California voters could decide if cities will be punished for not reducing homelessness

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FILE – In this May 30, 2019 file photo, tents housing homeless line a street in downtown Los Angeles. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, signed legislation aimed at boosting construction of supportive housing and shelters in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Jose. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (LA Times) — With public and political pressure mounting to get homeless people off the streets of California, a task force appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom is recommending that local governments face tough new legal sanctions for failing to make progress.

In a report released Monday, the Council of Regional Homeless Advisors is callingfor an amendment to the California Constitution that would create a legally enforceable mandate to reduce the homeless population. The Legislature would have to craft the plan, which would then appear as a statewide ballot measure in November.

If approved by voters, the mandate would allow the state to sue cities and counties — or even itself — if the number of people living in street encampments doesn’t decline.

The 13-member task force, led by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, argues that the state needs to carry a big stick to convince local jurisdictions that they will face consequences if they don’t get people off the streets — including the possible loss of local control.

“We’ve tried moral persuasion. We’ve tried economic incentives,” Steinberg said. “But all of it’s optional. Why should this be optional? It shouldn’t be. It mustn’t be. Thousands of people are dying on the streets, and people are telling us this is a priority.”

The far-reaching proposal is certain to stir controversy — both at the Capitol in Sacramento and with local governments across the state. But Steinberg says the mandate is necessary because there are overlapping and convoluted systems of care that sometimes have differing goals and approaches.

See the full story on the LA Times website at

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