Capitol Alert

‘Single greatest threat’ to economy needs $1.5 billion fix, mayors tell Jerry Brown

Mayors representing California’s 11 largest cities want Gov. Jerry Brown to increase state spending to combat homelessness, a deadly crisis they say is worsening across the state.

Led by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, the group wants Brown and lawmakers to commit $1.5 billion from the state budget as places like San Diego confront a Hepatitis A outbreak, encampments crowd public sidewalks in Los Angeles and San Francisco and people die on the streets from fires or exposure to the cold. He said homelessness is the “single greatest threat” to the state’s “economic prosperity.”

“Homelessness is the single biggest quality of life challenge we face in our cities, and cities cannot do it alone,” Steinberg said at a news conference at the Capitol Wednesday. “As our partners at the statehouse think about how to direct new resources to combat the problem, we plant a flag to say, ‘Please send a significant amount of this money through cities because we know what works. There is no secret ... to what is needed to make an impact on homelessness.”

Homelessness has surged across the state, with nearly 135,000 homeless people in California, according to the 2017 count, though that number is likely higher. As the problem grows, there has been more pressure on cities to allocate a greater share of local taxpayer dollars and housing to help the homeless.

The request to the state from the mayors, both Democratic and Republican, came in a letter addressed to state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon earlier this month. Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting, chairman of the Assembly budget committee, and state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, later introduced a budget bill for the $1.5 billion. If signed by Brown, the total investment, with matching dollars by cities, would be $3 billion.

“One of the biggest hurdles that we face is the lack of funding,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Brown, who has warned of an upcoming economic downturn and the need for a rainy day fund, declined to comment directly. Through a Brown spokeswoman, Ali Bay, the governor’s office said, “We look forward to continuing this important discussion as part of the budget process in the weeks ahead.”

How could cities better address homelessness?

“It’s assertive outreach to people on the streets,” Steinberg said. “It’s case management, it’s emergency shelter and triage, it’s permanent housing and its mental health and substance abuse services. ... It’s prevention and early intervention so that as we get people off the street, we’re not replacing them.”

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