But If Gavin Newsom Helps Fix California's Homelessness, What Will Trump Gloat About?
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a suite of proposals aimed at helping homeless people get housing, health care, and access to services, making homelessness a top priority for the state's budget in 2020. Newsom released the plan in a memo yesterday, ahead of his formal annual budget proposal which is expected by Friday. The two biggest parts of the proposal are a new $750 million fund that would provide county and municipal governments with funding to get people into housing (and to help keep them from losing their homes in the first place), and another $700 million aimed at addressing health needs by expanding the state's Medicaid alternative, Medi-Cal, to better assist people with mental health services and integrate Medi-Cal with other social services that will help people get into stable housing.
In addition, Newsom signed an executive order directing state agencies to identify vacant state-owned land and buildings that can be used for emergency shelters and for longer-term housing needs. The order will release 100 trailer homes to cities and counties to house people temporarily, as well as instituting a study of root causes of homelessness in the state, and creating a "strike team" to reshape California's mental health services for the homeless.
California's homeless population has grown sharply in recent years, largely due to a shortage of affordable housing that's gotten worse as big tech companies have attracted new employees, driving up housing prices. From January 2018 to January 2019, California's homeless population has increased by about 21,000 to a total of just over 150,000, according to a new US Department of Housing and Urban Development report.
Donald Trump and Fox News are doing their best to help, which in this case means pointing and yeliing about human excrement and discarded needles on the sidewalks, proving that Democrats make life worse. The "president" has threatened to Git Tough on homelessness in California without offering any substantial aid or specific proposals, because why would he want to give up a perfectly good applause line at his rallies?
Newsom's upcoming budget plan is aimed at addressing homelessness at all levels, funding existing facilities that serve people without housing, building more shelters and transitional housing, providing temporary safe parking locations for people living out of cars and RVs, and funding rent and other assistance for people before they get evicted. The emphasis is on "housing first" -- getting people into housing so they're off the streets, and then connecting them to mental health, substance abuse, other services they need to keep a roof over their head.
The $750 million in new funding comes on top of $650 million the legislature approved last year (but which couldn't be spent due to Trump administration interference, so Newsom had to take emergency action last month to release the funds). The new funds won't require new taxes, since they come from a revenue surplus in the general fund, but they must be approved by the state legislature, meaning the new funding won't get to counties and cities before July 1. In the meantime, Newsom will ask for additional help from charities and private sector sources.
The proposal to upgrade Medi-Cal hasn't yet been finalized, but this outline from the LA Times sounds like a pretty smart idea that dovetails with Newsom's housing-first goals:
[The] effort appears to be in line with recommendations made in October to refocus many of the state's healthcare efforts on so-called whole-person care, which takes into account social conditions that affect a person's well-being. For those who are homeless, that would include help finding adequate housing and financial assistance with the care needed to recuperate from living in unsheltered environments. The governor's budget proposal would also restructure county-managed behavioral health programs so that the services more closely resemble those offered by other healthcare providers.
Politico also notes the plan would "provide safe shelter as repeat emergency room visitors recuperate from illness or injury," so people aren't simply being given the legally mandated care necessarily to stabilize them ... then sent off in a taxi to Skid Row, sometimes still in their hospital gowns. In addition, Newsom wants to fix problems with how providers get paid for behavior health services, and to fully integrate "mental health and substance abuse services with the larger Medi-Cal program." Like Medicaid anywhere, the expansion of Medi-Cal would be paid for through a mix of federal and state funding.
Wow, we got through all that without once saying "holistic." Nuts.
All in all, it sounds like a well-thought-out approach to addressing one of California's biggest challenges. We can hardly wait for Donald Trump to go on Fox and explain how he'll stop it. Maybe he'll demand Newsom send homeless people to rake the forests, and then make a joke about avocados.
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