PolitiFact California: What Has California Gov. Gavin Newsom Done So Far For The Homeless?

Feb 25, 2019

Everett May, 37, waits with a friend while others complete surveys for the homeless count. They each receive a $5 McDonald's gift card and plan to get dinner together.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

During his run for governor, Gavin Newsom said California needed state leadership "laser-focused" on its homeless crisis.

"We've been managing this problem for too long; it's time to solve it," Newsom wrote on his campaign website.

"I want to be held accountable on this issue, and I want to be disruptive of the status quo," Newsom added in an interview with the Sacramento Bee last July, while touring San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood, where many of the city's homeless live. "I'm willing to take risks. I'm not here to be loved. What's going on is unacceptable, and it is inhumane."

Newsom, a Democrat and San Francisco's former mayor, pledged during the campaign to create a comprehensive set of housing and health services to help the state's 130,000 people without a home.

PolitiFact California is tracking now-Gov. Newsom's progress, or lack thereof, on this and other promises through our Newsom-Meter.

Specifically, here's what he pledged:

"Expand social services, healthcare (including mental health), bridge housing, and permanent supportive housing" for the homeless.

-- Gavin Newsom for Governor 2018 website

California is home to one quarter of the nation's homeless people, though it represents just 12 percent of the country's overall population. It also has the highest share of unsheltered homeless people, 69 percent, of any state.

Two years ago, California's homeless population jumped nearly 14 percent as the nation's remained flat; last year, it declined 1 percent.

Has Newsom made progress on this pledge? We checked his efforts so far.  

Our research

Newsom's January budget proposal shows the clearest evidence of his progress. It calls for $625 million in funding for homeless programs, according to a recent review by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

SOURCE: California Legislative Analyst's Office report on Gov. Newsom's spending proposals on homelessness.

It proposes $500 million in one-time funds for cities and counties to plan and build emergency shelters, navigation centers or supportive housing. Of that total, $300 million would go to regional planning for the projects and $200 million would be awarded to cities that show progress developing them. The navigation centers would offer services to homeless people on site such as drug and alcohol counseling.

The governor's budget would also spend $100 million in one-time money to fund housing and supportive services for the homeless, or those at risk, with a focus on the mentally ill. Additionally, it includes $25 million annually to help individuals who are homeless and disabled apply for disability benefits.

Finally, Newsom in January said he'll seek legislation to streamline environmental laws to speed up the construction of homeless projects.

'Miles and miles different than our previous governor'

We spoke with two advocates for the homeless who said they're impressed, at this point, with Newsom's moves.

"I think he (Newsom) has some ambitious goals, and I think we're still really early on— we're 30 days in," said Chris Martin, a legislative advocate for Housing California, "And to think we've gotten this far already with him is really kind of a testament to his goals."

Making homelessness a statewide priority, "is miles and miles different than our previous governor who thought this was more of a local challenge," Martin added.

Newsom's budget and statements on homelessness show he's "headed in the right direction," added Sharon Rapport, associate director of the California Policy Corporation for Supportive Housing.

Along with his campaign promise to expand services, Newsom pledged to appoint a Homeless Secretary to lead an Interagency Council on Homelessness.

A spokesman for the governor said Newsom still plans to make that appointment, but offered no timeline. We'll assess the progress on that promise in a future update.

Finally, during Newsom's State of the State Address this month, he announced Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg will lead his newly created Commission on Homelessness and Supportive Housing. He said the commission's goal is to address the underlying causes that keep people on the streets.

Our rating

Gavin Newsom promised in his run for governor to expand a suite of housing and health services for the homeless.

The $625 million Newsom proposed for those services, including for the homeless with mental illness and other disabilities, along with his call to streamline environmental reviews for homeless projects, demonstrate early progress.

But Newsom hasn't fulfilled anything yet. The Legislature must still vote on his proposals.

For now, we rate Newsom's promise "In the Works."

In the Works — This indicates the promise has been proposed or is being considered.

PolitiFact California intern Sami Soto contributed research and writing for this story. 

How the Newsom-Meter works:

We'll publish updates on Newsom's progress, or lack thereof, on each of 12 campaign pledges. We will rate outcomes, not intentions or proposed solutions, the same standard used for PolitiFact's other promise meters.

The Newsom-Meter has six levels:

Not Yet Rated — Every promise begins at this level and retains this rating until we see evidence of progress — or evidence that it has stalled.

In the Works — This indicates the promise has been proposed or is being considered.

Stalled — There is no movement on the promise, perhaps because of limitations on money, opposition from lawmakers or a shift in priorities.

Compromise — Promises earn this rating when they accomplish substantially less than the official's original statement but when there is still a significant accomplishment that is consistent with the goal.

Promise Kept — Promises earn this rating when the original promise is mostly or completely fulfilled.

Promise Broken – The promise has not been fulfilled. This could occur because of inaction by the executive or lack of support from the legislative branch or other group that was critical to its success. A Promise Broken rating does not necessarily mean that the executive failed to advocate for the policy.

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