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Newsom puts a pause on homelessness grant distribution amid double-digit increases in homelessness

The governor says municipalities are not addressing the issue aggressively enough, but Kern County homeless advocates say the county is doing better than the rest of the state.
Homelessness in Bakersfield
Posted at 10:22 PM, Nov 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-05 02:16:04-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — On Thursday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will be “pausing” the last round of state Homelessness Housing Assistance and Prevention grants.

The HHAP grant program is part of a $15.3 billion dollar multi-year state effort to turn the tide on homelessness in California. However, the third round of grants is on hold. Governor Newsom says cities are demanding results but failing to meet the urgency of the issue.

Local nonprofits helping the homeless like the Bakersfield Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative are now saying that their projects are being negatively impacted by the pause.

BKRHC Executive Director Anna Laven says the nonprofit, the City of Bakersfield, and Kern County are all recipients of HHAP grant money.

“Essentially, what this pausing means is that we’re delaying housing or nearly 200 homeless households, we are stalling high-performing projects to address youth homelessness, we are halting new, innovative projects to provide additional access to services, and we’re discontinuing services for rural Kern County with the halting of these dollars,” said Laven.

Laven says that while there is definitely more work to be done, the collaborative’s efforts to get people into housing throughout the county have been going well.

“Our recidivism rates, in other words the returns to homelessness at 2 years, are oftentimes less than 5 percent,” said Laven. “If you an imagine those who are most challenging, who’ve been homeless for long periods of time, who oftentimes are disruptive to the community, we’re really able to transform their lives by housing and providing those wrap-around services.”

The governor stated in a press release on Thursday that the plans already carried out have resulted in just a 2 percent decrease in homelessness over four years statewide. While some plans show local leaders taking aggressive action to combat homelessness, some reflect double-digit increases in rates of homelessness over the same four years.

Laven says that prior to the announced pause, the collaborative had already been sent information from the state confirming that BKRHC’s plans for the use of those funds were approved. She added that Thursday’s announcement was shocking.

“Really what we’re asking of the governor at this point is that we be able to come to the table,” said Laven. “We believe we have many goals in common and that resuming HHAP 3 grant agreements is absolutely the necessary thing to do. It doesn’t make sense to us that we would halt work that is already in progress, particularly when we’re able to indicate and show that that work can be very effective.”

Governor Newsom says he will get together with local officials this month and identify new strategies to better address the growing homelessness crisis in California. Until then the funds will remain withheld.