San Jose mayor rallies for more state homeless funding


A coalition of California mayors is calling on the state to continue funding a grant for homelessness services to address what they call the state’s biggest crisis.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, joined by eight other mayors from the California Big City Mayors coalition, urged Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday to expand a program that helps local cities tackle the homeless crisis that’s exploded across the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention (HHAP) program, started by Newsom in 2019, has doled out roughly $1 billion to cities and counties through two rounds of funding. The state is in the process of distributing its third round of $1 billion funding—with one more round of $1 billion to follow. The governor has not committed to future funding beyond the next fiscal year.

San Jose has received roughly $35.1 million from the program since 2020, which the city used to build prefabricated communities and helped house a few hundred homeless people. The city is in the process of applying for the third round of funding.

Now, the coalition of mayors is calling for the state to set aside an additional $3 billion over the next three years to build on growing momentum. With previous grants, cities have added more shelter beds, created new safe parking programs, funded more outreach services—and built more housing across the state.

“I’m proud to stand with my colleagues, fellow mayors, to talk about what’s happening in our communities and how HHAP will provide hope for the future—if we can continue HHAP funding into the future,” Liccardo said at a news conference in Sacramento Monday.

Mayor Sam Liccardo unveils the “Compassionate and Clean San Jose” plan at the city’s interim housing site on Rue Ferrari on Sept. 22. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

With the unprecedented state funding, San Jose managed to build three emergency interim housing sites totaling 317 beds during the first year of the pandemic, which has helped lifted more than 330 homeless people off the streets. Among those, 210 families and individuals moved into permanent housing, Liccardo said.

Liccardo said future HHAP funding would help the city replicate its success. The city is racing to build or start construction on more interim housing projects to hit its goal of 1000 units by the end of the year.

San Jose has seen its homeless population explode in the last few years, with more than 6,000 unhoused people recorded in 2019. The 2022 tally is being analyzed, but officials and advocates said the issue has only gotten worse over the pandemic. Liccardo last December called the homeless crisis San Jose’s “biggest failure.”

The City Council is set to approve San Jose’s application for new funding this week. This would bring roughly $29.1 million from HHAP. If accepted by the state, the majority of the grant—$18 million—would go toward operational costs at interim housing sites, and $3 million would fund a motel voucher program. The city would also set aside $3 million for youth homeless services, $3 million for outreach efforts and $1 million for mobile showers and laundry services. The new grant would add more city workers onto the homelessness response team, according to city documents.

Santa Clara County is poised to receive $13.6 million from this round of state funding. The county’s Continuum of Care, a board group of stakeholders working on ending homelessness, is also slated to receive $14.5 million from HHAP from the state later this year. 

Mayor Sam Liccardo, joined by eight other mayors in Sacramento, urged the state to continue funding a grant that funds homeless services across the state. Photo courtesy of Liccardo’s office.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, chair of the Big City Mayor of California coalition, said Newsom and the current legislature has invested in homeless solutions at a “historical” level.

“And we are here to urge them to keep (this funding) going,” Schaaf said, saying the grant is flexible money that helps cities tailor specific services for local needs.

With the funding, cities in the coalition have served more than 25,000 of California’s most vulnerable residents, Schaaf said.

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said the grant program has been a catalyst for cities to address its homeless crisis. The city spent the last 15 months doing outreach through partnerships with local nonprofits and Caltrans to bring roughly 650 people living near highways into housing.

“There’s not a single homeless person living on our freeways now,” Dyer said Monday. “There’s not a single tent that is erected on our freeways.”

Dyer, echoing others in the coalition, said the current programs and efforts would only work with more support from the state.

“We have provided a lot of hope to our homeless population,” Dyer said. “Now is not the time to lose that momentum or to take away the hope that we have given to these people living on our streets.”

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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