California's big city mayors urge state to allocate $4B to tackle homeless crisis

Mayors in some of California's biggest cities want lawmakers to dip into the state's budget surplus and spend a billion dollars a year to battle homelessness.

The mayors said they need flexible funding and the ability to decide on a city-by-city basis what will work for them in finding long-term solutions.

Mayors from 13 cities across California say homelessness consistently ranks as the most important issue. In a Wednesday video conference, the mayors said that the state has a once-in-a-generation surplus, and now is the time to invest.

" Four billion dollars, amounting to $1 billion for each of the next four years for flexible funding, direct to local communities that are grappling with large unhoused populations and needing resources to nimbly respond as our cities have," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

The mayors said 59% of the states' homeless live in the biggest cities. They say those cities have been innovating solutions based on what works locally, including tiny home villages and converting hotels to transitional housing.

Now they say to maintain those programs for long-term success, they need a long-term commitment that "includes a funding source that allows us to also fund operating reserves at these new buildings that we are purchasing," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. "We cannot wake up five years from now and have dilapidated buildings that have not been maintained. We have to deliver on our promise of dignity."

The mayors say despite years of working to battle homelessness they've never received the funding they truly need for a long-term solution. They're saying they need bold plans with accountability and transparency.

Sacramento's mayor saying the ultimate goal is permanent housing.

"But, there are significant steps for many people before they can succeed in permanent housing and that is to get them off the streets into congregate shelters, or tiny homes or even safe ground environment or safe parking," said Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

Lawmakers are already working on the state budget, and a final decision on this $4 billion four-year homeless spending proposal should come in the next few weeks.