Governor Newsom Went All In On Homelessness For His State of the State

California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature Sacramento on Wednesday. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered his State of the State Wednesday. And the entire, nearly one-hour speech was about homelessness.

"Let's call it what it is, it's a disgrace," Newsom said, "that the richest state in the richest nation — succeeding across so many sectors — is falling so far behind to properly house, heal, and humanely treat so many of its own people."

Part of Newsom's plan to change that is to make 286 state-owned properties available for use as shelters and for other homeless services. Those properties are available now, he said.

A look at the state's interactive map shows a handful of CalTrans properties in LA County listed as possible sites, as well as the Southern Youth Correctional Facility in Norwalk.

In Orange County, the Fairview Developmental Center shows up on the list of potential properties.

"Vacant lots, fairgrounds, armories and other state buildings [will] be used by local governments — for free — for homeless solutions," Newsom said. He added that lease templates are available now for interested partners.

The state will also expand its program that makes emergency housing trailers available to people experiencing homelessness, with additional mobile units headed to Santa Clara, Riverside, Contra Costa and Sonoma counties as well as the city of Stockton.

MENTAL HEALTH

The Governor wants to expand Medi-Cal to better address homelessness, including using Medi-Cal dollars to pay for housing. That comes as part of his CalAIM proposal, "a once-in-a-lifetime reform of our Medi-Cal system based on the obvious, long-ignored principle that physical health and brain health are inextricably linked," Newsom said.

Newsom also signalled he wants to make it easier to force people living with a mental illness into treatment. He said he'd like to see changes made to the state's conservatorship laws, which allow a court to appoint a person to make decisions for a person with a mental illness.

"Clearly it is time to respond to the concerns of experts who agree that thresholds for conservatorship are too high and need to be revisited," Newsom said.

TRACKING PROGRESS

Cities and counties should also be held more accountable for efforts to tackle homelessness in order to receive state funds, the Governor said. "In order to track the progress, we're committed to developing and establishing a unified homelessness data system to capture accurate local information," he said. "You can't manage what you don't measure."

Newsom also wants to get rid of red tape that delays affordable housing construction and ramp up construction of multi-family units near transit centers and downtowns. A controversial bill aimed at the later, SB 50, died in the state legislature earlier this year.

To make his plans reality, Newsom is calling for a "significant, sustainable" stream of money, in other words, dedicated funding for homelessness, which the state doesn't currently have.

He pledged to work closely with lawmakers to figure out where those dollars would come from.

Read the Republican response: