Governor Gavin Newsom says he’s handing $300 million to cities and state organizations to clear homeless encampments, but insists it’s not just for clearing encampments, but for providing shelter too.
It is probably going to dog Governor Gavin Newsom, perhaps for the rest of his term and into whatever he plans to do next, that homelessness in California has gone up under his administration. And while Newsom has done some nice things with grants, he’s often quick to blame cities or the courts for not being tough enough with encampment sweeps.
His latest announcement is sort of a hybrid of the ‘good cop-bad cop’ approach of more funding along with more crackdowns. KTVU reports that on Monday, Newsom announced he’s putting another $300 million into Encampment Resolution Grants, which by the name is obviously money intended to clear encampments. But Newsom says cities have to show how they're actually going to house these people to get the grant funding.
"We're not just writing a blank check." @CAgovernor @GavinNewsom announces funding to clean up homeless camps - and provide resources & housing, but locals & @CaltransHQ must account for how the money is spent. @Alisabecerra @Cal_ICH also weigh in. https://t.co/FGWOTsLopj pic.twitter.com/KSWGSbxQDO— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) November 28, 2023
"I think we can all agree that we need to do more to clean up encampments," Newsom said Monday. "We weren't just cleaning up encampments — out of sight, out of mind — and displacing people, removing people, but that we're trying to resolve the underlying issues in the first place and actually support people in getting them back on their feet to self-sufficiency."
CA Gov. @GavinNewsom announces $300 million will go toward raiding homeless encampments.— National Homelessness Law Center (@homeless_law) November 28, 2023
With that money, we could house 10.5k people for an entire year in modest, one bedroom apartments in San Francisco, the most expensive city for rentals in the U.S. https://t.co/eJq9v60lGA
Of course Newsom is getting blowback from advocates for the homeless population that he’s focusing more on encampment sweeps than permanent solutions. But what is described in the above tweet that Newsom “could house 10.5k people for an entire year in modest, one bedroom apartments in San Francisco” is not going to happen. Other cities have homelessness issues too, and these grants will go out statewide.
And as Sacramento’s KCRA explains, cities applying for these grants have to meet certain conditions to get the grant money. Cities have to provide maps of the encampments they will clear, how many affected people they will then house, and how they will house them.
"We're not just writing a blank check and hoping things get better,” Newsom said Monday. “They actually have specific numeric goals, minimum expectations and standards that must be met."
Gov. Newsom announced another round of grants that could go toward cities and counties to tackle homeless encampments. https://t.co/6PJ04VECwO— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) November 28, 2023
Though as an NBC Bay Area report points out, half of the money is going to Caltrans, a state transportation agency that definitely engages in clearing encampments on state land, but is not in the business of housing people. So that’s going to fuel the argument that the focus here is more on clearing encampments than getting people shelter, particularly coming on the heels of the APEC encampment sweeps, and an ongoing lawsuit questioning the legality of encampment sweeps.
Regardless, NBC Bay Area adds that cities will have until June 2024 to apply for the grant money.
Image: Joe Kukura, SFist