Following Governor Gavin Newsom’s signed multiple legislative rulings to aid in the war against homelessness, LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg reconvened to discuss the matter.
After declaring homelessness a state of emergency in California, members of Governor Newsom’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors chaired by Ridley-Thomas and Mayor Steinberg met at King/Drew Magnet High School Auditorium to examine methods to speed up the response to homelessness, looking at both local and regional tactics to better serve the country’s most vulnerable citizens. Governor Newsom asked the advisors to focus on street homelessness, building more housings, and necessary treatments.
The task force which includes Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, Arcata City Councilmember Sofia Pereira, Frank Mecca, County Welfare Directors Association of California, Sharon Rapport, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Anya Lawler, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Michelle Cabrera, County Behavioral Health Directors Association, Phil Mangano, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Former Director, Will Lightbourne, CA Department of Social Services, Former Director also sought recommendations for how the city can reallocate funds to better address the issue.
“We have a tacit public policy in California that says it’s okay for people to live outdoors,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said, “We must change that public policy.”
“He’s [Governor Newsom] calling on us to make clear recommendations to him, his administration and to the legislature on how we can create more urgency around ending street homelessness,” he continued. “It’s our job now to translate that urgency.”
Along with Ridley-Thomas and Steinberg, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti greeted the auditorium with opening remarks, “This is our time, this is our watch; we either get this done or we don’t,” he shared, “I have the confidence with this table and with this group we will.”
The table allowed presentations from multiple groups from Los Angeles including, Chief Program Officer of LAHSA Heidi Marston , LA County Director of Mental Health Dr. Jonathon Sherin, Director Housing For Health, Libby Boyce, Deputy Executive Director LA County Development, Authority Emilio Salas, General Manager of the LA Housing and Community Investment Department, Rushmore Cervantes, Director of Local Partnership Programs Lahela Mattox, LAHSA Commissioners Jacqueline Wagner and Wendy Greuel.
Each presentation was followed up with questions from the panel, which focused on flexibility and usage of funds. Standing as proof of what is done or what could be done, as the majority believe it is a universal right to have housing. Also declaring the need for mental health institutes for homeless a dire need.
Under Newsom’s package of bills, the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus which now stands as a Recuperative Care Center where homeless patients can now go to get assistance. There will also be a new Behavioral Health Center which is expected to break ground next month, with hopes to decriminalize the detoxing and aiding of the more vulnerable homeless residents.
“You can’t treat them unless they’re in,” Mayor Steinberg said concerning the state of emergency also called on mental health and housing.
“I am strongly pushing for a clear public policy that says as a matter of right, people should be living under a roof.” Mayor Steinburg emphasized. “People need to come indoors, end of story.”
The overall consensus turned out to align with Newsom’s overall goals, with nearly everyone in attendance leaving on the same accord. Under the new bills, the council along with leaders of the community feel as though they are off to a great start, with everyone involved.
Ridley-Thomas says it is incorrect to assume residents “don’t want a full solution that is humane for those who are homeless.”
“I knew that today, even before we began would be impactful,” Mayor Steinberg said, continuing to quote the governor stating, “our response to homelessness must begin with historical context. We must do more so homeless Californians have access to a safe place to sleep, permanent housing when possible or navigation center or emergency beds when necessary.”
Mark Ridley-Thomas clarified, “we have said this is urgent, therefore, we are starting now.”