California Prepares to Spend $2B on Homeless

The state will construct permanent housing for people living on the street.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are more than 115,000 homeless in California and 25 percent of them suffer from mental illness.

With California's homeless situation at what some officials are calling a tipping point, lawmakers are putting the finishing touches on a plan to provide as much as $2 billion to help cities build permanent shelters to get mentally ill people off the streets. The Legislature could consider the measure later this week.

"There's just something immoral about a tent city being silhouetted by 16 cranes building high-rises - the juxtaposition of haves and have-nots," former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Orinda, said at a Capitol hearing.

"I don't care what part of California you're in, you will see an ever-growing population of people who live on the streets with a mental illness, and that's what we're addressing," said Maggie Merritt, executive director of the Steinberg Institute, a mental health nonprofit advocating for increased state funding to fight homelessness.

Hawaii, along with Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington has declared the homeless problem a state of emergency, but California Governor Jerry Brown doesn't want to go that route:

Brown favors the legislative plan proposed by Senate Democrats that would provide up to $2 billion for local agencies to construct permanent housing for people living on the streets with psychological disorders. Legislative analysts expect it'd fund at least 14,000 units.

 The money to pay for the upgraded services will come from an income tax increase on millionaires.

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