Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee Convenes Informational Hearing on Homelessness

On Thursday, the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, chaired by Senator Holly Mitchell, convened an informational hearing on homelessness. The hearing commenced with the Legislative Analyst’s Office framing the issue of homelessness in California, highlighting historical state and local efforts, and walking through some of the Governor’s related budget proposals. Ali Sutton, representing the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council, briefly highlighted the Council’s priorities, which include: 1) the implementation and development of a statewide homelessness data warehouse; 2) the development of a data-driven, evidence-based, action-oriented strategic plan; and 3) continuing the oversight of the housing first mandate. Ms. Sutton also provided brief updates on the Homelessness Emergency Aid Program (HEAP)and Housing Assistance Program (HAP).

The next panel featured representatives from the Newsom Administration, starting with brief remarks from Health and Human Services Undersecretary Michelle Baass, who attended on behalf of Secretary Ghaly who was tending to recent developments around coronavirus.  Ms. Baass noted the Governor’s efforts to address homelessness, including the creation of the California Access to Housing and Services (CAAHS) Fund, CalAIM, and the Community Care Collaborative Project. She also discussed the regional approach and the Administration’s desire to ensure robust collaboration and coordination across city and county lines. Following her comments, Kim Johnson, Department of Social Services Director provided additional detail around the CAAHS fund and permissible uses. State Medicaid Director Jacey Cooper, elaborated on the opportunities under CalAIM, including enhanced care management, in-lieu-of-services, county inmate eligibility pre-release, and population health. Finally, Stephanie Clendenin, Director of the Department of State Hospitals, elaborated on their department’s thinking for the Community Care Collaborative project to move individuals deemed incompetent to stand trial into community-based placements.

The final panel touched on current activities at the local level to address homelessness, efforts to expand housing and services, and continued challenges/needs in their communities. The panel included representatives from the City of Sacramento, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, San Bernardino County Community Development and Housing Agency, the Mariposa County Health and Human Services Agency and Brilliant Corners – a statewide non-profit organization.

There was a robust dialogue during the question and answer portion of the hearing. Committee members raised questions about how disparities in homelessness would be addressed – including minority and older adults, how to ensure funding equity across diverse jurisdictions, and how the needs of lower acuity individuals would be addressed.

For more information, please refer to the agenda and/or the recording of the hearing.