California voters would decide whether to fund a major expansion of housing and treatment for residents suffering from mental illness and addiction, under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest proposal to address the state’s homelessness crisis.
Newsom announced Sunday that he will ask allies in the Democratic-controlled Legislature for a 2024 ballot measure to authorize funds to build residential facilities where more than 10,000 people a year can live and receive treatment. The plan is the latest from the governor who took office in 2019 and vowed to address homelessness in a state where an estimated 171,000 became homeless last year.
“This is the next step in our transformation of how California addresses mental illness, substance use disorder and homelessness: creating thousands of new beds, building more housing, expanding services and more,” Newsom said in a statement. release.
Home to nearly 40 million people, California has nearly a third of the nation’s homeless population, and their numbers are growing much faster than other states, according to an analysis of federal data by the Public Policy Institute of California. Tent encampments have sprung up on sidewalks and under freeway overpasses across California, and people with a clear mental health crisis are a common sight on city streets.
The initiative would be partially funded by general obligation bonds that would go toward building “campus-style” facilities along with smaller homes and long-term residential environments, Newsom’s office said.
In addition, it would revise the California Mental Health Services Act, a voter-approved initiative in 2004 that charges a 1% tax on income over $1 million to fund mental health services. Some lawmakers complained that the money from the initiative went bypassed to those who needed it most, and Newsom’s office said the new version would improve accountability and oversight for counties.
“Modernizing it will lead to $1 billion each year for housing, substance use disorder treatment and more,” the statement said.
State Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, will introduce the measure, which would also provide money to house more than 10,000 homeless veterans across the state, according to the statement.
Newsom planned to reveal more details during a stop Sunday afternoon in San Diego, according to his office. The governor is in the middle of a five-day state tour that he is using to highlight his main political goals. The tour replaced a traditional State of the State speech.
On Thursday, Newsom announced a plan to spend about $30 million to build 1,200 tiny houses across the state to help house people living on the streets. The houses can be assembled quickly and cost a fraction of what it takes to build a permanent home. Federal courts have ruled that cities cannot evict homeless encampments if there are no shelter beds available.
Newsom will travel to Imperial County on Monday to discuss how California is poised to become a world leader in electric vehicles and clean energy, his office said.
The governor’s visit to California comes amid difficult times for the state. After several successful years in Sacramento, California is running an estimated $22.5 billion deficit, and state revenues are falling as the stock market slows.
Recent polls show half of California voters believe the largely Democratic state is headed in the wrong direction, including most independents. And after years of growth, the state’s population has dwindled as people look elsewhere for more affordable housing and a better quality of life.