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Area officials support state legislation for homeless

LOS ANGELES — Local leaders gathered March 6 to throw their support behind a state Assembly bill that could fund billions of dollars to build housing and provide support services for homeless people throughout California.

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, co-authored AB 3300, the bill that aims to provide a continuous fund of about $2 billion and would primarily support continuums of care, and $100 million would be spent on nonprofit housing development.

Santiago, who represents the 53rd Assembly District covering East Los Angeles and part of Southeast L.A. County, said cities would have to provide matching funds for the grants.

“In the state of California, we have allocated money to every category that we care about,” Santiago said at the site of a future homeless shelter in downtown Los Angeles. “This is a values conversation about the fight of our lives.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom has already released $650 million in emergency funding to reduce homelessness, and Santiago said he and his colleagues are trying to get the funding for his homeless bill allocated in this year’s budget cycle by June.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said Los Angeles has stockpiled funding for homeless projects, which will help the city in applying for the funding if it’s approved.

“We’re so far ahead of it, we’re spending our own money in anticipation of the state money,” Garcetti said. “If state money flows even more, we can start spending money before we even have it.”

Cities will be required to report back to the state on how the money is being spent. Santiago said if cities do not spend the money they’re allocated in five years, it would revert back to the state and sent to cities that are using the money.

“We’re asking for [commensurate] spending where the need is across the state of California,” City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said. “That bodes very well for this bill and what the governor will eventually sign. If we really want to end homelessness, we need to have this ongoing funding … and leave absolutely no one behind.”

O’Farrell said Los Angeles will be able to match funding for whatever they ask for if the bill is passed because of the passage of Proposition HHH and the county’s Measure H. He said that by the end of 2023, there will be about 7,000 new units built in the city for homeless people, and another 1,000 units will be completed through the homeless housing challenge the city issued.

“I don’t expect cheers and people to be celebrating in the streets, because [the housing) is not yet visible,” O’Farrell said. “This year, we’re going to have 1,000 of those units done.”

O’Farrell, who chairs the city council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee, asked the City Council to support asking the state to match its last year’s $1.2 billion in Proposition HHH funding.

“We cannot underestimate the punishing forces of poverty, the systematic injustice and health disparities that have caused many Angelenos to make the streets a place where they all can rest each and every night,” said County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, co-chair of the governor’s homeless task force. “It is our collective responsibility to sustain our compassion, our will and our moral outrage.”

The decision regarding the amount of money a city receives will be based on the number of homeless people it has on the annual point-in-time count and areas where housing costs are determined to be severe.

A separate meeting asking for support of the bill was held in Northern California. The bill is expected to be heard by an Assembly committee by March 23.

From City News Service