Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido joined their counterparts from other large California cities Wednesday, calling on the state to approve millions of dollars to address the homelessness crisis during, and beyond, the coronavirus pandemic.
In an online conference, members of the Big City Mayors coalition backed Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposal to earmark $600 million in federal CARES Act funding for homelessness solutions such as purchasing hotels and motels. They also urged legislators to approve $350 million in "flexible" funds for other intervention strategies to ensure homeless people who are moved into shelters or hotels under the state's Project Roomkey program during the pandemic don't wind up back on the streets.
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"Shame, shame, shame on us if the people we're housing now in Project Roomkey can't get into permanent housing," Garcetti said. "And we know that coronavirus relief fund runs out at the end of this calendar year, so in less than seven months it'll be gone.
"... If we don't have the services, also to help people stay housed, we can move people around as far as we want, but they're going to be back on the streets within months," he said. "They're going to be taxing our criminal justice system, they're going to be taxing our sanitation systems, they're going to be taxing our services and human services. But we know what works. We know this is the time and we know that we can make a difference."
Garcetti and other mayors pointed to connections between the homelessness issue and the current national debate over racism in the criminal justice system and beyond.
"Even in light of all of the new conversations that we're having around systemic racism in this country, you look at the impact on homelessness on black Americans, on racial justice issues, and it is all connected," Garcia said. "We have to make sure that we move forward in a way that is united, that we can continue the work we're already doing to ensure the people experiencing homelessness have access to homes and the dignity that each and every one of them deserve."
Garcetti noted that the city's homeless population is 33% black, despite being only 9% of the overall countywide population.
The mayors all stressed the need for the state to provide funding directly to cities and give them the flexibility to direct the money where it is needed most locally.
"We need the flexibility to ensure that as coronavirus continues and as that crisis begins to hopefully end in the future, that these individuals have the opportunity to get back in the workforce and have a roof over their head, and they're not back out on the street," Garcia said.