SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Gov. Gavin Newsom visited San Diego Tuesday to unveil a $12 billion plan to tackle the state's homelessness crisis -- part of his proposed $100 billion California Comeback Plan.
The investment is intended to provide 65,000 people with housing placements, more than 300,000 people with housing stability and create 46,000 new housing units.
Newsom's plan includes an expansion of Homekey -- a program that provided shelter from COVID-19 to 36,000 Californians and created 6,000 affordable housing units -- and other similar strategies to get housing up and running quickly.
"Within a year, Homekey did more to address the homelessness and affordable housing crisis than anything that's been done in decades and became a national model," Newsom said. "Now is the time to double down on these successful efforts."
The plan focuses on those with the most acute needs, with at least 28,000 new beds and housing placements for clients with behavioral health needs and seniors at the highest risk of homelessness.
It also comes with "greater accountability and transparency measures," Newsom said, to make sure investments are put toward effective solutions and money is well spent.
The state will seek to functionally end family homelessness within five years through $1.85 billion in new housing for homeless families and $1.6 billion in rental support and homelessness prevention for families.
Alpha Project CEO Bob McElroy said of the governor’s proposed plan, “That’s great every penny counts.”
McElroy said while those programs are helpful, there are other areas state and local leaders should address such as mental health.
“Fifteen percent or more of the population are trapped in severe mental illness and until that’s addressed, there’s no place for those folks. And there’s nothing good or right about that, and unfortunately, that population uses 80 percent of the resources of police, fire, and emergency room visits,” McElroy said.
McElroy also believes there needs to be more job opportunities made available to the homeless, adding a big part of that will be a change in how the homeless population is viewed.
“People need to start looking at homeless folks as a resource instead of a liability all the time. There are a lot of good people out there, just looking for an opportunity and we need to give it to them,” he said.
The California Comeback Plan made headlines Monday when Newsom revealed the first portion of the $100 billion proposal -- $600 stimulus checks to Californians earning under $75,000 annually and another $500 for families. He said it would impact around two-thirds of all Californians.
He also proposed an additional $1.5 billion investment to clean public spaces near highways and transform public spaces through arts and cultural projects. Newsom said the initiative is expected to create an estimated 15,000 jobs, including for people experiencing or exiting homelessness, at-risk youth, veterans and formerly incarcerated individuals.
Newsom, facing a recall election later this year, received criticism from two local gubernatorial candidates Tuesday.
"Homelessness has skyrocketed by 10,000 people since Gavin Newsom took office," former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. "No amount of money will solve this crisis without a leader who has the political will to buck the status quo and take bold actions to get people off the streets and indoors to receive the help they need."
Faulconer touted his own record in San Diego, where homelessness declined during his tenure, and said he could do the same for the state writ large.
John Cox, a Rancho Santa Fe businessman and Newsom's Republican challenger in the 2018 gubernatorial race, also spoke in San Diego on Tuesday. In tow was Tag, a 1,000-pound Kodiak bear in a revival of a stunt that stoked controversy from animal rights activists when he was trotted out for Cox's campaign last week in Sacramento.
"California is losing population for the first time in our history," Cox said. "The pretty boy politicians like Gavin Newsom are failing our state. It's time to make beastly changes to shake up Sacramento and save California."
Newsom bested Cox in 2018 by nearly three million votes.
The field of Republican challengers also includes reality TV star and Olympic decathlete Caitlyn Jenner and former Rep. Doug Ose.