Aside from the high-speed rail, which future generations will only see as a few mysterious Stonehenge-like ruins in the Central Valley, the state’s homelessness crisis is the clearest example of why money alone can’t solve California’s problems.
People living in tents under freeways, in parks, in driveways and on sidewalks are hard to miss. According to a recent poll by the California Public Policy Institute, 70% of Californians now view homelessness as a big problem, second only to economic conditions (jobs, the economy, and inflation).
Legislators and the governor know the people want to fix this problem, but over the past five years, the state has spent a whopping $20 billion to fight the crisis to no avail.
A recent report from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development shows that the number of homeless people increased by 23.4% between 2007 and 2022. From 2020 to 2022, the number of homeless people increased by 9,973, giving California a dubious advantage as the country has seen the largest increase in homelessness in those two years.
We are clearly doing something wrong.
This HUD report also reveals a staggering fact: There are currently 171,521 homeless people in California.
In other words, this is more than double the number of people that can fit in a SoFi stadium. This number also makes up a whopping 30% of the nation’s total homeless population, despite California being home to less than 12% of the nation’s population.
Obviously, we are not getting the biggest bang for our buck.
So where did that $20 billion go?
Was it spent effectively?
Hard to say. Layers of bureaucracy, multiple government agencies and a minimal accountability approach to spending means we don’t really know what works and what doesn’t.
I have been calling for accountability and results-based legislation for many years.
Just last year, my Senate Republican colleagues and I introduced a comprehensive package of 14 bills to address the homelessness crisis with Accountability, Compassion, and Healing (ACT).
Included in the ACT package was my Senate Bill 1353, an accountability measure inspired by the findings and recommendations of two government auditors’ reports. These reports showed that California does not track federal and state funding data for homelessness programs and does not report whether state-funded measures taken to reduce homelessness have been effective.
SB 1353 would have required local governments to report all of this information to the Legislature and post it on a public online panel.
This bill died in committee, but the shocking federal numbers mentioned earlier add to the urgent need for accountability and transparency.
Losing $20 billion isn’t just a setback for taxpayers; it’s a failure for those on the streets who really need help.
How compassionate is it to allow those suffering from mental illness or drug addiction to languish in the streets?
Although my efforts last year were not successful, it is good to see that members of both sides are trying to solve this problem today.
This year, I am proud to co-sponsor with Senator Brian Jones, R-Santee, one piece of legislation, SB 31, which would ban homeless camps near vulnerable areas such as schools, parks, libraries, and day care centers, and at the same time unites the homeless. who need help with resources and services.
This is the compassionate push we need to break the cycle of homelessness and increase public safety on our streets.
Crazy is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, and California has certainly done that with your homeless money.
Before spending another cent on the homeless, there needs to be a clear understanding of where our tax dollars are going and whether they are going towards programs and services that actually work.
It’s not crazy to ask, but unfortunately it can be considered as such in Sacramento today.
Senator Scott Wilk represents the 21st Senate District, which includes the Antelope, Santa Clarita, and Victor Valleys. Right Here Right Now comes out on Saturdays and is distributed to local Republicans.