Newsom Faces Bipartisan Backlash Over Homelessness Spending in California

By: Georgia | Published: May 08, 2024

In a fiery legislative session, both Democrats and Republicans laid into Governor Gavin Newsom’s housing chiefs over the billion-dollar homeless crisis spending. 

The hearing, triggered by a damning state audit, exposed deep-seated frustrations on all sides.

Audit Alarm: California's Homelessness Dilemma Exposed

A recent state audit has thrown California’s homelessness strategy into question, revealing the state’s failure to track the effectiveness of billions spent.

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A city street view showing a large homeless encampment under an overpass with multiple tents, a chair, and various belongings scattered around

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The eye-opening findings highlight a grave transparency issue, as homelessness numbers continue to climb.

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Spending Surge with No Return?

Despite pouring over $20 billion into homelessness over five years, California’s numbers have sadly increased by 6% this year alone. 

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A shopping cart filled with various items and belongings, prominently displaying an American flag, parked under a tree in a park

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This rise brings the total to over 180,000 people, maintaining California’s unwanted lead as the state with the largest homeless population.

Legislative Concerns: Money Well Spent or Wasted?

The audit has sparked a wave of concern among lawmakers, questioning the impact of such massive spending, especially as California faces a severe budget deficit

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Scenic view of the Golden Gate Bridge during sunset with the ocean in the foreground and mountains in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This scrutiny could tighten future funding for cities and counties desperate for aid.

Assemblymember Ting's Frustration

Assemblymember Phil Ting didn’t hold back, pressing Newsom’s officials for tangible outcomes of their programs. 

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Middle-aged Asian man in a dark suit speaking at a council meeting, with other attendees in the background

Source: PhilTing/X

“You come to a budget committee, and there’s no numbers,” Ting said, echoing public demand for transparency and results.

State Officials Pledge Improvement

Amidst mounting pressure, Meghan Marshall from the California Interagency Council on Homelessness assured that improvements were underway, with new data expected soon. 

Makeshift homeless camp located in a wooded area with tents and tarps surrounded by trees with yellowing leaves

Source: Wikimedia Commons

However, her promises were met with skepticism, seen as mere excuses by critics.

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A Call for Better Oversight

The state audit mercilessly pointed out that Marshall’s council failed to evaluate the success or monitor the spending effectively. 

Spacious outdoor area in a park filled with numerous tents and makeshift shelters, with people and personal belongings visible

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The report was clear: California “must do more to assess the cost-effectiveness of its homelessness programs.”

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State's Slow Response to Crisis

Megan Kirkeby, of the Housing and Community Development, acknowledged past shortcomings in grant management. 

A man and a woman outside a tent on a city sidewalk, with the man sitting inside the tent and the woman outside on a folding chair, surrounded by items such as a shopping cart, coolers, and personal belongings

Source: Wikimedia Commons

She admitted, “I don’t think that’s something to be proud of,” signaling a new phase of state accountability and reform.

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The Role of State Vs. Local Governments

The unsettling audit results have reignited debates over how homelessness should be managed, stressing the need for greater oversight at both state and local levels. 

A man in a suit speaking at a podium with a state flag beside him, addressing an indoor gathering, conveying a point with his hand raised

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This ongoing tussle frames the broader challenge of addressing this persistent crisis effectively.

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Newsom's Tactic: Withholding Funds to Spur Results

Governor Newsom has taken a firm stance, threatening to cut off funding to cities and counties that fail to deliver results, stating, “I’m not interested in funding failure any longer.”

A man in a suit speaking animatedly at a podium in a conference room, addressing an audience off-camera

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This bold move aims to enforce accountability across the board.

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Mayors Rally for More Support Amid Tightened Budgets

Leaders from California’s largest cities, including Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, gathered to plead for continued, if not increased, homelessness funding

A middle-aged woman with glasses speaking at a podium with a campaign sign in the background, addressing an audience at a public event

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Their unified presence underscored the dire need for sustained financial support despite the state’s budget crunch.

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A Bipartisan Plea for Better Metrics

Both parties, from Republicans like Assembymember Josh Hoover to Democrats like Al Muratsuchi, expressed frustration over the vague spending reports and slow progress. 

An underpass with a cluttered homeless camp filled with tents, tarps, and assorted items strewn about, in a park-like setting with trees and grass visible

Source: Wikimedia Commons

They echoed a common theme: the urgency for smarter, more accountable funding strategies to truly solve the homelessness epidemic.

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