Can California find solutions to homelessness in Texas?
When you’re facing an intractable crisis like homelessness, you’ll try to find answers anywhere. Despite a recent history of quarreling governors, California officials are looking at Texas.
And maybe for good reason: While California’s homeless population grew by 43% (and 439 out of every 100,000 residents are homeless), Texas’ homeless population shrunk by nearly a third (and only 81 out of every 100,000 residents are homeless). Texas also spends less on homeless programs. Not accounting for federal funding, Texas spent about $806 per unhoused person last year. California? About $10,786 for every unhoused person.
To find out more on why Texas’ approach may be working better, CalMatters’ homelessness policy reporter Marisa Kendall went to the Lone Star State and took a deeper look at programs in three different cities.
In Austin, a tiny home village called Community First! Village is being emulated by some California cities. The village houses nearly 350 formerly unhoused people and has a vegetable garden, a gift shop, a hair studio and volunteers who live on site.
What makes it so successful? First, it’s big. The village sits on 51 acres and plans to add 530 more homes by the end of 2023. The organization that created the homes also primarily depends on private contributions. Tiny homes in California, however, mostly rely on city, county and state funding. And unlike in California where tiny homes are almost exclusively seen as temporary shelter, the village is a viable option for permanent housing — and residents can even be interred there after death.
For Texas’ biggest city, the homeless population in the Houston area dropped by 57% between 2012 and 2022 — while increasing by 105% in Los Angeles County. One reason is that there are few regulations and no zoning ordinances that limit housing construction. And when it’s time to clear an encampment, outreach workers spend a month or more getting to know occupants. Those who can’t immediately be housed can opt for the city’s navigation center. In the center’s first four months, 91% of folks who stayed went into permanent housing. In contrast, San Francisco’s largest navigation center reported last year that only 8% of people landed in permanent housing.
Though a shelter in San Antonio, known as Haven for Hope, doesn’t see nearly as many of its occupants moving to permanent housing, it pulled more than 7,000 people off the streets last year. The massive, 1,600-person shelter serves 85% of the city’s total homeless population and provides residents with on-site medical clinics, childcare services and staff that will help folks find housing, get an ID or apply for disability benefits.
Haven for Hope differs from California shelters because one of its two programs requires regular drug and breathalyzer tests from its residents. This runs against California’s core tenets of “housing first,” which is so strongly held that programs that don’t follow it cannot receive state funding.
And state funding has remained a major point of contention in California. In April, local officials rallied at the state Capitol to push for $3 billion in guaranteed annual state funding to go toward homelessness. But the 2023-24 budget only includes $1 billion for local programs.
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1 Budget deal, quick reaction
The $310 billion budget deal between Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders wasn’t announced until late Monday night.
Because of that, much of the reaction materialized throughout Tuesday, even as lawmakers started voting on bills to finalize the deal, including one to extend Hollywood tax credits.
But the bills for the main hold-up to the agreement — the governor’s package to streamline infrastructure permits — aren’t scheduled to be on voted until July 5, after a new Senate select committee debates them Thursday.
Until then, some organizations and legislators have issued initial statements praising or critiquing the deal.
A few kudos:
- Joe Cruz, executive director of the California State Council of Laborers: “By removing barriers to building crucial clean energy, transportation, and water infrastructure, this budget agreement will create and sustain hundreds of thousands of union careers and help build a brighter future for all Californians.”
- Cathy Senderling-McDonald, executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association: “We are heartened that in a tough budget climate, safety net programs operated by our members were spared from cuts and, in some cases, increased to better serve our diverse California.”
- Flojaune Cofer, senior director at Public Health Advocates: “California’s public health infrastructure is an essential backstop against health disparities and inequities…. While our state still faces so many public health challenges, this funding puts us in a position to address them.”
As well as rebukes:
- Assembly GOP leader James Gallagher from Chico: “What do regular Californians get? A small business tax increase to pay for Newsom’s botched COVID response. Fiscal gimmicks that promise even more deficits in the future…. Californians are getting ripped off.”
- Assemblymember Kate Sanchez, a Republican from Rancho Santa Margarita: “It is obvious that families and small businesses will once again bear the financial burden for Sacramento Democrats’ blunders and pet projects.”
- Carolyn Coleman, CEO of the League of California Cities: “It defies logic that the budget once again fails to include ongoing funding to match the scale of this (homelessness) emergency…. This budget agreement prioritizes short-term fixes over long-term, sustainable solutions.”
2 Hate crimes up 22% in CA
From CalMatters criminal justice reporter Nigel Duara:
Hate crimes reported to California law enforcement increased by 22% between 2021 and 2022 — and for the first time in state history, there were more than 2,000, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Tuesday.
Year-over-year changes aren’t always useful ways to measure trends in crime. But since 2013, reported hate crime events are up 245%.
Hate crime events encompass one or more hate crimes at one time, such as threatening someone and assaulting them. They’re different from hate speech, such as yelling slurs or handing out pamphlets directing hate at a particular group — actions that are usually protected by the First Amendment.
Some highlights of the new report for 2022:
- Hate crimes against Black people were the most common reported incident, increasing by 27%, from 513 in 2021 to 652 in 2022.
- During the initial months of the pandemic, the number of hate crimes against Asian people skyrocketed. That trend reversed, when Anti-Asian hate crime events fell 43%, from 247 in 2021 to 140 in 2022.
- Despite making up just 3% of California’s population, reported hate crimes against Jews exceeded those experienced by Asians, with 189 events in 2022, an increase of 24% from 2021, when there were 152 reported.
- Overall, there were 1,763 hate crime events reported in 2021 and 2,120 in 2022.
- Bonta, in a statement: “An attack against one of us is an attack against all of us. The alarming increases in crimes committed against Black, LGBTQ+ and Jewish people for the second year in a row illustrates the need for our communities to join together unified against hate.”
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The state budget is being misused. to hand out goodies to special interests.
Californians pay $1 billion a year in recycling deposits, but few bother to redeem the empty cans and bottles. A new law could change that, writes Liza Tucker, an advocate for Consumer Watchdog.
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Can anyone fix California? // Vanity Fair