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    Prioritizing Funding for Homeless Services

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    Homelessness has reached crisis levels in our state. The latest federal numbers show California’s homeless population has surged to 134,278. Closer to home, San Francisco’s count has reached nearly 7,500.

    Some groups are particularly vulnerable to homelessness, including the LGBT community. An estimated 14% of the City’s population identify as gay, lesbian, queer or transgender. Yet, 30% of the homeless identify as LGBT. We need to step up our efforts to address this issue.

    I’m proud to have stood with the mayors of the state’s eleven largest cities recently, including the mayors of San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland, to introduce Assembly Bill 3171, which will allocate up to $1.5 billion in matching grants to help local leaders curb homelessness. Pooling state and local money together will result in $3 billion in funding to provide more beds and to augment services to get as many people off the streets as possible.

    This prioritization of funding for homeless services comes on the heels of what the Legislature accomplished last year. As Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I fight to ensure San Francisco receives its fair share of funding in the state budget for homeless services. I was excited to join Mayor Mark Farrell and the Board of Supervisors last month to announce $10 million to open two new Navigation Centers in the next few weeks. One will be located in the Bayview/Potrero Hill neighborhood; the other will serve the Mission and Bernal Heights.

    These facilities have had great success in the last couple of years. Unlike traditional shelters, clients can bring pets and belongings. Once inside, they receive lasting social services connections, such as those pertaining to healthcare, job search and more permanent housing. I recently met a gentleman named “John” who had been homeless since 1999. He was accepted into a Navigation Center last year, and he now lives in permanent housing. John’s face lit up as he told me about the prospects of his next step: finding a job. It’s great to hear stories like that and to see how our investment works.

    I also worked to secure $10 million for our state’s homeless youth during last year’s budget process. According to Chapin Hall, a University of Chicago research and policy center, LGBT young people ages 13 to 25 are 120 percent more likely to become homeless than their straight peers. The state’s Office of Emergency Services has already begun approving grants, which will fund housing and programming to those who are homeless and under the age of 24. The hope is to stabilize them so that they can begin their journey toward independence.

    With such momentum, we can’t stop now. I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the Legislature to continue fighting for more funding this legislative session so that all of our local communities have more resources to respond to this urgent matter.

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