By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and other mayors of the Big City Mayors coalition, call on Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state legislature to approve $3 billion over three years in the state budget for flexible homeless funding to go directly to the cities, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, April 25, 2022. The mayor’s said flexible homeless funding is approved annually and are asking for a three-year commitment from lawmakers and the governor. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Mayors from California’s 11 largest cities asked Gov. Gavin Newsom and the legislature to address the “fiscal cliff” that could potentially affect state funding programs for 25,000 unhoused Californians. 

Held at the Secretary of State Auditorium, Sacramento Mayor Steinberg and Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln were part of the coalition that expressed their concerns about extending an effective system used to get people in shelter.

Steinberg said the group is asking “so we don’t have to shut down” any shelter facilities or programs “to do this work.” 

“If this funding is cut off we will hit what is a fiscal cliff,” Steinberg said. “Cities don’t have the ongoing funding on the heath and humane service side to do this work. What cities really need is an ongoing permanent source of funding to be able to elevate the work.”

Mayors Libby Schaaf, Oakland; Todd Gloria, San Diego; Sam Liccardo, San Jose; Jerry Dyer, Fresno; Karen Goh, Bakersfield; Harry Sidhu, Anaheim; Patricia Lock Dawson, Riverside; and Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento made the trip to Sacramento to voice their thoughts.

Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention (HHAP) program funds have allowed cities with massive unhoused issues to spend the funding on miniature cabins, spaces for recreational vehicles, and 9,000 new shelter beds.

“About $6.4 million in HHAP dollars funded 12 homelessness/housing projects and programs throughout Stockton,” said Lincoln, a Black Republican who was elected mayor of Stockton in November 2020. “We (the mayors) are advocating for additional, flexible funding to continue the progress and provide sustainability in meeting the fundamental needs of our cities.”

Approval of $1 billion annually through HHAP funding for fiscal years 2023-24, 2024-25, and 2025-26 would go directly to cities. Steinberg said the city of Sacramento started out with 200 beds but because of the funding, 1,100 beds were created.

In September 2021, Newsom signed a suite of bills to help address the homelessness crisis and enhance California’s response to people suffering from mental health issues on the streets. 

The action was an essential part of the Governor’s $22 billion housing affordability and homelessness package, including $2 billion for the local homelessness assistance package through HHAP. 

The California Interagency Council on Homelessness (CICH) is the entity responsible for receiving, reviewing, and ultimately approving homelessness plans submitted by cities and counties. No projects go forward without CICH.

On April 21, representatives from the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, Real Estate Development for Mercy Housing, and Steinberg visited the City’s first Homekey project at La Mancha Way Apartments. 

SHRA and Mercy Housing took a hotel and converted it into 100 units of permanent supportive housing for people who had been homeless. It opened last year as the City’s first Homekey project. 

Steinberg said funding from the state’s HHAP program was critical in making this project work. A $2 million grant from HHAP helps La Mancha operate for the next 10 years. It also fills the gaps between what tenants pay in rent and the cost of the intensive case management and support services needed for residents.

Over the past several years, the state has invested billions of dollars to provide critical housing supports and services to local jurisdictions to prevent and end homelessness. The Mayors are asking Newsom and lawmakers for $3 billion in funding over three years in the state budget that would be set aside for cities.

“This governor and this legislature have done more than to combat homelessness and addressed issues of mental health and substance abuse than any governor or legislature in this state’s history,” Steinberg said. “But we still can’t do this alone. It is so crucial to maintain what we’ve started.”