By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) – California’s governor began a week-long “homelessness tour” on Monday seeking $750 million to address growing numbers of people living on the streets, stopping first in a rural community to show his state’s problems extend beyond the big cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom last week asked state lawmakers to create the $750 million fund as part of his 2020-21 budget and plans to petition the federal government for additional money to help California’s Medicaid program improve services for the homeless.
“Homelessness isn’t just a concern in our cities, it’s a suburban issue and a rural issue, too. No Californian can say that homelessness is someone else’s problem,” Newsom, 52, said in kicking off his tour in Grass Valley, a town of about 12,000 in the Sierra Nevada mountains northeast of Sacramento.
“Every corner of our state has too many people living on the streets. And the crisis puts stress on public resources, from emergency rooms to jails to public works departments. It takes an unprecedented level of partnership between local, state, and federal government,” Newsom said in a prepared statement.
An estimated 130,000 people are homeless somewhere in California on any given day, more than any other state, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). California, home to about 39.6 million people, is the most populous state in the United States. Newsom and other California officials have traded barbs with U.S. President Donald Trump over the issue, with Trump blaming state and local leaders for failing to solve the problem.
On a visit to San Francisco and Los Angeles in September, Trump said conditions on their streets including trash, feces, and hypodermic needles left by homeless people were hurting their prestige.
That same month HUD Secretary Ben Carson rejected requests for more federal money.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti formally asked the Trump administration for federal assistance on Monday in a letter that indicated the two sides had productive negotiations on the matter.
Newsom, who last week called for the emergency deployment of state-owned travel trailers and tents, was joined by state and local lawmakers on a visit to two homeless shelters in Grass Valley on Monday.
The first-term governor’s tour will also take him to Los Angeles County, the San Francisco Bay area and the Central Valley.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Culver City, California; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall