California Governor Gavin Newsom has unveiled a new initiative to address homelessness in the state by allocating $300 million to clear homeless encampments near state roads.
The effort is in collaboration with Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation, to address safety concerns posed by encampments under overpasses and bridges.
The $300 million funding will be distributed as grants to cities and counties throughout California, with qualifying areas defined as any piece of land being used for transportation purposes. This will include highways, park and rides, and bike paths.
During the announcement, Governor Newsom acknowledged public frustration, stating, “The public has had it. They’re fed up. I’m fed up. We’re all fed up.”
Caltrans spokesperson Alisa Becerra emphasized the safety risks associated with homeless camps along state roads, stating, “It’s a safety risk for them, for the infrastructure, for our staff, for first responders, and potentially for the traveling public, and that’s why we remove encampments.”
Becerra went on to state that the ultimate goal of the state’s efforts is for homeless individuals to be moved into housing and given keys.
The state has claimed that over 5,000 encampments have been cleared and this latest effort is expected to move at least 10,000 homeless individuals off the streets. However, critics of the state’s leadership argue that this claim is misleading. California state Senator Brian Dahle argued that Governor Newsom’s efforts did not remove homeless encampments, but simply moved them to different locations still on public streets.
“The governor didn’t clear these homeless encampments; they just moved them down the street,” Dahle explained. “California spends more tax dollars per homeless person than we do on our students. The homeless crisis is a national embarrassment. This governor needs to focus on real results instead of chasing presidential aspirations and gas-lighting Californians.”
Newsom’s announcement follows recent criticisms of California’s response to homelessness to prepare for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to San Francisco, where the state miraculously cleaned up the streets in a matter of days. This rapid response prompted many to question why the state appeared to prioritize cleaning up the streets for the foreign leader rather than residents who live in the state.
The initiative also comes on the heels of a recent report on a homeless encampment fire that spread throughout Los Angeles, eventually shutting down the I-10 freeway. While arson was initially suspected, it was later revealed that the fire originated from large homeless encampments near the freeway, highlighting the immense dangers that the homelessness crisis in California presents.
This piece first appeared at TPUSA.