Newsom-Meter

Expand homeless services

"Expand social services, healthcare (including mental health), bridge housing, and permanent supportive housing" for the homeless.

Sources:

Gavin Newsom for Governor 2018 website

Subjects: Homeless

Updates

In this Friday, June 17, 2016 photo, homeless man David Brophy, right, talks to People Assisting The Homeless (PATH) outreach team members who are helping him acquire an ID card on a street near where he lives in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
In this Friday, June 17, 2016 photo, homeless man David Brophy, right, talks to People Assisting The Homeless (PATH) outreach team members who are helping him acquire an ID card on a street near where he lives in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Gavin Newsom promised to expand homeless services. How is he doing?

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed to solve California's homelessness crisis, a problem that has deepened in cities big and small since he took office in January. 

Running for governor, he pledged to appoint a cabinet-level homelessness czar ‒ a promise we rated 'Stalled' last month after a lack of action. 

But he also committed to expanding homeless services, one of a dozen specific promises PolitiFact California is tracking on the Newsom-Meter

Here's what he pledged:

"Expand social services, healthcare (including mental health), bridge housing, and permanent supportive housing" for homeless people.

-- Gavin Newsom for Governor 2018 website

We rated that promise 'In the Works' in February after Newsom called for spending $625 million on services for homeless people in his first state budget and for speeding up the construction of homeless shelters and housing through a streamlined review process. 

Eight months later, we wanted to know what additional progress he's made, and whether there's evidence to change our rating or keep it the same. 

'More money than we've ever seen'

Our look at Newsom's actions comes as Californians are growing more concerned over the homeless crisis. A Public Policy Institute of California survey released this week found 15 percent cited homelessness as the state's biggest problem, tied with the economy for top problems overall. 

We examined the budget Newsom approved in June, as well as a package of 13 homelessness bills he signed last week, many of which are designed to speed up shelter construction. 

The spending plan includes $1 billion for homelessness, an historic amount according to the governor and advocates for homeless people. It includes $650 million in one-time funds to build and expand "emergency shelters and navigation centers, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, job programs, and for innovative projects like hotel/motel conversions," according to the state's budget summary

"The budget is more money than we've ever seen," said Sharon Rapport, associate director of the California Policy Corporation for Supportive Housing. "Of course, I'm an advocate. So, I think he could do a lot more." 

Newsom should, for example, make this year's one-time funding permanent, suggested Rapport, who serves on the governor's Council of Regional Homeless Advisors. The state also needs to better coordinate how money goes out the door, she said, noting a cabinet level secretary would help with that effort.

In a news release last week, the governor agreed with the need to distribute funds more quickly and urged the council to identify ways to do that. He also praised the state's early progress boosting homeless services. 

"Homelessness is a national emergency that demands more than just words, it demands action," Newsom said. "State government is now doing more than ever before to help local governments fight homelessness, expand proven programs and speed up rehousing."

Funds for people at risk of becoming homeless 

The governor also ramped up funding for several programs that could help those at risk of becoming homeless, said Anya Lawler, a housing advocate at Western Center on Law and Poverty, who also serves on the council. 

That includes a $600 million increase of the state Earned Income Tax Credit, which will expand the number of low-income Californians who receive the credit from 2 million to 3 million. It also includes Newsom's expansion of Medi-Cal to undocumented young adults, Lawler said.  

"Unfortunately, this year's budget didn't include funding to restore massive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) grant cuts from a decade ago, which we hope will be on the Governor's agenda in the near future. This is critical since the fastest growing segment of the newly homeless is seniors," she added. 

Package of homelessness bills

Several of the bills Newsom signed are meant to speed up the construction of homeless projects and give cities and counties more control over that process. For example, AB 1197 by Asm. Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, exempts supportive housing and shelter projects from certain environmental reviews in the city of Los Angeles. 

AB 143 by Asm. Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Los Angeles, allows Alameda and Orange counties, including all of the cities in those counties, plus San Jose, to declare a shelter crisis to suspend state health, planning, zoning and safety standards to expedite construction. 

"I think it's a beginning," Lisa Hershey, executive director of Housing California, said of Newsom's bill signings and budget. She added the governor can leave "a deeper mark" on the crisis by signing a few additional bills, including AB 1482.

That bill would cap rent increases at 5 percent plus the cost of inflation during any 12-month period. The maximum combined increase per year would be set at 10 percent. 

Newsom worked with lawmakers and business groups in late August to come to an agreement on that bill. He is expected to sign it this month. The governor's news release includes a full list and summary of the homelessness bills he signed last week.

Conclusion

Newsom's budget and the legislation he signed represent a large step forward on his promise to expand homeless services. They are evidence that he's not only proposed solutions but is following through on them. 

We'll continue to track this topic, including whether the added funds and fast-tracked construction plans quickly translate into actual, on-the-ground expansion of social, healthcare and housing services Newsom pledged. 

For now, the governor's promise remains 'In the Works.'


In the Works — This indicates the promise has been proposed or is being considered.

Track Gov. Gavin Newsom's progress, or lack thereof, on his campaign promises on our Newsom-Meter page.

Sources:

Lisa Hershey, executive director, Housing California, phone interview Sept. 27, 2019

Sharon Rapport, Associate Director, California Policy Corporation for Supportive Housing, phone interview, Oct. 1, 2019

Anya Lawler, housing advocate, Western Center on Law and Poverty, email exchange Oct. 2, 2019

Gov. Gavin Newsom, news release, Sept. 26, 2019

California State Budget, homelessness summary, accessed October 2019

Public Policy Institute of California, PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Their Government, September 2019

PolitiFact California, What has California Gov. Gavin Newsom done so far for the homeless?, Feb. 25, 2019

PolitiFact California, Dispelling myths about California's homeless, June 28, 2018

PolitiFact California, Has California's homeless population 'skyrocketed'? And how does it rate nationwide?, March 27, 2018

PolitiFact California, Fact-checking claims on California's unsheltered homeless population, July 25, 2019

A homeless woman sits with a bag containing her belongings in March 2016 in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A homeless woman sits with a bag containing her belongings in March 2016 in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

What has California Gov. Gavin Newsom done so far for the homeless?

During his run for governor, Gavin Newsom said California needed state leadership "laser-focused" on its homeless crisis.

"We've been managing this problem for too long; it's time to solve it," Newsom wrote on his campaign website.

"I want to be held accountable on this issue, and I want to be disruptive of the status quo," Newsom added in an interview with the Sacramento Bee last July, while touring San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood, where many of the city's homeless live. "I'm willing to take risks. I'm not here to be loved. What's going on is unacceptable, and it is inhumane."

Newsom, a Democrat and San Francisco's former mayor, pledged during the campaign to create a comprehensive set of housing and health services to help the state's 130,000 people without a home.

PolitiFact California is tracking now-Gov. Newsom's progress, or lack thereof, on this and other promises through our Newsom-Meter.

Specifically, here's what he pledged:

"Expand social services, healthcare (including mental health), bridge housing, and permanent supportive housing" for the homeless.

-- Gavin Newsom for Governor 2018 website

California is home to one quarter of the nation's homeless people, though it represents just 12 percent of the country's overall population. It also has the highest share of unsheltered homeless people, 69 percent, of any state.

Two years ago, California's homeless population jumped nearly 14 percent as the nation's remained flat; last year, it declined 1 percent.

Has Newsom made progress on this pledge? We checked his efforts so far.  

Our research

Newsom's January budget proposal shows the clearest evidence of his progress. It calls for $625 million in funding for homeless programs, according to a recent review by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

SOURCE: California Legislative Analyst's Office report on Gov. Newsom's spending proposals on homelessness.

It proposes $500 million in one-time funds for cities and counties to plan and build emergency shelters, navigation centers or supportive housing. Of that total, $300 million would go to regional planning for the projects and $200 million would be awarded to cities that show progress developing them. The navigation centers would offer services to homeless people on site such as drug and alcohol counseling.

