California lawmakers propose $2 billion 'No Place Like Home' plan to aid homeless

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California senators announced a $2 billion initiative at Skid Row Monday that aims to prevent and fight homelessness in the state, which has the country’s largest homeless population. Los Angeles, with more unsheltered homeless than any other city,  is its unofficial capital.

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“This bipartisan legislative package will help secure progress in tackling homelessness and provide a key to health and hope for many Californians who have no place to go,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) in a statement. “Coming off the holiday season, I can think of no better way to start the legislative session than in Skid Row focused on lifting those without voices in our political process.”

The initiative, dubbed “No Place Like Home,” supports a "housing first" strategy and repurposes bond money from Proposition 63, The Mental Health Services Act of 2004.

“This is a tipping-point moment for mental health, homelessness, and Proposition 63 in California,” said former Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, co-author of Proposition 63 and founder The Steinberg Institute, in a statement. “Thanks to the leadership of this Senate, we have a historic opportunity to help local communities forge systemic long-term solutions, making a real difference in the lives of thousands of forgotten Californians.”

The No Place Like Home initiative aims to achieve the following goals, as outlined in a statement on de Leon's website:

Housing

  • $2 billion bond to construct permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless persons with mental illness.
  • $200 million, over 4 years, to provide supportive housing in the shorter-term, rent subsidies, while the permanent housing is constructed or rehabilitated.  
  • Support for two special housing programs that will assist families
  1. The “Bringing Families Home” pilot project, a county matching grant program to reduce homelessness among families that are part of the child welfare system.
  2. The CalWORKs Housing Support Program, which provides housing and support services for CalWORKs families in danger of homelessness.  

Income support and outreach

  • An increase in Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) program grants which provide income support for the aged, blind, and disabled poor who cannot work.

Rates of homelessness are higher for persons with disabilities who cannot work; SSI/SSP is intended to help them make ends meet, and a large portion of grants usually goes toward rent.

These increases will assist about 1.3 million low-income Californians (72 percent with disabilities and 28 percent who are elderly).

  • A one-time investment to incentivize local governments to boost outreach efforts and advocacy to get more eligible poor people enrolled in the SSI/SSP program.

The federal government covers 72 percent of the total costs of the SSI/SSP program, so state and local benefits are multiplied significantly for each newly eligible recipient.

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