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Newsom claims homelessness will be his top priority in 2020

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It’s an issue he couldn’t fix while mayor of SF

A blue recycling bin and a full black garbage bag on a sidewalk with a man sleeping next to them as he shields his eyes from the sun.
A homeless man sleeps in front of recycling bins and garbage on a street corner in San Francisco.
Photo by AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

“A year from now nothing will have changed,” said one cynical yet possibly accurate response to the tweet announcing that homelessness will be Gov. Gavin Newsom’s top priority in 2020.

The California governor on Wednesday proposed spending more than $1.4 billion on efforts to combat homelessness—specifically, $750 million in taxpayer money to help move shelterless people into supportive housing and $700 million to care for the health needs to people living on the streets.

He also signed an executive order for cities and counties to find vacant properties—which, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, would include “excess state land that has been set aside for affordable-housing development, lots next to highways and state roads, decommissioned hospitals and health care centers, and fairgrounds”—on which to build emergency shelters.

The plan will also include state-owned travel trailers and tent structures to serve as temporary shelter.

“Californians have lots of compassion for those among us who are living without shelter,” Newsom said in a statement. “But we also know what compassion isn’t. Compassion isn’t allowing a person suffering a severe psychotic break or from a lethal substance abuse addiction to literally drift towards death on our streets and sidewalks.”

The skyrocketing cost of housing combined with a dearth of affordable housing has, in part, resulted in a homeless crisis the likes of which the Golden State has never seen. So much so that it’s been a recurring talking point for President Donald Trump, who, in addition to attacking the inability of state lawmakers to fix the problem, often spars with Newsom over California’s chronically frayed state.

According to a report released Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than one-quarter of the nation’s homeless population lives in California, an estimated 151,000 people. The report goes on to note that although the homeless population dropped in most states last year, it climbed 16 percent in California.

Newsom announced his billion-dollar remedy ahead of his annual budget plan for the fiscal year, which he will announce Friday.

While the governor appears keen on fixing the state’s homeless crisis—a feat he failed to accomplish during his tenure as mayor of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011—he refused to endorse a key “right to housing” legislation by Assemblymember Autumn Burke of Marina del Rey.

The newly amended legislation says that “it is the policy of the state that every child and family has the right to housing” and includes public assistance to help families finding themselves on the verge of homelessness, according to Politico.

“It is $81,000 a year to incarcerate a person; for a two-bedroom apartment, it’s $25,000 a year,” said Burke in an interview. “It is not just morally incumbent on us to provide a right to housing but financially it is the responsible thing to do.”

Many of the governor’s big ideas to build new housing have fallen short or failed. And, according the San Francisco Chronicle’s look back at Newsom’s first-year campaign promises, his vow to build a whopping 3.5 million new homes in the state by 2025 has fallen short.

“That has not happened,” says the city’s paper of record. “Instead, local governments were on track to issue nearly 8 percent fewer housing permits during Newsom’s first year than in 2018.”