May 21, 2019 at 4:24 pm PDT | by Staff reports
Governor announces Task Force on homelessness

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaking to reporters. (Screenshot KTVU Channel 2, Oakland)

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that he has ordered the creation of a task force on homelessness as California grapples with a mounting housing crisis that has seen record numbers of the state’s residents without having a safe and secure place to call home.

Newsom made the announcement during a press conference at the Henry Robinson Multi-Service Center transitional housing facility, a former hotel on 16th Street in Oakland.

The Democratic governor was flanked by Bay Area elected officials including Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, as well as Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly.

The Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force will be co-chaired by Sacramento’s Mayor Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas the governor told reporters gathered at the Robinson Multi-Service Center. He also noted that he has proposed that the state increase spending on homelessness.

According to the Oakland Housing Authority and Alameda County officials the number of people experiencing homelessness increased 43 percent over the last two years in a report they issued last week.

“This is the humanitarian crisis of our time,” said Mayor Schaaf as she introduced Newsom.

The spending increase is included in the governor’s May budget revision, which also would increase emergency aid for local jurisdictions, make money available to cities and counties directly and fund permanent supportive housing or innovative approaches like motel and hotel conversions.

“No Californian can say homelessness is someone else’s problem – it affects us all,”  Newsom told reporters. “Homelessness is a matter of statewide concern, but solutions will come from the local level.

Mayors, county supervisors and city councils around the state are working hard to reduce homelessness and its underlying causes. We’ll be watching these local and regional solutions closely, to lend a hand and help them scale.”

The governor stressed the importance of state-local partnerships to combat homelessness.

In the greater Los Angeles Metroplex, the escalating problem of homelessness was sharply illustrated by the preliminary results from the 2019 Los Angeles Homeless Count under the direction of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, (LAHSA).

LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn appeared before the LA County Board of Supervisors last month to give them an idea of where the numbers were headed.

“Regardless of the direction of the count, there are tens of thousands of Angelenos who are experiencing homelessness, and that is far too many,” Lynn told the supervisors.

The results of the 2019 homeless count in Los Angeles County will include a detailed demographic and geographic breakdown. It amounts to a comprehensive census of Los Angeles County’s homeless people the Laist reported.

As Lynn pointed out to the supervisors, “we do know the 2019 results in our neighboring counties show homelessness has jumped significantly.”

In Orange County, volunteers counted 6,860 people in 2019, up 43% from 4,792 in 2017 when the last count was administered. In San Bernardino County, the number jumped 23% to 2,607 since 2018. In Riverside County, volunteers counted 2,811 homeless people in January, 22% more than last year. And in Ventura County, the official number increased by 28%, from 1,299 people to 1,669.

The number in Los Angeles County in 2018 was 52,765.

LGBTQ advocacy groups point out that even within those numbers, there are a disproportionately large segment of the overall homeless population who are LGBTQ.

The National Coalition for the Homeless noted in their findings;

Frequently, homeless LGBTQ persons have great difficulty finding shelters that accept and respect them. LGBTQ individuals experiencing homelessness are often at a heightened risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation compared with their heterosexual peers. Transgender people are particularly at physical risk due to a lack of acceptance and are often turned away from shelters.

Of greater concern LGBTQ advocacy groups and centers as documented by the Williams Institute, 40% of the homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBTQ

  • 43% of clients served by drop-in centers identified as LGBTQ
  • 30% of street outreach clients identified as LGBTQ
  • 30% of clients utilizing housing programs identified as LGBTQ

Sacramento’s Mayor Darrell Steinberg told the reporters “The growing problem of homelessness is nothing less than a humanitarian, public health, safety and economic crisis facing California”

“I’m looking forward to working closely with Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and the administration of Governor Newsom to develop comprehensive recommendations for how we can get thousands of people off the streets and into housing, and also help prevent thousands more from slipping into homelessness,” he added.

A brand new first-ever homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth in Sacramento is slated to be opened this summer in the state’s capital city. According to David Heitsuman, the Executive Director of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, plans are in the works to open up a 12 bed transitional shelter of LGBTQ young people between the ages of 18 to 24.

The number one cause is family rejection Heitsuman notes pointing out this is why community leaders feel there is an immense need to focus on LGBTQ youth who are disproportionately impacted by homelessness.  

The Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force will meet a number of times throughout the year in cities and counties around the state to observe best practices firsthand and receive input from governments and constituents statewide to propose solutions to address the homelessness epidemic. The Governor will announce additional members of the Task Force and future meeting dates and locations in the coming weeks.

“I look forward to partnering with California Governor Gavin Newsom, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and other members of this Task Force to ensure that the State of California steps up its efforts in confronting the defining civic and moral crises of our time,” said LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “It is time for all levels of government to intensify our efforts, and take urgent and swift action to combat homelessness.”

The Task Force will consult with local and regional governments around the state to assess best practices and strategies and will deliver at least one annual report to the Governor on the work it performed to guide the creation of joint regional plans to address homelessness, including highlighting best practices and model programs at the local level.

Reporting by the Laist and the staff of the Los Angeles Blade.

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