California Democratic Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler announced just over $600 million in federal dollars to stem the state's growing homeless crisis, as officials struggle to get a handle on the problem exacerbated by drug addiction and mental illness.
“As we continue our statewide count of people experiencing homelessness, one thing remains clear: We need significantly more federal investment to address this humanitarian crisis,” Padilla said in a statement from January 29.
Butler said in a statement that the funds would be “especially important for our homeless youth, including unaccompanied, pregnant or parenting youth who will now have greater access to programs aimed at preventing homelessness.”
This funding is part of a $3.16 billion investment by the Biden administration to support nonprofits, housing authorities and local governments working to reduce homelessness at scale. national.
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Despite increased taxpayer dollars, the homeless population continues to skyrocket in the Golden State. This is an increase of 6% from last year and has the highest number of homeless people living outside the country. About 181,000 people were considered homeless according to the state's 2023 count, and most suffer from substance abuse or mental illness.
According to a university of San Francisco Study last year, 82% of homeless people statewide reported experiencing a mental health issue or substance abuse in their lifetime.
Chris Moore, candidate for Alameda County supervisor and Bay Rental Housing Association board member, thinks the planned money “is good” but that the state is “not using the best practice “.
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“And I think with more money, that's great, but we need to start looking at best practices,” Moore told Fox News Digital. “And looking at what they're doing there in Houston and starting to solve the problem rather than enable it.”
Houston has reduced its homeless population by 64% over the past 12 years and 17% last year through collaboration among various organizations despite minimal financial investment. Texas spent significantly less money on the homeless than California: $806 versus $10,786 per homeless person.
California has embarked on some of the nation's most controversial practices to address the growing homeless problem.
The state has spent about $20 billion to combat homelessness in the past five years since Gov. Gavin Newsom took office, as part of what's called the housing solution. 'on board “. It is the belief that homelessness can be solved by first placing people in apartments, motels, hotels or “tiny houses”, rather than requiring drug rehabilitation or health treatment mental.
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Some say this strategy doesn't work because most government-run housing programs don't require “wraparound” services, a model of holistic care that includes drug treatment and treatment for mental illness.
Instead, the “risk reduction” model was adopted by the state. health departmentwhich focuses on reducing the consequences of drug use by providing clean syringes, naxolone and other materials to “meet people where they are” and make drug use “safer.”
The Rev. Andy Bales, former CEO of Union Rescue Mission, one of Los Angeles' largest faith-based nonprofits that does not rely on government funding, told Fox News Digital that more people will become homeless thanks to this strategy.
“Housing First, especially with the harm reduction rules, which really translate into the free flow of hard drugs and alcohol, has been a complete failure,” Bales said. “And there's a reason we've made absolutely no progress while California has spent $22 billion over the last six years. And yet homelessness has skyrocketed.”
Bales retired in 2023 from the nonprofit organization after 20 years. He said he continues to study the state's homeless policies and demographic trends.
“California alone accounts for 50% of all street homeless because it has doubled down on housing first and harm reduction, and so if that money continues to be spent, as has been If so, we won't see much positivity or improvement because it's a failed policy,” he said. “There is so much evidence that the numbers don’t lie.
“It is a mistake to finance only one strategy,” he added. “You know, several strategies could make a difference.”
Homeless housing programs that use this approach can be identified through the National Harm Reduction Coalition program. interactive map.
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“Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing the negative consequences associated with drug use,” the National Harm Reduction Coalition website states. “Harm education is also a movement for social justice based on belief and respect for the rights of people who use drugs.”
Newsom faces pressure from voters to reduce the problem at the root. In March, residents will vote on Newsom's $6.4 billion bond proposal to add about 25,000 psychiatric and drug treatment beds across California, a move intended to be a measure of “course correction” from the time when California threw thousands of people from psychiatric centers onto the streets.
“There was some justice in the '60s, with Democrats and Republicans saying, 'We need to get away from these locked down institutions,'” Newsom said last year before signing several mental health bills . “We were supposed to replicate that with community care, and there was no accountability – there was no obligation either way.”