SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Gov. Gavin Newsom joined Senate President pro tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and 100 volunteers Thursday in a federally mandated effort to count the county's homeless population.
Newsom and Atkins took part in the "We All Count" point-in-time count beginning at 4:30 a.m. with volunteers from San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness and Downtown San Diego Partnership.
The elected officials spoke with several individuals in the hour they spent on the county, and finished their morning by touring PATH San Diego, as well as preparing and serving warm meals.
"One thing I know, as a former county supervisor and county mayor and now as governor, is that city hall can't do this alone," Newsom said. "There's no compassion stepping over people on the streets or sidewalks. We rely on the hundreds of volunteers across the state to conduct these point-in-time counts each year so we get a clearer picture of just how dire this crisis is."
The count is required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine federal funding for programs dealing with homelessness.
Last year's count determined there were 8,102 people in San Diego County spending the night in the streets or in a shelter.
Newsom has made reducing homelessness a top priority of his second year in office. He signed an executive order Jan. 8 as part of a comprehensive state response to homelessness.
The order included creation of the California Access to Housing and Services Fund, expediting the availability of state land assets to temporarily house the homeless and directing the Department of General Services to supply 100 camp trailers from the state fleet and the Emergency Medical Services Authority to deploy modular tent structures to provide temporary housing and delivery of health and social services across the state.
In his state budget proposal released Jan. 10, Newsom formally announced more than $1 billion in homeless response funding, including $750 million for the Access to Housing and Services Fund, and making changes to the Medi-Cal system to better serve individuals experiencing mental illness and homelessness.
"The state of California is treating homelessness as a real emergency because it is one," Newsom said in connection with signing the executive order. "Californians are demanding that all levels of government -- federal, state and local -- do more to get people off the streets and into services, whether that's housing, mental health services, substance abuse treatment or all of the above.
"That's why we're using every tool in the toolbox -- from proposing a massive new infusion of state dollars in the budget that goes directly to homeless individuals, emergency housing and treatment programs to building short-term emergency housing on vacant state-owned land."
Newsom has called for a statewide day of action on Cesar Chavez Day -- March 31 -- calling on residents to volunteer with nonprofit organizations to support people without housing or shelter.
Atkins called homelessness "one of the great social and moral issues of our time, and while I am pleased we have made important efforts through legislation and the budget, we know there is so much more to do."
"I commend Governor Newsom for his commitment to addressing the issue looking at the whole person who is experiencing homelessness as we continue to tackle this critical issue," Atkins said.