There are an estimated 151,278 homeless people in California, according to the latest federal count. That’s a 16.4% increase over the last year and the largest homeless population the state has seen since at least 2007. Driven by the spike in California, the nation’s homeless population increased by 2.7% this year, according to a federal government report.
In San Francisco, about 8,000 people were counted in the streets or in shelters, representing a 17% increase from 2017.
Newsom’s executive order asks state agencies, including Caltrans, to identify state-owned property that counties, cities and nonprofits can temporarily use to provide shelter and related health care and social services. The order directs his administration to identify some of the properties, so long as it doesn't delay the development of affordable housing.
“This builds on recent leases that Caltrans worked closely with local partners to execute — including the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Stockton and San Diego,” Caltrans spokesperson Kyle Simerly said in a statement.
The agency said it would have more details in the coming days on how local partners will use Caltrans property on a short-term emergency basis to house homeless individuals.
Certain counties and cities could qualify to receive travel trailers and modular tent buildings. Vacant or decommissioned hospitals, clinics and fairgrounds are on the table as well, especially in areas where entire communities became homeless overnight in destructive wildfires. Also, a “strike team” is being formed to help local governments address homelessness on the streets.
That includes cities like Santa Rosa, where hundreds of displaced residents were housed during wildfire evacuations at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins supports the idea of using the space to house the homeless and has previously floated the idea of a sanctioned encampment at the fairgrounds.
“If we can house people there during a natural disaster, why can’t we house people who are currently homeless,” said Hopkins, whose district includes a mile-long homeless encampment along Santa Rosa's Joe Rodota Trail.