Several Los Angeles lawmakers joined the growing movement to enact a $20 billion plan to give California cities funds to combat against the homeless crisis on Monday.
Speaking at the Skid Row Housing Trust, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Councilman Kevin de Leon, and Councilwoman Monica Gonzalez announced that they would be joining the movement by California lawmakers to get the increased funding, which would be doled out in $4 billion increments to cities over five years.
“Homelessness is a growing dystopian nightmare of all cities,” said Councilman de Leon, whose district includes Skid Row, on Monday. “We must act with a sense of urgency to meet this humanitarian crisis with, let me underscore, unprecedented investments,” de Leon said. I asked former members of the California Senate and Assembly to sign a letter calling on the California state legislature and the governor to commit over $20 billion over the next five years to build housing and combat homelessness throughout California.
“The state should provide the funding with spending guidelines to hold cities accountable for how efficiently the money is used.”
The other lawmakers highlighted the homeless problem specifically in Los Angeles, mentioning the added hardships that the COVID-19 pandemic placed on homeless people.
“We’re here to fight for the dollars that are much needed,” explained Assemblyman Santiago. “If you take a look around, close to 5,000 people in a few square blocks live on the streets. And here’s why it’s timely: during COVID, we learned a lot about communities getting left behind, but if you were homeless, not only did you get let behind, you got left our in the cold and the heat, you got left our with no resources, no COVID testing, vaccines are still problem, there’s not a roof over your head, no food to eat or even clean water. That shouldn’t happen in the fifth largest economy in the world.
“We are asking for the largest, boldest investment in homelessness funding. We’re asking for radical change in the way we solve homelessness.”
The lawmakers join several other prominent lawmakers, including all Mayors of California’s 13 largest cities (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Riverside, Santa Ana, and Stockton) to try and get the funding, making the effort bipartisan.
“We’re not coming in empty hats in hand, we’re coming with hard hats on and pockets already full of investments,” said LA Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday. “Behind each one of us, you see how we spend it: It’s for shelter, it’s for permanent housing, it’s for cleanups, it’s for services, it’s for everything that we need to address the complexity of homelessness.”
Adding to the effort was a controversial District Court ruling made last week that forces Los Angeles to give every homeless person in Skid Row housing if they want it. While LA County is now appealing that ruling, it gave additional fodder to the lawmakers to have others press for the $20 billion funding passage.
Many oppose Forcing $20 billion plan on state legislature
Despite the growing support, many lawmakers and organizers remain adamant that the $20 billion effort is not the way to go.
“California is the end result of where homeless people go,” said Los Angeles-based homeless advocate Sawyer Hollis to the Globe. “The warm weather, the laxer laws, and a built-in homeless advocacy network are but a few of the benefits to them here, although in recent years most homeless growth from people coming into California has slowed. From people we’ve talked to, they are actually warning people to stay away from California now.
“Most of the growth has come from inside of California. A lot of lost jobs, COVID, and rising housing costs have been pushing up numbers, even with all those COVID renter protection laws in place.
“More money isn’t the only solution though. It’s making more affordable housing really. That’s the main thing. You can pump all the money you want into shelters, but in the long-term it won’t work unless you work with developers and landlords and start instituting more affordable unit minimums so that more people are housed and that developers can still make money. That has at least alleviated the problem in many areas of the world. Not gotten rid of. Alleviated. But it wouldn’t cost $20 billion to put into place.
“This is just more short-term housing money that doesn’t fix the issue. California can’t afford to think that way, in more ways than one.”
More lawmakers are likely to sign the $20 billion state demand in the coming weeks to put additional pressure on the legislature to bring it up in Sacramento.