Democrats to send $600M in federal dollars to California, fight homelessness

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Democratic California senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler announced just over $600 million in federal dollars to help stem the state’s spiraling homelessness crisis, as officials struggle to get a handle on the problem. exacerbated by drug addiction and mental illness.

“As we continue our state count of homelessness, one thing remains clear: We need much more federal investment to address this humanitarian crisis,” Padilla said in a statement on 29 January.

Butler said in a statement that the money would be “particularly important to our youth who are homeless, including unaccompanied and pregnant or parenting youth who now have greater access to programs that target has prevented homelessness. “

The funding is part of a $3.16 billion investment from the Biden administration to support non-profit organizations, housing authorities and local governments that are struggling to reduce homelessness across the country.

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A mobile tent belonging to a homeless person

A tarp and trash belonging to homeless people camping along the Tuolumne River in Modesto, Calif., January 23, 2024. (Modesto Police Department)

Despite more taxpayer dollars at work, the homeless population continues to skyrocket in the Golden State. It is up 6% compared to last year and has the largest number of homeless people living outside the country. About 181,000 people were considered homeless in the state’s 2023 census, and most suffer from drug addiction or mental illness.

According to a study from the University of San Francisco last year, 82% of homeless people nationwide said they had a mental health condition or had abused substances in their lifetime.

Chris Moore, a candidate for Alameda County supervisor and board member of the Bay Rental Housing Association, believes that the money identified is “good,” but that the state is “not using best practices.” ”

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“And I think with more money, it’s great, but we have to start looking at best practices,” Moore told Fox News Digital. “And look at what they’re doing there in Houston and start solving the problem rather than enabling the problem.”

Houston cut its homeless population by 64% over the past 12 years and 17% last year through inter-agency collaboration despite little financial investment. Texas has spent much less money on homelessness compared to California – $806 versus $10,786 per homeless person.

Homeless man on the streets of SF

Homeless men on a sidewalk in San Francisco September 2, 2023. (Tayfun Coskun Group/Anadolu via Getty Images)

California has dipped its toes into some of the nation’s most controversial practices to address its growing homelessness problem.

The state has spent about $20 billion on homelessness in the past five years since Gov. Gavin Newsom in office under the so-called “housing first” solution. The idea is that homelessness is solved by placing people first in apartments, motels, hotels or “tiny homes,” rather than prescribing drug addiction rehab or mental health treatment .

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Some say this strategy won’t work, because most government-run housing programs don’t require “wrap-around” services, a comprehensive model of care that includes drug rehabilitation and treatment of mental illnesses.

Instead, the “harm reduction” model has been adopted by the state Department of Health, which aims to reduce the impact of drug use by offering clean syringes, naxolone and other supplies to “meet people where they are” and make drug use “safer.”

The Reverend said Andy Bales, former CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, one of the largest non-profit organizations in Los Angeles that does not rely on government funding, told Fox News Digital that more people will become homeless under the strategy.

Newsom smiles at a press conference in Sacramento

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference in Sacramento, California, March 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

“Housing First, especially with the Debt Reduction rules, which really translates into the free flow of hard drugs and alcohol, has been a complete failure,” Bales said. “And there’s a reason why we made no progress after California spent $22 billion in the last six years. Yet homelessness has skyrocketed.”

Bales will retire in 2023 from the nonprofit after 20 years. He said he continues to study the state’s homeless policies and population trends.

“California alone represents 50% of homeless people on the street because they have doubled down on housing first and harm reduction policy, so if it continues to be spent, as it has been , we don’t see much hope or development because it is. a failed policy,” he said. “There is so much evidence to show that the numbers don’t lie.

“It’s a mistake to fund just one strategy,” he said. “You know, a number of strategies could make a difference. “

Homeless housing programs that use this approach can be identified through the National Harm Reduction Coalition’s interactive map.

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“Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative outcomes associated with drug use,” the National Harm Reduction Coalition website says. “Harm education is also a movement for social justice based on belief and respect for the rights of people who use drugs. “

Newsom is under pressure from voters to tone down the issue at hand. In March, residents will vote on Newsom’s proposed $6.4 billion bond that aims to add about 25,000 psychiatric and addiction treatment beds across California, a move that aim to act as a “course correction” since California dumped thousands of people from psychiatric institutions on the streets.

“There was a realism in the ’60s, with Democrats and Republicans saying, ‘We’ve got to move away from these detention centers,'” Newsom said last year before signing several mental health bills. “We were supposed to replicate that with community-based care, and there was no accountability — no obligation either way.”

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