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Lawmakers call for audit of California's homeless spending

Posted at 5:28 PM, Jan 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-20 20:28:51-05

A group of California lawmakers is raising new questions about what the state is getting in return for the billions of dollars it has spent combating its homeless crisis.

The seven lawmakers, all Republicans, are calling for an audit that will need bipartisan support to get going.

In the last two years, California has invested $2.7 billion on homelessness, and Gov. Gavin Newsom is budgeting an additional $1.4 billion in next year's budget.

Meanwhile, the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development says California's homeless population increased by 16 percent last year, or 21,306 people.

"I don't know where that money is going, and it's being approved by the legislature," said State Sen. Brian Jones, Republican of San Diego County's 38th district, who is calling for the audit. "So if I don't know where it's going, how can the taxpayers know where it's going?"

Newsom's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Last week, Newsom unveiled a proposal for $1.4 billion to overhaul medi-cal and create a new fund that would serve in part to help people on the brink of homelessness make rent.

San Diego homeless advocate Michael McConnell, who is not a member of a political party, said he has been asking many of the questions those seeking the audit are raising.

"We know the big buckets that the money just kind of disappears into, but what we don't do is we don't follow it all the way through to see how many folks were actually getting out of homelessness," he said.

The state's Joint Legislative Audit Committee, comprised mostly of Democrats, will consider the audit request at its Feb. 19 meeting.

Last year, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association reported that local spending on homeless services increased 20-fold in the prior decade, but varying data collection methods made it hard to track return on investment.