California legislators propose spending $2 billion to build housing for homeless

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Both Brown and Assembly Democrats said they welcomed De León’s focus on homelessness but stopped short of embracing the plan.

“The administration is supportive of efforts to empower local governments to tackle homelessness, poverty, and mental health issues in our communities and we will take a close look at the proposals in this package,” Brown deputy press spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said in a statement.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who has pushed for more affordable housing, said she was looking forward to seeing the details.

“The proposal advanced by the Senate helps both houses — and both parties — start the year on the same page in making homelessness a top priority,” Atkins said in a statement.

The new units would operate on a “housing first” model, taking in homeless people with mental illness and drug and alcohol problems even if they refuse psychiatric or substance abuse treatment, officials said.

The city and county of Los Angeles have been moving toward the model, which is endorsed by most experts and the federal government, but some funding still goes to housing with sobriety or treatment requirements, advocates said.

“The evidence is overwhelming that people with serious mental health problems cannot successfully deal with those problems while living on the streets,” Blasi said.

The senators also proposed additional financial support for families on welfare facing or in danger of homelessness, and an increase in the state’s supplemental security income payments to 1.3 million elderly, blind and disabled poor people who cannot work. The additional programs would cost $100 million or more, an official said.

Theresa Winkler said at the news conference that she lived on the streets most of her life, turning to prostitution and using drugs before finding sobriety and a place to live with one of skid row’s nonprofit housing providers.

“It’s not fun for people, particularly women, to lie in the dirt,” she said. “By having housing, my life has been given a purpose.” 

by Gale Holland / via LATimes

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