Berkeley parks

Bay Area cities receive millions in public funds for homeless camps

New public funds will help Bay Area cities clean up homeless encampments from San Jose’s Guadalupe River Park to Richmond’s Castro Street – part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent push to eliminate the sprawling camps that have taken over California’s sidewalks, parks and open spaces.

Newsom distributed $50 million Thursday to help cities and counties fight the camps, and some of the biggest rewards went to Bay Area communities. The money is intended to fund projects that will house people living in encampments, provide services that will help camp residents find housing, clean up camps and reopen spaces for public use.

In total, the funding will help provide shelter or housing for 1,401 people who live outside, according to the governor’s office.

“Addressing the homelessness crisis is a matter of life and death,” Newsom wrote in a press release. “California is embracing the unacceptable status quo with a historic response to house thousands of our most vulnerable members of our community at an unprecedented rate, and quickly address the encampments that pose the greatest threat to health and safety. “

Encampments grew in many Bay Area cities with the onset of COVID-19, growing larger and more entrenched as cities suspended reduction efforts over fears of displacing people homeless for a pandemic. The camps, which often create unsanitary and inhumane living conditions for occupants and a nuisance to neighbors, have become a hard-to-avoid symbol of the state’s homelessness crisis.

In response to growing pressure to act, the state last year approved $50 million to fund the new encampment resolution grants, which were distributed Thursday. This year, the governor has proposed to multiply this investment by ten.

Newsom allocated a total of $12 billion last year for housing and homeless services.

On Thursday, San Jose received $2 million to house 100 people camping along the Guadalupe River Trail between Arena Green and the Children’s Discovery Museum.

Richmond won $4.8 million, which city officials planned to use to clean up a camp of more than 100 people living off Castro Street in cars, RVs and trailers. The city planned to create a housing trust fund exclusively for the occupants of this camp to be used for rent, job training, vehicle repairs and anything that would help them secure stable housing, Michelle Milam , head of crime prevention for the Richmond Police Department and a member of the city’s homelessness task force, said last month.

Redwood City, where Newsom visited an encampment on Wednesday, received $1.8 million to house 70 people.

“We appreciate Governor Newsom’s leadership and support in helping to end homelessness,” Redwood City Mayor Giselle Hale wrote in the press release. “Redwood City will continue to work with all levels of government to urgently provide services and find long-term solutions.”

Santa Cruz County earned $2.3 million to house 65 people. Officials there intended to use the money to award “housing grants,” which residents of the encampment can use in whatever way suits them best, Robert Ratner, director of the county health housing.

Berkeley and Oakland each received a $4.7 million grant. Other recipients include Fresno, Los Angeles, Salinas, San Rafael and Marin County.

While pundits have applauded Newsom’s recent investments in tackling homelessness, many have complained that the money set aside so far has been one-time grants. The crisis demands an ongoing stream of funding that cities, counties and nonprofits can rely on and use to make a lasting dent in the problem, they say.

And the money set aside so far is not enough, experts say. The state received applications for $120 million in this round of encampment resolution grants — but there was only $50 million in the pot.