Homelessness is not just a big city issue, and it does not just affect the people who are enduring it themselves. It also matters to small business and impacts all of us in our quality of life. With more than 100,000 people living on the streets, it is a clear symptom of serious problems within our society.
And the problems driven by homelessness are becoming more costly and prevalent.
In response, a bipartisan coalition of members from the California State Senate introduced a solution that aims at the actual illness: not the symptoms. This first-of-its kind “No Place like Home” initiative will assist local communities in preventing and addressing homelessness. The recently-enacted state budget included about $150 million for these priorities.
Bipartisan Senate Initiative to Prevent and Address Homelessness in our Local Communities
The Senate proposal on homelessness re-purposes bond money from Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, and creatively leverages billions of additional dollars from other local, state, and federal agencies to achieve the following goals:
- A $2 billion bond to construct permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless persons with mental illness. This measure has been passed by both houses of the Legislature and awaits the Governor’s signature (the Governor has already indicated his support).
- $45 million—already included in the recently enacted state budget—to provide supportive housing in the shorter-term, rent subsidies, while the permanent housing is constructed or rehabilitated. This will help tens of thousands of people afford a place to live.
- $22 million—already included in the recently-enacted state budget—to support for two special housing programs that will assist families:
The “Bringing Families Home” pilot project, a county matching grant program to reduce homelessness among families that are part of the child welfare system.
The CalWORKs Housing Support Program, which provides housing and support services for CalWORKs families in danger of homelessness.
Preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place
- The State will additionally work to stop homelessness before it starts by targeting an increase in Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) grants to 1.3 million Californians who are considered at risk of becoming homeless. These grants provide income support for the aged, blind, and disabled poor who cannot work. The recently-enacted state budget included $75 million to provide of almost 3% to these grants.
Rates of homelessness are higher for persons with disabilities who cannot work; SSI/SSP is intended to help them make ends meet, and a large portion of grants usually goes toward rent.
- $45 million—also included in the recently enacted state budget—for a one-time investment to incentivize local governments to boost outreach efforts and advocacy to get more eligible poor people enrolled in the SSI/SSP program.
The federal government covers 72% of the total costs of the SSI/SSP program, so state and local benefits are multiplied significantly for each newly eligible recipient.