Bill would declare California homeless crisis a ‘state of emergency’

The California Assembly passed a bill on Thursday that would declare the state’s homeless crisis a state of emergency and could potentially provide half a billion dollars in state funds for local outreach efforts.

The bill already has the support of Los Angeles county officials, where an estimated 47,000 homeless people reside. Overall, the Golden State has 115,000 homeless individuals statewide — more than 20 percent of the nation’s homeless population.

“California is too prosperous a state for so many to suffer from homelessness,” said Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), the Democratic majority whip who co-authored the legislation.

If the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, it would appropriate up to $500 million to be allocated for homeless care and outreach programs to be organized by California’s counties.

“This declaration within the state could speed up and provide immediate help for the homeless,” said Al Naipo, senior deputy for communications for L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The bill itself does not provide a funding mechanism for allocating the half-billion dollars. But it urges the governor to tap existing funds to address the state’s homeless problem.

The money would then be disbursed throughout counties to local agencies.