California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced that the state would withhold more than $1 billion in funds that were supposed to be allocated in the fight against homelessness, calling plans put forward by local leaders “simply unacceptable.”
“Californians demand accountability and results, not settling for the status quo,” Newsom said in a statement. “Everyone has to do better — cities, counties, and the state included.”
All 58 counties and the state’s 13 largest cities were set to receive part of the $1 billion in funds through the state’s Homelessness Housing, Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) grants.
The plans would collectively decrease homelessness statewide by just 2% over the next four years, according to Newsom. Some plans projected double-digit increases in local homeless populations.
“At this pace, it would take decades to significantly curb homelessness in California,” Newsom said.
The leaders of California’s biggest cities appeared troubled by Newsom’s halt to the funding.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he welcomes the governor’s “ambition to use his bully pulpit” to confront the crisis, but that efforts can’t “get mired in more politics and bureaucracy.”
“Let me be clear: any additional delay at the direction of the Governor hurts our ability to get Angelenos living on the street into safe and stable housing now,” Garcetti said in a statement. “And this is perplexing, after the City worked directly with and received positive feedback from state agencies and County partners to develop our plan.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also characterized Newsom’s move as counterproductive.
“I share the governor’s urgency to reduce homelessness and always stand ready to meet all accountability measurements,” Schaaf told the Marin Independent Journal in a statement. “However, we are perplexed how delaying HHAP funds advances our shared goals.”
Before being elected governor, Newsom was the mayor of San Francisco, a city that currently has more than 7,500 homeless people, according to the latest numbers.
The state capital of Sacramento is outpacing San Francisco, with more than 9,200 people experiencing homelessness on any given night this year.
California counted more than 173,000 homeless people last year, making it the state with the largest unsheltered population in America, according to California’s Homeless Data Integration System.
The funding available through HHAP is part of $15.3 billion that state lawmakers have approved to fight California’s homeless crisis.
Newsom also announced a meeting in mid-November with local leaders to reassess how the state is combating its homeless problem.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.