In his State of the State address, Governor Newsom made homelessness a top priority. He also noted that California is the world’s fifth-largest economy, the richest state in the richest nation, but with massive poverty in our midst. The disgraceful evidence of that poverty can be seen in homeless people on our streets with encampments stretching from Mexico to Oregon.
I applaud the Governor for taking on this issue. Over the years, I have fought for improved access to treatment for those with mental illness and substance use disorders, health care and shelter. And as the Governor stated, we need better legal tools to allow governments, health providers and law enforcement to more effectively help people get treatment. Unfortunately, some individuals are incapable of accepting help to get off the streets. That’s why my legislation allowing local governments, loved-ones and service providers to ask courts to compel those needing treatment into community-based outpatient care was signed into law in 2016.
The Governor also mentioned that more housing is critical. Unfortunately, well-intentioned laws have been used by special interests, blocking new projects, while rent control has discouraged construction. Government mandates have driven costs through the roof, making some low-cost housing unaffordable. Unnecessary policies blocking new housing must be changed.
All levels of government must come together to address homelessness. Red tape should be cut, and using funding with intentionality is critical to achieving results. Accountability is a must, but arguing over past mistakes is pointless. It’s time we look forward to address the interrelated problems of homelessness, mental health and substance abuse, one person, one family at a time.
We can agree on the problems, but solutions will be a subject of intense debate. This year, I’m looking forward to working with the Governor to address these critical issues.