Gov. Newsom announces task force on homelessness in Oakland

Governor Gavin Newsom announced a homelessness task force on Tuesday and said his office is allocating $1 billion to fight the issue.

Newsom called homelessness the number one issue facing California. Recently released statistics show the number of homeless people is up in Bay Area counties from two years ago. Alameda County has seen a 43% increase.

“We’ve got work to do,” Newsom said. “This is a disgrace. It’s happened on our watch. We own this.”

Newsom has named Sacramento Mayor Darryl Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas as co-chairs of the task force. Los Angeles has the largest number of homeless people in the state. 

“The governor has charged us, tasked us with looking at this from a regional perspective,” Ridley-Thomas said. “That means from northern regions, to southern regions and the central region.”

The team is tasked with looking at best practices across the state, like hotel-motel conversions, job programs, and the success of rapid re-housing programs like the Henry Robinson Center in downtown Oakland. The Robinson Center serves 300 people every year and has an 88% success rate of placing people in permanent housing when they leave.

Tekel Carlisle said she spent years on the street and it took a full year of calling shelters and various resources before she landed at The Robinson Center. 

“It has put me in a mindset where I can excel,” Tekel Carlisle said. “I'm currently in the process of looking for housing.”

The City of Oakland is also working to expand its Community Cabins, which serve as a safe site for homeless people where they receive services to help end their unsheltered status.

“The governor has really doubled down on investing in big cities who are on the front lines of this challenge,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said. 

Newsom said the task force will invest money in real time and organize a framework of goals to fight homelessness.

“Everywhere I go people are outraged,” Newsom said. “They’re angry about what’s happening or not happening on the street. This is the issue that ultimately defines our failure as a society.”

The task force is waiting for the legislature to pass a budget before they can begin working with the $1 billion. They’re expected to begin traveling the state in June or July.