Housing Alone Won’t Solve California’s Homelessness Problem

The California governor recall election is only months away. However, it remains to be seen how many months are left to see, as no date has yet been set for the election.

Whenever that happens, one of the things that makes Governor Newsom vulnerable is that, despite his rhetoric about (and ever greater investment in) solving the state’s spiraling epidemic of homelessness, conditions on the ground tell a different story. In cities around the state, homeless camps and the often disruptive public behavior of severely mentally ill people are a reproach against claims that the problem is being treated.

In 2015, only 2 percent of Californians surveyed by the California Public Policy Institute cited homelessness as the greatest challenge facing the state. By early 2020, just before the pandemic pushed all other problems aside, Almost a quarter of Californians named it the main political concern for the state, which makes it the main topic far and wide. In a distant second place was a related issue – the affordability of housing.

In Los Angeles, both freeway overpasses and underpasses are lined with tents. There are tents in precarious nooks and crannies on the banks of the highway, as well as in river access points and parks. Thousands of men and women live in camps on Skid Row on the eastern edge of downtown. On a smaller scale, almost every city in California has similar conditions.

Newsom recently announced that its The newly revised budget would include a staggering $ 12 billion to deal with the crisis. This corresponds to an increase in the resources used for the challenge of around 1,000 percent and – if implementation is not hindered by local zoning restrictions, the public mood of NIMBY and a dysfunctional local policy around the construction of emergency shelters – will enable the construction of 46,000 apartments Units for the state more than 150,000 homeless.

That is all well and good. But it will be extremely difficult to just work your way out of a crisis linked to so many other social inequalities: the decades-long push for mass incarceration in California, followed by decisions in recent years to reduce the prison population without investing in housing , Vocational training and especially psychiatric care for those coming out of prison. (As I found last week, polls showed that 70 percent of the homeless on the streets of the state have spent some time behind bars, and many of those people suffer from serious mental illness.) The 1960s decision to close most of the die state inpatient mental health clinics left California without the community mental health infrastructure needed to treat those in need. A spiraling opioid epidemic – an epidemic of desperation if there ever was – that led to it in 2020 more San Franciscans die from overdoses than from Covid-19.

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