Legislative Republicans unveiled a comprehensive package to address homelessness across the state Wednesday.
Dubbed ACT on Homelessness, the package was unveiled by Republicans from the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento with a focus on accountability, compassion and treatment.
“Republicans are proposing a multi-pronged approach to address the root of the homeless crisis and actually help people get their lives back,” said Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita. “Continuing on the road we are on is more of a dead-end than a path to success.”
As part of the package, Sen. Wilk has a bill that would require the governor to report annually actions the state and local governments have taken to reduce homelessness and mandate local governments report expenditures on programs to reduce homelessness, clean up areas, provide mental health and substance abuse treatment and more.
Other bills include protections for places of worship that provide services or shelters to those experiencing homelessness from lawsuits, allow local governments to use Clean California and other highway beautification program funds for homeless camp cleanup efforts and require the state auditor to review the impact of the funds spent to combat homelessness.
Still other proposals included in the initiative would allow more flexibility for funds used for mental health treatment and pilot programs and grant additional funds to local law enforcement agencies for wrap-around services.
Additionally, it includes budget proposals to increase California’s behavioral health workforce and treatment options for mental illnesses.
Republicans Wednesday said California has already spent $17 billion over the past four years but the problem hasn’t dissipated. Their proposal is made up of 17 bills.
Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, is spearheading legislation to increase grant programs for local governments to increase temporary shelter options, amend the Mental Health Services Act to allow more accountability and flexibility in funds helping unhoused individuals who need treatment, and use opioid settlement funds for treatment and prevention efforts for homeless individuals.
“There’s a lot in it, but it is a pathway, and we’d like to see everybody get on board,” Sen. Bates told the News-Press. “We think we can probably be a leader in the nation of dealing with this problem and bringing people out on the other side where they can truly enjoy the California dream, the American dream, and be productive members of their community.”
Sen. Bates said addressing homelessness in California should not be a partisan issue and praised Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recently-proposed CARE Court (Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment) plan. The idea is to get a person with an untreated mental health illness or substance use issue into a court-ordered “Care Plan” that can last one to two years.
“That’s a step in the right direction. I think we build from that,” Sen. Bates said.
Republicans’ proposal “lays out a comprehensive path to finally addressing and correcting and solving the homelessness problem on many fronts,” she said.
Earlier this year, legislative Republicans implored Gov. Newsom to call a special session to address homelessness. Republicans said Wednesday they’d still like to see a special session convened.
Gov. Newsom’s spending plan last year included $12 billion for homelessness efforts, including increasing housing.
“Getting people off the streets, out of tents, and into housing and treatment is essential to making our streets safe for everyone, but public safety certainly isn’t just about homelessness,” the governor said during his State of the State address earlier this year.
And just this week, the governor announced $181 million in funding for 13 new Homekey projects.
“Leaving people with mental illness or addiction to deteriorate on the streets isn’t compassion – it’s the exact opposite,” said Assemblymember James Gallagher, R-Yuba City. “Throwing money at the problem won’t fix it. Neither will small tweaks to existing programs. It’s time for bold changes that will finally make a major difference to one of the biggest crises facing our state.”
More information on the GOP plan can be found here: https://cssrc.us/issue/actonhomelessness.