California bill would create statewide homeless coordinator
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Thirty percent of all homeless people in the United States live in California. And while the state has allocated funds and developed and supported various programs to alleviate the crisis, there's no central coordinator manning the efforts.
Assembly Bill 86 seeks to remedy that through the creation of a statewide homelessness coordinator.
The bill's author, Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer Sr., discussed it before the state Senate Human Resources Committee Monday. The Democrat from South LA said that while there's some overlap between the initiatives that are fighting homelessness in the state, there's no one person truly in charge.
Jones-Sawyer noted that there are over 170,000 unhoused people in California — a 6% increase since 2020.
A statewide coordinator would promote consistency and effectiveness among the efforts to deal with the issue, he said.
The coordinator — would would be appointed by the governor and subject to state Senate approval — would be the point person for efforts aimed at ending homelessness in the state. They would set goals toward that end, time the release of state funds for housing and housing services, and submit yearly recommendations to the Legislature and governor.
Additionally, the coordinator would tap local leaders across certain cities, counties and jurisdictions to act as liaisons.
The state Assembly Appropriations Committee estimated the cost of such a coordinator would be in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars, which would cover salary and administrative needs.
Dane Hutchings, speaking on behalf of Redwood City, said it is important lawmakers have information about homelessness from smaller communities as well as larger cities.
Hutchings said Redwood City is 11% of San Mateo County, but is home to 25% of that county's unhoused population. Fifty percent of those people live on the street or in RVs. He said there are typically at least 110 RVs on the city's streets each night.
A safe RV parking area helped alleviate the issue, Hutchings said. The city saw a majority of those using the safe area transition to housing — and a 27% drop in the unhoused population.
State Senator Caroline Menjivar, a Democrat whose district includes Burbank and San Fernando, noted the state already has an advisory committee for homelessness.
That committee, the Interagency Council on Homelessness, identifies resources, benefits and services that can prevent and end homelessness in the state.
“At least nine state agencies currently administer and oversee 41 different homelessness programs statewide,” Jones-Sawyer stated in the bill’s analysis. “Considering the magnitude of the homelessness crisis in California and the amount of funding the state and federal governments have invested, there is a real need to ensure that our system for addressing problems at both the state and local levels is consistent and effective. AB 86 establishes a Statewide Homelessness Coordinator to serve as the much-needed lead entity for ending homelessness.”
Jones-Sawyer said the state performs studies on homelessness, which then go unused. A coordinator could ensure a study’s recommendations are implemented.
The assemblyman also called out three senators on the committee, and told them that their constituents are likely to point fingers at them if the homelessness issue isn't sufficiently addressed. But a coordinator, Jones-Sawyer said, would be the person who takes responsibility on the issue.
Menjivar also questioned how much autonomy a coordinator would have if serving under the governor. Jones-Sawyer said he would make a clarification on that point in the bill.
The Human Resources Committee voted to send the bill to the Senate Housing Committee.