Re: Budget Request for Housing & Homelessness
Dear Governor Newsom, Senate President Pro Tempore Atkins, Senator Mitchell, Speaker Rendon, and Assembly member Ting:
COVID-19 has laid bare, in the starkest terms, the need for prioritizing state resources toward solving homelessness. People experiencing homelessness are at greatest risk for both spread of the virus and death from the virus. If we are unable to assist people experiencing homelessness access safety, COVID may continue to spread, even if the majority of Californians are sheltering in place. Further, the economic impact of COVID will most certainly result in increases in homelessness.
Thanks to your bold, decisive action, California is prioritizing the needs of people experiencing homelessness and putting them at the center of the state’s response to COVID. While these actions will undoubtedly help arrest the spread of the virus for the next several months, we must turn these short-term measures into lasting solutions to our homelessness crisis. In that spirit, we are committed to ensuring Californians brought indoors in response to COVID are not returned to homelessness once the COVID crisis ends.
For this reason, we urge passage of ongoing, robust investment in strategies that will take to scale evidence-based housing practices and improve existing responses.
Whatever resources the state has at its disposal, whether General Funds, federal Coronavirus Relief Funds, state Community Development Block Grants, and FEMA disaster funds, should be brought to bear, with the goal of investing a total of $2 billion annually, to make certain not a single person sheltered during the pandemic goes back to the streets.
We greatly appreciate the state’s rapid allocation of resources to move people experiencing homelessness to safety in the wake of COVID. Much of the $150 million in emergency state appropriations will leverage FEMA funding to bring tens of thousands of homeless Californians indoors. These steps will allow the most vulnerable homeless Californians to safely shelter in place or quarantine, preventing the spread of this disease. Many of our local jurisdictions are collaborating and coordinating state funding and prioritizing local dollars to address the vulnerabilities our homeless population face in the wake of the crisis:
- In Los Angeles, the City, County, and Continuum of Care (CoC) are collaborating to bring online 15,000 hotel and motel rooms so that the most vulnerable asymptomatic homeless populations can safely shelter in place.
- San Jose, Santa Clara County, and the CoC are partnering to keep open winter shelters and safe parking programs 24/7. They are adding shelter beds to ensure safe distancing, and are sheltering people in 105 of the state trailers.
- San Diego City and County have been working to move thousands experiencing homelessness indoors and are making available over 2,100 motel/hotel rooms, over 400 of which are dedicated to asymptomatic individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
- The County of Orange and the CoC are coordinating to create additional shelter beds for people experiencing homelessness, isolation shelters to provide a medical safety net for homeless individuals who are COVID-19 positive or symptomatic, and non-congregate shelters for those at high-risk.
- The City of Bakersfield, Kern County, and the Bakersfield/Kern CoC are coordinating to expedite construction of 380 additional emergency shelter beds, to implement social distancing measures in existing shelters, and to prepare state trailers for COVID-positive unsheltered individuals.
- Long Beach City and CoC have opened three shelters for people experiencing homelessness, providing more than 200 beds and isolation space, and are coordinating with Los Angeles County to staff and operate a 135-room hotel for COVID-negative, high-risk populations.
- The City and County of San Francisco are using hotels, alternative shelter protocols, and shelter health screening, so that the most vulnerable asymptomatic people experiencing homelessness can safely shelter in place.
While our state and local governments are moving mountains to execute these strategies quickly, we must not lose sight of our long-term objective: to end
homelessness in California. The state’s response must call for transitioning all Californians experiencing homelessness into permanent housing during and after the COVID emergency. This effort will require an extensive, scalable housing strategy and ongoing state funding, as our communities cannot achieve this goal without continued state partnership.
Earlier this year, a coalition that included signatories to this letter urged passage of $2 billion in ongoing funding toward solving homelessness (see attached budget request following this letter). While we understand that COVID has created a new budget reality, we are all joining the effort to secure the long-term investment in homelessness proposed in the earlier budget request, and incorporated in the language of Assembly Bill 3300 (Santiago, Bloom, Bonta, Gipson, Quirk-Silva, Wicks). We believe the state’s prioritization of federal stimulus and any state resources this year can help us reach the goal of $2 billion captured in that letter and bill.
We ask for significant budget action focused on putting California on a sustainable, coordinated, long-term strategic path toward solving homelessness that includes the structural, allocation, and accountability changes outlined in the previous letter, many of which are consistent with the objectives the Governor articulated earlier this year.
We hope to harness the current urgency and the rapid, collaborative community response to COVID-19 to fulfill this goal. This effort to enact comprehensive, thoughtful strategies, even in the face of a truncated budget process, is more critical than ever before.
As the state responds to COVID with urgency, the state must maintain a vision of a longer-term, cost-effective answer that ensures we do not abandon those brought indoors. We are living through unprecedented uncertainty, and call on you to continue your leadership in making certain our most vulnerable Californians are never again vulnerable to a public health crisis because they are homeless. We look forward to working with you to take dramatic, thoughtful, and comprehensive action toward solving homelessness in the wake of this crisis.