California Dream

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California’s Big City Mayors Say More Political Will Needed To Solve Homeless Crisis

Big city mayors from across California promised to push forward with solutions to the state’s homelessness crisis on Friday, but cautioned the problem won’t be fully solved without stronger political will and tackling root causes.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg repeated his pledge to get 2,000 Sacramentans off the streets by 2020. He spoke along with mayors from Los Angeles, San Diego and Oakland at the California Dream Mayors Forum on homelessness and housing, held in Sacramento, and co-sponsored by Capital Public Radio.

Watch full video of the discussion below or listen to full audio above. 

“I’m actually confident that in my city and throughout the state that we’re going to get thousands of people off the streets. I really am. But I’m less confident about whether or not we have the commitment and the will to prevent the next cohort of tens of thousands of people of becoming homelessness.”

Steinberg said Proposition 2, a $2 billion statewide measure to pay for homeless housing, could also help as long as funds get distributed soon.

“Here’s going to be the call to action for the new governor and the new state administration and for all of us,” Steinberg added, “How do we get that money out the door quickly without years of backlog?”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf detailed the “cabin communities” her city has helped build, using sheds to house people who previously lived in encampments.

Schaaf said, however, that a long-term solution for the crisis won’t come until California stops tolerating the extreme poverty so visible on its streets.

“We can talk all day about funding and policy for our endless cycle of triage, getting people off the street and into safety and services, getting them into rapid re-housing, building more permanent supportive housing, preventing homelessness to begin with. But what the [expletive]!,” Schaff said, drawing scattered applause. “This is a fundamentally broken system that needs to be reimagined from the get-go.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer each described working with landlords to reduce the fear and stigma of housing homeless residents in their buildings.

Garcetti, who is considered a potential 2020 presidential candidate, told the forum homelessness “better be a national conversation.”

California’s homeless population jumped nearly 14 percent in 2017 — to more than 134,00 people – while the national homeless population remained nearly the same.

Experts say the surge in California is tied, at least in part, to the state’s shortage of affordable housing.

The California Dream series is a statewide media collaboration of CALmatters, KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the James Irvine Foundation.

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