(The Center Square) – California is on track to clean up 1,000 encampments across the state this year, a total that would eclipse Gov. Gavin Newsom’s original goal tenfold.

Back in September, Newsom set a goal of cleaning up 100 encampments across the state. As of Thursday, the governor’s office announced the state, alongside local governments, has cleaned 431 encampments and is on track to clear 1,000 encampments by the end of the year.

“Tackling the homelessness crisis is a matter of life and death,” Newsom said in a statement on Thursday. “California is taking on the unacceptable status quo with a historic response to house thousands of our most vulnerable community members at an unprecedented rate, and swiftly addressing the encampments that pose the greatest threat to health and safety.”

The governor announced $50 million in grants awarded to 19 communities across the state on Thursday, which his office estimates will help rehouse around 1,400 individuals living in encampments. The funds come as part of the state’s Encampment Resolution Grant Program, which provides funding for local projects that aim to rehouse homeless individuals by helping people move from encampments to more stable housing.

Out of the $50 million in grants, the City of Fresno receives $5 million to rehouse 100 individuals, Santa Barbara County gets $2.5 million to rehouse 200 individuals, and the City of Los Angeles receives $1.7 million to rehouse 60 individuals.

“The 19 communities selected to receive this funding are committed to human centered, scalable and replicable projects, and represent urban, rural and suburban communities across California,” Lourdes Castro Ramírez, secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency and co-chair of Cal ICH, said in a statement.

According to Caltrans Spokesman Matt Rocco, when maintenance crews assess encampments that have either been spotted by Caltrans or reported by members of the public, the encampment is given a ranking based on safety. Based on the severity of the safety threat for the individual in the encampment and members of the public, Caltrans will post a notice of at least 72 hours informing encampment dwellers that officials will be coming in to clear the area.

During that time, individuals living in the encampments have time to clear their belongings and can be connected to local service providers that can facilitate temporary housing or shelter. Rocco also noted that even after an encampment is cleared, items left behind are stored at a local Caltrans maintenance center, where homeless individuals can reclaim belongings.

“We work as much as we can to just help these folks, as well as protect the safety of the public,” Rocco said.

Within last year’s budget, the governor spent $12 billion to address the state’s homelessness crisis. In his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, he’s asked for an additional $2 billion to advance encampment rehousing strategies and behavioral health housing.

Of the $2 billion in proposed funds, $500 million would go toward an expansion of the Encampment Resolution Grant Program, according to the governor’s office.

The governor estimates the $14 billion total homelessness package will create 55,000 new units and treatment slots in the coming years.


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