinberg’s past advocacy on that issue.

In 2004, nearly 54 percent of California voters approved Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, sponsored by state senate boss Darrell Steinberg, who hailed it as a model for the nation. The measure slapped an additional 1 percent tax on millionaires’ incomes and in its first eight years brought more than $8 billion. By 2013, many were curious where the money went.

State auditors could not account for how the money was spent and the Sacramento Bee wondered if it was “shoved down a rat hole, never to be seen again.” The San Jose Mercury News found fewer clinics across the state, and some 750,000 California adults failing to receive the mental health treatment they needed.

Homeless camp at Sacramento City Hall (facebook)

By 2015, Proposition 63 brought in $13.2 billion but according to Promises Still to Keep: A Second Look at the Mental Health Services Act, a 2016 report from the Little Hoover Commission, “Important questions remain unanswered: Who oversees MHSA spending, where does the money go and is the Act achieving its goals?” The Commission also found “overlapping and sometimes unaccountable bureaucracies.”

Senate boss Steinberg was never up front about how much of the $13.2 billion went to salaries for government workers and well-connected mental health providers. On the other hand, Proposition 63 did come through for its sponsor. As David Siders reported in the Sacramento Bee, Steinberg became director of policy and advocacy for the new $7.5 million UC Davis Behavioral Health Center of Excellence, as Siders explained, “an institution funded by a measure he championed while in the Legislature.”

The unpaid position “allows Steinberg to lobby the Legislature on behalf of the center without violating California’s revolving-door law.” And Steinberg, neither a psychiatrist nor a behavioral scientist, “will be a visiting professor at Davis’ Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.”

In 2016, voters made Steinberg mayor of Sacramento, and on his watch the ranks of the homeless have increased substantially, 52 percent in the past two years alone. The city is strewn with trash and beaches near Discovery Park test more than 7 times above the safety level for E. coli bacteria, a sign of fecal contamination. The primary source, experts agree, is high numbers of homeless “campers” along what could now be called the Excremento River.

Those numbers, and overall squalor, have increased on mayor Steinberg’s watch. His Mental Health Services Act may have enriched bureaucrats and providers, but it did nothing to remedy what many, including Gov. Newsom, regard as the underlying cause of the homeless problem.

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11 thoughts on “The Back Story of California’s Homeless Surge

  1. I have 3 questions for Mayor Steinberg and Governor Newsom,

    1. What did you do with the money?

    2. Where is the accountability?

    3.Where are the the new successful mental health facilities, this state so desperately needs?

    Dear Fellow readers, please add more questions for the so called leaders of California.

    1. Okay, Wendy A., I have a question for these “leaders.”
      Dear Newsom, Garcetti, Steinberg, et al:
      How do you sleep at night?

  2. As usual, California will throw a lot of other people’s money (ours) to solve a problem with no accountability and no overseeing of a non-existent program. This is a story about Sacramento and as a Southern California I can tell you homelessness and crime have gone up. I can see it with my own eyes and read about it in my Nextdoor Neighborhood app. California is failing us with its failed policies. We deserve better.

  3. The problem is all of these Californian’s that keep voting giving more and more government control without any accountability. Just like the gas tax which gives the government to power to increase the tax WITHOUT voter approval. People need to actually READ THE BALLOT AND PROPOSITIONS! Stop blindly trusting the government as they do NOTHING but jack taxpayers over again and again. DO YOUR RESEARCH!

  4. This is just another piece of the big picture of how our government is destroying our beautiful state and will run it into the ground for our future generations. It is a continuing cycle that the voting citizens choose to turn a blind eye to because of their time-consuming lives of trying to survive and get ahead in life in this state. The cycle is this…
    1. The continual waste and shuffling of money into deep dark holes the voting public can not find
    2. Bring to the attention of the voting public other areas of our infrastructure, environment, or community support needs that are unfunded or underfunded, and promise to fix them with more taxes
    3. Propose legislation for those taxes in very lengthy, confusing language that the average voter doesn’t fully understand and does not have the time to do their own research on, because they are too busy working hard to pay all of these taxes, raising a family, and trying to get ahead in life.
    4. So our government takes large sums of its money and throws it at the mass media to get out an “interpretation” of this new legislation that the voters are forced to rely on as gospel.
    5. The voters blindly pass the legislation that now becomes more money for the government to waste and hide without hardly any accountability. And the voting public now has to work harder and are forced to ‘blindly trust’ the government to help make things better. Cycle starts over!!!
    6. Eventually people and businesses will be forced to leave the state to be able to survive, thus creating more burden to those that stay in the state and the continue in the cycle. Ending result… Ultimate failure and collapse!!!
    Our government is so corrupt and the more money we give to them is only making it MORE corrupt. We, the people, need to stop giving the government more money, and demand that they start using the money we already give them more efficiently and with more accountability. I mean, that in my household, if I were guilty of wasteful spending of my own income, I would be forced out of my house and suffer my own consequences. But if it was a matter of people just giving me money and I really wasn’t ever held accountable for it and there were no consequences for my spending, then I, like most of you, wouldn’t care and would continue my wasteful spending. We, the people, need to hold ALL of our government leaders accountable and have set consequences for their actions! If they can not use our money efficiently and responsibly and show us exactly how our money was spent and the results of each investment into each area to be helped, then they should be held accountable, lose their right to lead us, and possibly be imprisoned for their actions. We will then find others willing to take on the high risk of doing the right thing and allow them to help lead us. We must find a way to destroy the hidden but very strong brotherhood/sisterhood of our politicians and replace it with strong people of good moral strength and dignity and wiling to risk everything personally to do what is right for the state of California and its people!!!

  5. Nothing will change it will only get worse California voters are so dumb they keep electing corrupt democrats and voting yes on all the new propositions they come up with. The state is a lost cause and will never recover. Sorry but the truth hurts.

  6. Were billions of dollars used to provide needles and drugs to the homeless population… and maybe supply political donors with their entitled fixes?

  7. The underlying cause of the homeless problem…is PEOPLE NOT HAVING A HOME.
    The way to solve homelessness is Housing First.
    Mental health challenges cannot and will not be “fixed” or “solved” while people do not have a place to sleep. Sleep is critical to mental health.
    People don’t have homes because the housing market needs homelessness and scarcity. Homes stand vacant while homelessness grows. See https://moms4housing.org/

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