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California is swimming in tax revenue. Sacramento mayor wants to use more for homelessness

Theresa Clift, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two years ago, Owen Newman Jr. was sleeping outdoors and bouncing around North Highlands, Del Paso Heights and south Sacramento.

Today he attends American River College, is receiving mental health services, and lives in a new studio apartment in south Sacramento. The apartment is located in a converted motel where formerly unhoused individuals are living under the state's Project Homekey program.

"I'm very grateful to be in this program," said Newman Jr., 39, who grew up in Rancho Cordova. "I got blessed."

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg wants to open more Homekey motels and other shelters to address the city's growing homeless crisis, but he said the city needs state funding to do so. He is joining with other mayors across the state in urging Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislators to approve additional funding to help cities address homelessness.

"Our message is this: Please extend homeless assistance programs and direct allocations to cities," Steinberg said Thursday during a press conference at the converted motel on La Mancha Way in the Parkway neighborhood. "Not just for another year but as many years as possible."

Steinberg made his appeal a few weeks before Newsom is expected to release his May budget revisions. The state Finance Department on Thursday reported tax revenue is coming $17.4 billion above the projections the Newsom administration released in January, when the governor announced that he anticipated a $45.7 billion surplus.

 

Newsom has prioritized homelessness throughout his administration, including allocating some $12 billion toward homelessness and affordable housing. The mayors are looking for an ongoing commitment extending past a single budget year.

Sacramento has roughly 1,100 existing homeless shelter beds and spaces, which cost roughly $33 million a year.

The city has identified enough state funding to keep its existing shelters running at least through fall 2024, said Mary Lynne Vellinga, Steinberg's spokeswoman.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency reimburses Sacramento for its expenses in leasing motels for homeless families. If FEMA does not extend that program, the city will need to find another funding source to keep the motels running beyond June 2023.

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