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Pasadena Mayor, Housing Advocates Applaud Governor’s $12 Billion Homeless Plan, But Want More Details

Published on Thursday, May 13, 2021 | 5:44 am

Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo, as well as local housing advocates, praised Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to spend $12 billion in a bid to end homelessness in California, but also eagerly awaited to learn what the details of the proposal will look like.

Newsom on Tuesday announced a proposal to allocate the large sum of money to combatting homelessness which he said would result in 65,000 people placed in housing, provide more than 300,000 people with housing stability and create 46,000 new housing units. The proposal has been dubbed the California Comeback Plan.

“Governor Newsom’s plan includes a massive expansion of Homekey and other similar strategies to get housing up and running quickly, investing $8.75 billion to unlock at least 46,000 new homeless housing units and affordable apartments,” according to a statement issued by the governor’s office. “The plan focuses on those with the most acute needs, with at least 28,000 new beds and housing placements for clients with behavioral health needs and seniors at the highest risk of homelessness.”

The plan also calls for roughly $1.85 billion for new housing for homeless families and $1.6 billion for rental support and homeless prevention for families.

“Within a year, Homekey (a grant program for agencies to acquire hotels, motels, apartments, and other buildings to provide homes for people) did more to address the homelessness and affordable housing crisis than anything that’s been done in decades and became a national model. Now is the time to double down on these successful efforts,” Newsom said.

“The California Comeback Plan invests a historic $12 billion to expand these successful programs and seeks to end family homelessness within five years,” Newsom added. “That’s the idea behind the Comeback Plan’s homelessness investments — more, faster and with accountability and efficiency stitched into the fabric of these new investments.”

Gordo said the need was clear, but he wanted to find out more about what the plan would entail in practice.

“I applaud the governor for taking us in this direction and would urge the governor to work with cities and counties to put together a comprehensive approach to ensure that these taxpayer dollars have a lasting impact that effectively addresses the issue of homelessness and the great infrastructure needs associated with these issues,” he said.

“Gov. Newsom’s goal is certainly laudable. But we’ve not received many, if any specifics,” the mayor said. The needs involving homelessness — affordable housing, mental health and infrastructure — are all tremendous needs all complicated and in many ways interwoven. I do hope that the governor will use any unexpected excess tax dollars to make a lasting impact in Pasadena and the rest of the state of California. Simply throwing money at a problem without thinking the issues through and the lasting impacts of expenditures would be a missed opportunity.”

Gordo said he was pleased the state had a surplus and that the governor was focused on the issue of homeless.

“But I would say to the governor, ‘Let’s take a step back and look at the root causes of homelessness, look at the potential to use these surplus dollars in a way that makes a lasting impact throughout California, not just a one time splash,’” he said

“It’s one thing to say we’re going to build housing, but what’s the plan for sustaining and maintaining that housing? What’s the plan for ensuring that the people who are there receive the services that they might need?” Gordo said.

Local housing advocate Michelle White also commended the spirit of the proposal, but also wanted to know more.

“If it’s for homelessness, I’m assuming it’s for permanent supportive housing, which would be not just the housing, but the supportive services that are needed to keep people housed, such as mental health or other kinds of services,” White said.

“That would be wonderful. Unfortunately, we’ve had in the past money set aside, and yet, with the county money, we haven’t had as many units actually come into existence as we had anticipated. But it is wonderful that we have more money coming down the pike.”

White commended the city government for its approach to the issue.

“Pasadena is noted, especially in San Gabriel Valley, but also somewhat in comparison to L.A., for it’s being innovative in the ways that it has used its housing funds. So I have to give kudos to Bill Huang and his [Housing Department] staff in that regard,” she said.

Considering the scope of the problem, another local housing advocate, Jill Shook, described the governor’s plan as “a great start.”

“It’s going to take even more than that, but I think it’s great that he’s provided this,” she said.

“I just hope that a lot of it goes toward the actual permanent supportive housing. But the biggest issue is all the land use,” Shook said. “We definitely need the money, but we really need to make it possible to get these things passed by right, without going through hundreds of processes in cities where everybody could come out and fight it.”

Additional help from the federal government is also needed, she added.

“We need help at all levels. We need the federal level to kick in more Section 8 for the state of California that is project-based,” Shook said.

“There’re more homeless folks here than any other city in San Gabriel Valley. So we’ve got to do something,” she said. “The issue is that we’ve grown accustomed. It’s kind of like, ‘Well, that’s just the way it is.’”

“We don’t believe that. We can end homelessness. We’ve already lowered the homeless count by 56% in the last 10 years. So we just need to continue doing it until it’s done.”

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