California senators have proposed a $2 billion legislative package aimed at providing the state’s homeless population with permanent housing.
The “No Place Like Home” initiative, unveiled by state lawmakers Monday in downtown Los Angeles, would see the construction of thousands of long-term housing units and an increase in unemployment benefit programs for homeless suffering from disabilities.
“This bipartisan legislative package will help secure progress in tackling homelessness and provide a key to health and hope for many Californians who have no place to go,” Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said in a statement. “Coming off the holiday season, I can think of no better way to start the legislative session than in Skid Row focused on lifting those without voices in our political process.”
California counts 114,000 homeless as residents, or 22 percent of the entire homeless population of the United States, lawmakers said in announcing the package. In September, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a homelessness “state of emergency” in California’s largest city, with an estimated 42,000 people living on the streets.
The new proposal would see a $2 billion bond set up to construct permanent homes for the state’s population of “chronically” homeless people with disabilities. It would also provide $200 million over four years to provide short-term housing or rent subsidies for the homeless while permanent housing is constructed, and would set up two special programs to help homeless families.
The package would also allocate funds for an increase in Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) benefits for those homeless who cannot work due to age or disability. Lawmakers said the increased benefits would help an estimated 1.3 million low-income Californians.
The $2 billion bond would be funded by money repurposed from 2004’s voter-approved Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, which instituted an extra 1 percent tax on incomes above $1 million to help pay for mental health care. The Los Angeles Times reported that the $200 million for short-term housing would come from the state’s general fund.
“This is a tipping-point moment for mental health, homelessness, and Proposition 63 in California,” former Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said in a statement. “Thanks to the leadership of this Senate, we have a historic opportunity to help local communities forge systemic long-term solutions, making a real difference in the lives of thousands of forgotten Californians.”
Leaders from both legislative chambers will reportedly meet with Gov. Jerry Brown to discuss the details of the package before June. A spokeswoman for Brown told the Times that the governor would “take a close look” at the proposal.