SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom began a week-long statewide tour Monday promoting his $1 billion effort to address one of California’s most pressing and politically fraught problems — its growing homeless crisis.
The Democratic governor began the trip at Nevada County’s Homeless Outreach and Medical Engagement (HOME) project with a Republican state lawmaker.
“It’s making my life better, making me a better person actually,” said Víctor Moore, a Nevada County citizen.
Listening to clients and volunteers at the Spirit Peer Empowerment Center in Grass Valley, Newsom acknowledged the homeless issue affects not just urban but rural parts of the state.
“We all have to do more and do better,” said Newsom.
Newsom has faced criticism from GOP President Donald Trump, who continued blaming the state’s Democratic leaders last week, particularly those in Los Angeles and San Francisco, for failing to adequately address homelessness.
The governor declared himself California’s “homeless czar” Friday when he asked state lawmakers to approve a $750 million fund that providers could use to pay rents, fund affordable housing or aid boarding and care homes.
“He’s tweeting, we’re doing something,” Newsom said Friday of Trump’s criticism.
On Monday, Newsom said he’s encouraged the issue is on Trump’s radar.
“I think there’s a chance that we’ll see something, I’m actually interestingly optimistic that they’re going to step up,” said Newsom.
The governor’s proposed budget also includes $695 million of state and federal matching funds to boost spending on preventive health care, but his administration said part of that money could go to things like rent assistance if it reduces recipients’ need for health care services.
State agencies are now working to identify vacant land and buildings that could be used as shelters under the governor’s latest executive order.
Newsom said Monday that the cities and counties that work most aggressively on the issue and engage with the state will be first in line to get new support services.
“It’s those that seek our support, that ask for our support, and are committing to allow the states bridge support to be handed off to them for long-term support, which is also a foundational point we’re trying to advance,” said Newsom.
Newsom planned to spend this week meeting with people experiencing homelessness and providers who work with them. He was initially joined by GOP Assemblywoman Megan Dahle at the program northeast of Sacramento that provides health assistance and low-barrier housing.
Additional stops are to include a Southern California suburban area, Los Angeles County, the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. His office said he planned to tour outreach programs, recovery and behavioral health centers and transitional housing shelters.
His plan this year builds on $1 billion in spending he sought a year ago, though the final portion of $650 million in emergency homeless aid to cities and counties was just released last week.
Conservative critics have said the state also should streamline its strict environmental protections to speed up housing construction and address transients who may be resistant to help because of mental illness or drug addiction, perhaps by expanding involuntary treatment.
Aside from the increased funding, Newsom also is offering 100 travel trailers and modular tent structures to cities and counties for use as temporary housing, as well as surplus state property that local governments or nonprofits can use for emergency homeless shelters. That could include property alongside highways or state roads; vacant hospitals and health care facilities; and state fairgrounds.
He began his tour the same day as a council of advisers led by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas released its recommendations. Newsom said many of his proposals last week were already based on their work.
Ashley Zavala contributed to this report.