The governor's budget would also spend $100 million in one-time money to fund housing and supportive services for the homeless, or those at risk, with a focus on the mentally ill. Additionally, it includes $25 million annually to help individuals who are homeless and disabled apply for disability benefits.

Finally, Newsom in January said he'll seek legislation to streamline environmental laws to speed up the construction of homeless projects.

'Miles and miles different than our previous governor'

We spoke with two advocates for the homeless who said they're impressed, at this point, with Newsom's moves.

"I think he (Newsom) has some ambitious goals, and I think we're still really early on— we're 30 days in," said Chris Martin, a legislative advocate for Housing California, "And to think we've gotten this far already with him is really kind of a testament to his goals."

Making homelessness a statewide priority, "is miles and miles different than our previous governor who thought this was more of a local challenge," Martin added.

Newsom's budget and statements on homelessness show he's "headed in the right direction," added Sharon Rapport, associate director of the California Policy Corporation for Supportive Housing.

Along with his campaign promise to expand services, Newsom pledged to appoint a Homeless Secretary to lead an Interagency Council on Homelessness.

A spokesman for the governor said Newsom still plans to make that appointment, but offered no timeline. We'll assess the progress on that promise in a future update.

Finally, during Newsom's State of the State Address this month, he announced Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg will lead his newly created Commission on Homelessness and Supportive Housing. He said the commission's goal is to address the underlying causes that keep people on the streets.

Our rating

Gavin Newsom promised in his run for governor to expand a suite of housing and health services for the homeless.

The $625 million Newsom proposed for those services, including for the homeless with mental illness and other disabilities, along with his call to streamline environmental reviews for homeless projects, demonstrate early progress.

But Newsom hasn't fulfilled anything yet. The Legislature must still vote on his proposals.

For now, we rate Newsom's promise "In the Works."


In the Works — This indicates the promise has been proposed or is being considered.

PolitiFact California intern Sami Soto contributed research and writing for this story. 

How the Newsom-Meter works:

We'll publish updates on Newsom's progress, or lack thereof, on each of 12 campaign pledges. We will rate outcomes, not intentions or proposed solutions, the same standard used for PolitiFact's other promise meters.

The Newsom-Meter has six levels:

Not Yet Rated — Every promise begins at this level and retains this rating until we see evidence of progress — or evidence that it has stalled.

In the Works — This indicates the promise has been proposed or is being considered.

Stalled — There is no movement on the promise, perhaps because of limitations on money, opposition from lawmakers or a shift in priorities.

Compromise — Promises earn this rating when they accomplish substantially less than the official's original statement but when there is still a significant accomplishment that is consistent with the goal.

Promise Kept — Promises earn this rating when the original promise is mostly or completely fulfilled.

Promise Broken – The promise has not been fulfilled. This could occur because of inaction by the executive or lack of support from the legislative branch or other group that was critical to its success. A Promise Broken rating does not necessarily mean that the executive failed to advocate for the policy.

Sources:

Gov. Gavin Newsom, Governor's Budget Summary, Jan. 10, 2019

Capital Public Radio, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg To Head California's New Homelessness Commission, Feb. 12, 2019

California Legislative Analyst's Office, Considerations for Governor's Proposals to Address Homelessness, Feb. 21, 2019

U.S. Deptartment of Housing and Urban Development, The 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, Dec. 2018

Sacramento Bee, Needles, feces still litter San Francisco. Could a Governor Gavin Newsom fix it?, July 25, 2018

PolitiFact California, Dispelling myths about California's homeless, June 28, 2018

PolitiFact California, Has California's homeless population 'skyrocketed'? And how does it rate nationwide?, March 27, 2018

Chris Martin, legislative advocate, Housing California, interview Feb. 19, 2019

Jesse Meglar, Deputy Director of public affairs, Governor Newsom's Office, email exchange Feb. 19, 2019

Sharon Rapport, Associate Director, California Policy Corporation for Supportive Housing, phone interview, Feb. 21, 2019