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    Addressing the Homeless Crisis

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    You see the size of encampments growing all over the Bay Area. In addition, there are more and more people living in their cars or RVs. Homelessness persists in California because we have not built enough housing to keep pace with job growth. That has resulted in a shortage of places to live, driving up the cost of existing housing.

    The latest federal statistics show the state had more than 151,000 people who were homeless in 2019, a 16% jump from the prior year. It’s most acute in urban areas like San Francisco where the unsheltered population has topped 8,000. More than one-quarter of them identify as LGBTQ.

    As state leaders, we know we need to do more. The latest poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found homelessness is the most important issue residents want us to address. We hear you loud and clear.

    Governors Brown and Newsom, in partnership with the State Legislature, have made homelessness a top priority for the last couple of years and will continue to do so. Because of a budget surplus, California is able to support local leaders in responding to the homeless crisis, implementing solutions to get people off the streets.

    In 2018, I worked with the mayors of California’s largest cities to create the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) and helped direct $500 million from the state budget for shelters and services. The following year, I secured another $650 million in emergency homeless funds. The additional money will flow toward creating new shelter beds, expanding the mental health workforce, increasing legal assistance for eviction prevention services, and providing more rapid rehousing—just to name a few.

    San Francisco’s share of the statewide emergency appropriation for homelessness will total more than $67 million. This is on top of the $10 million in state aid I separately championed for the City in 2017. We’ve already seen the money in action, with part of it used to open more Navigation Centers, including the latest one along the Embarcadero. These facilities are effective because clients are allowed to bring their belongings while receiving services on-site, such as healthcare and finding a job. To further our efforts to build more Navigation Centers, I also authored two pieces of legislation now in effect that streamline the approval process for shelters and allow them to be located on surplus CalTrans land.

    The state is poised to provide even more help. Governor Newsom’s latest budget proposal asks that another $750 million be allocated to combat homelessness, including rent subsidies and building more housing. I look forward to vetting his plan during the budget process.

    As Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I will be holding a budget hearing soon to ask groups working directly with the homeless what’s working and where we need to improve. I want to make sure our investments are targeted to solve the crisis before we approve more funding. Hearing details will be available on my website: https://a19.asmdc.org/

    Ending homelessness takes time. It’s a complicated issue with no magic solution. We will get there. It’s just a matter of when.

    Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma, and Daly City.

    Published on January 30, 2020