Gavin Newsom Boasts: California Homeless Policy Has Become National Model Under Joe Biden Administration

California homeless (Frederic J. Brown / Getty)
Frederic J. Brown / Getty

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) boasted Saturday that President Joe Biden is adopting his state’s policies on homelessness as the nationwide model by moving homeless people into hotel rooms and buying the hotels.

Newsom’s boast came as the state still struggles with a massive homeless population that rose dramatically before the pandemic. New homeless population statistics are unavailable because the pandemic interrupted annual surveys.

The governor’s boast linked to a New York Times article that called Newsom’s program a “clear success”:

In a blizzard of transactions that sidestepped many of the local rules that make California one of the nation’s hardest places to build, the state spent $800 million on 94 projects that will become permanent supportive housing, or housing that is paired with on-site social services. It has been a clear success for Mr. Newsom, a Democrat who was popular statewide but is now facing a potential recall. What was once a half-baked idea that in February 2020 got a sentence in his State of the State speech has since created 6,000 new supportive units, or about triple the usual pace of around 2,000 units a year. Hotel Diva, which in December was bought from an investment group by the nonprofit Episcopal Community Services of San Francisco with help from a state grant, accounts for 130 of them.

California’s hotel buying program, officially called Homekey, is both a drop in the bucket and a remarkable achievement. The state, which has 40 million residents, still has a crippling housing affordability problem, and even the most successful outcome would do little more than buy time to confront the decades-old structural issues — high housing costs, low wages, poor mental health care — that keep new people falling into homelessness faster than those on the streets can get out.

The article admitted that Newsom had not actually been able to “solve homelessness,” but argued that he “made a dent,” citing the decline of tent cities in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the growth of tent cities in Los Angeles is so rapid that a local city council member has proposed housing the homeless in temporary shelters on beachfront parking lots — a proposal bitterly opposed by local residents.

The Times also claims that the program prevented COVID-19 from spreading among the homeless population. That, too, is in doubt, as the coronavirus is thought to spread less readily outdoors.

The article notes that California’s program was only possible because “it superseded a number of laws including local zoning ordinances and the California Environmental Quality Act that make California such a tough place to develop housing.”

Earlier this year, President Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus bill provided $5 billion to state and local governments to fight homelessness, including by funding the purchasing of hotels, confirming that California’s model has become federal policy.

However, few Californians would argue that the state’s approach has been a success. Homelessness is still among the top three issues for California voters, according to a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

Many homeless people arrive from out of state, attracted by warm weather, lax law enforcement, generous benefits, and the growth of drug rehab centers that lure patients from other parts of the country, only to discharge them when benefits expire.

Last week, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors nominated Dr. Drew Pinsky to a local homeless commission because of his view that the problem is primarily mental health and drug abuse, not housing.

Newsom faces a likely recall vote later this year, largely fueled by opposition to his pandemic policies, but also due to the state’s homeless crisis.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book is How Not to Be a Sh!thole Country: Lessons from South Africa. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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