In a departure from tradition and a sign of how all-consuming the crisis has become, Gov. Gavin Newsom made a single issue the focus of his second state of the state speech Wednesday morning: homelessness.
After spending the first few minutes before the Legislature playing up California's economic accomplishments, Newsom pivoted to an issue he said represents an "institutional failure," one that disproportionally impacts black and Latino Californians — and one that he said must be the top priority of state government.
"No amount of progress can camouflage the most pernicious crisis in our midst, the ultimate manifestation of poverty, screaming for our attention: homelessness," he said. "Let's call it what it is — a disgrace — that the richest state in the richest nation, succeeding across so many sectors, is failing to properly house, heal and humanely treat so many of its own people."
Newsom's focus underscores both the magnitude of the crisis and the potential political consequences if he doesn't tackle it. Recent polling shows homelessness as one of the top concerns among Californians. At last official count, there were over 151,000 homeless people in California, more than 108,000 of whom were living in unsheltered conditions.