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Governor to provide state money to fight homelessness

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti praised the hundreds of millions of dollars set aside to fight homelessness by Gov. Jerry Brown, although the amount is short of what the mayor has called for and he did not say if he would continue to advocate for a larger state investment in tackling the problem.

Brown’s revised May budget proposal for the 2018-19 fiscal year cites a new surplus of $8.8 billion, which is up from January’s $6.1 billion projection, and he wants to put more than $7 billion of that surplus into the state’s two reserve accounts. At least $359 million in surplus money would go to local and state governments for homelessness initiatives, which is well short of the $1.5 billion Garcetti and mayors from the state’s other large cities want.

“It should be unacceptable to everyone that tens of thousands of Californians are living in desperate need on our sidewalks, in alleys and under freeway overpasses,” Garcetti said. “Gov. Brown’s budget revision recognizes the urgency of the homelessness crisis, and I am grateful that he agrees that we must invest surplus dollars in helping local governments create the emergency bridge shelter, long-term supportive housing, and critical services that can bring people home for good.

“I look forward to working with the governor, the Legislature and mayors across California to make certain that there are enough dollars to make meaningful and lasting strides toward ending the moral and humanitarian crisis on our streets.”

Garcetti traveled to Sacramento last month and was joined by mayors from California’s 10 other largest cities to advocate for a state bill, AB 3171, that would allocate $1.5 billion from the state surplus budget to combat homelessness.

California’s homeless population stands at 134,278, according to 2017 statewide counts. Los Angeles’ transient population increased by 20 percent last year, to more than 34,000.

Garcetti focused heavily on homelessness during his State of the City speech last month and he has also dedicated $429 million toward the issue in his own proposed 2018-19 spending, with more than half of that coming from Measure HHH, a 2016 ballot initiative expected to raise $1.2 billion for permanent supportive housing over 10 years.

The mayor also for the first time has proposed a large-scale temporary homeless shelter system and has dedicated $20 million for it, although he has said he hopes AB 3171 could help double or triple the amount dedicated to the program.

While advocating for the investment in the reserve funds, Brown stressed the need to be fiscally prudent and save the extra billions for when the economy takes a downturn.

“As Isaac Newton observed: What goes up must come down,” Brown said. “Let’s not blow it now.”

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also praised the governor’s action.

“With California now accounting for a quarter of the nation’s homeless population, I’m glad to see that Governor Jerry Brown is ready to confront this crisis,” Ridley-Thomas said. “But while one-time funding from this budget is welcome, we need dedicated ongoing state funding to address the crisis of homelessness in a comprehensive manner.”

 

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