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A California City Was Making A Difference On Homelessness. Then The Money Ran Out

STATE WATCH

HOMELESSNESS PROGRAM - Gov. Gavin Newsom poured ‘unprecedented’ money into homelessness, but providers say his use of one-time grants does not allow for long-term solutions to the state’s biggest crisis.

A new homeless outreach program pairing a social worker with a police officer in Grass Valley, a small town in the Sierra Nevada foothills, seemed to be working.

The state-funded effort sent the team to homeless encampments, where they helped build trust among vulnerable people and persuaded them to accept help, according to nonprofit Hospitality House, which ran the program. 

It blew past its goal of engaging 90 people in three years, instead meeting with more than 200. It even helped move some people directly into housing, including an 80-year-old veteran. 

But when the three-year grant paying for that outreach ended in June, there was no money to replace it. So the program came to a screeching halt, to the disappointment of all involved.

“It is a profound loss to not be able to do this,” said Nancy Baglietto, executive director of Hospitality House. 

That loss embodies the worst fears of homeless service providers across California, as they struggle to piece together new funding sources after their state grants expire. Many had hoped that Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders would change that dynamic in the state budget deal they announced last week by committing ongoing funds for homelessness that nonprofits, cities and counties could rely on year after year.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, Newsom and lawmakers settled on another round of one-time funding.

“It really defies logic that the state budget once again fails to include funding to match the scale of the crisis we are experiencing,” said Carolyn Coleman, executive director and CEO of the League of California Cities, which pressed Newsom’s administration for a guaranteed $3 billion a year in homelessness funding.

‘Unprecedented’ homelessness funding under Newsom

As California grapples with how to provide for its massive population of more than 170,000 unhoused residents, Newsom has stepped up homelessness funding to unprecedented levels. He’s funneled nearly $21 billion into housing and homelessness since the 2018-19 fiscal year. 

This year, for the third year in a row, the state budget allocates $1 billion to the Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention fund, which local officials can use for housing, outreach at encampments, emergency shelters and more.

But the vast majority of Newsom’s homelessness spending has been in one-time grants, which providers say makes it difficult to fund the kind of long-term programs that could make a noticeable dent in the crisis.

(Marisa Kendall reports on California's homelessness crisis for CalMatters. She previously covered homelessness for the Bay Area News Group, courts for The Recorder in San Francisco and crime for The News-Press in Fort Myers, Florida. She's a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C. This article was first featured in CalMatters.org.)

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