Californians to vote on measure governor says needs to address homelessness crisis | Trending Viral hub


SACRAMENTO, California — Californians will vote Tuesday on a statewide ballot measure that the governor touts as a major step toward addressing homelessness and would be the first major update to the state’s mental health system in 20 years.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom says Proposition 1 is necessary to address the state’s homelessness crisis by boosting investments in housing and substance use programs, but social providers worry it threatens programs that prevent people become homeless in the first place.

The measure would restrict how counties use money from a voter-approved tax enacted in 2004 on millionaires that is currently earmarked for mental health services under broad guidelines. Revenue from the tax, now between $2 billion and $3 billion a year, provides about a third of the state’s total mental health budget.

Counties would be required to spend about two-thirds of those funds on housing and programs for homeless people with serious mental illness or substance abuse problems.

Newsom wants to give the state more control over how that money is spent, but critics say he would apply a formula to all counties regardless of the size of the local homeless population and could pit programs for children against those for the homeless.

Proposition 1 would also authorize the state to borrow $6.38 billion to build 4,350 housing units, half of which would be reserved for veterans, and add 6,800 mental health and addiction treatment beds.

Newsom, with the support of law enforcement, first responders, hospitals and mayors of major cities, has raised more than $13 million to promote the initiative, far surpassing opponents who raised $1,000.

“The status quo is not acceptable,” Newsom said Monday at an event to promote the measure. “People demand more and better from us.”

Homelessness has become one of the most frustrating issues in California and will surely haunt Newsom if he ever mounts a national campaign. The state accounts for nearly a third of America’s homeless population; Approximately 181,000 Californians need housing. The state, with a current inventory of 5,500 beds, needs about 8,000 more units to treat mental health and addiction problems.

Newsom’s administration has already spent at least $22 billion on various programs to address the crisis, including $3.5 billion to convert blighted motels into homeless housing. California is also providing $2 billion in grants to build more treatment facilities.

The proposal is touted as the final piece of Newsom’s plan to overhaul California’s mental health system. He has already pushed for laws that make it easier to force people with behavioral health problems to receive treatment.

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