'We need to do more': California to spend $300 million to clear homeless encampments

California Gov. Gavin Newsom displays seven bills signed as he joins Los Angeles leaders in celebration of legislation to support the state's expansion of mental health services and behavioral health housing as part of California's package to address the homeless crisis in Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 2021.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom displays seven bills signed as he joins Los Angeles leaders in celebration of legislation to support the state's expansion of mental health services and behavioral health housing as part of California's package to address the homeless crisis in Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 2021.

California will provide about $300 million to local jurisdictions throughout the state to clean up homeless encampments, California Gov. Gavin Newsom's office has announced.

"I think we can all agree that we need to do more to clean up encampments," Newsom said during a virtual press conference on Monday.

Newsom said that agencies who use the funds will be held accountable to "minimum expectations and standards."

Newsom's office also announced that the state has cleaned up about 5,700 encampments since July 2021 as part of the state's Encampment Resolution Fund.

"We weren't just cleaning up encampments – out of sight, out of mind – and displacing people, removing people, but ... we're trying to resolve the underlying issues in the first place and actually support people in getting them back on their feet to self-sufficiency," Newsom said.

Here's what you need to know about the latest move to tackle homelessness in the Golden State:

How does the money get awarded?

People and their belongings are seen on Jones Street in San Francisco, on Nov. 13, 2023.
People and their belongings are seen on Jones Street in San Francisco, on Nov. 13, 2023.

The $299 million available to local jurisdictions will be awarded in competitive grants. To win a grant, cities and counties will have to apply with the California Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Applications will be accepted through the end of June or until funds run out.

“Housing is the solution to homelessness, and these grants will help our local partners assist their unhoused neighbors move from dangerous and unsightly encampments into safe and stable places they can call home,” Meghan Marshall, the council's executive officer, said in a statement.

Sixty-six communities have been awarded $414 million from the Encampment Resolution Fund since 2021, the governor's office said.

New funds to remove encampments from highways

An unhoused man sits on a suitcase on the side of a street lined with tents in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 22, 2023.
An unhoused man sits on a suitcase on the side of a street lined with tents in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 22, 2023.

The state's transportation department said the funds will help them move encampments out of dangerous locations near freeways and park and rides.

"Caltrans is working to connect people experiencing homelessness on its right-of-way to more secure and stable housing situations offered by local partners,” Alisa Becerra, deputy division chief of Caltrans, said in a statement.

The governor said that over 13,000 homeless people had been helped by previous distributions from the Encampment Resolution Fund and the new distribution will help another 10,000 more.

Homelessness in California by the numbers

According to a 2023 study by the University of California, San Francisco:

  • 171,000 people experience homelessness in California

  • California has 30% of the nation’s homeless population

  • California has about half the nation's unsheltered population

  • The median age of those surveyed was 47

  • Nine out of 10 respondents lost their last home in California

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California to spend $300 million to clear homeless encampments