“Let’s call it what it is. It’s a disgrace:” Newsom on CA homeless crisis

At State of the State, governor cites need for revenue source to address issue; calls for supportive housing to be exempt from key environmental law

Governor Gavin Newsom and a homeless tent encampment in Skid Row in September 2019 (Credit: Getty Images)
Governor Gavin Newsom calls CA homelessness "a disgrace" (Credit: Getty Images)

Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed to use every resource available to his administration to tackle California’s worsening homeless crisis, and threw the weight of his office behind calls for a permanent stream of revenue to address the issue.

“Let’s call it what it is,” Newsom said during his State of the State address Wednesday. “It’s a disgrace that the richest state, in the richest nation — succeeding across so many sectors — is falling so far behind to properly house, heal and humanely treat so many of its own people.”

“The hard truth,” he added, “is we ignored the problem.” There are an estimated 150,000 California residents who are homeless, according to the Los Angeles Times, nearly a quarter of the total homeless population in the U.S. Newsom attempted to explain some of the long-term systemic causes that have led to this state of affairs: cuts to key safety net programs, “de-institutionalization” of the mentally ill, and other factors.

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There were 36,000 homeless living on the streets of L.A., according to results of a countywide survey released in June. That was a 16 percent increase from the previous year. The same survey found 59,000 homeless living in L.A. County.

The Democratic governor called for a “significant, sustainable revenue” that would help “provide the safer, cleaner streets that communities we represent deserve,” but did not get into specifics about what that revenue would look like. The Times reported that some in Sacramento believe that revenue may require a tax increase.

Newsom also spoke out in support of Assembly Bill 1907, which exempts homeless shelters and low-income housing from the California Environmental Quality Act, a decades-old law that has been used to restrict development. [LAT]TRD Staff