Responding to a call by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the California Assembly voted overwhelmingly to urge Governor Jerry Brown to declare a statewide state of emergency on homelessness.
House Resolution 56, whose lead authors were Assembly Majority Whip Miguel Santiago and Assembly Budget Chairman Phil Ting, won more than 50 votes. Fewer than a dozen legislators opposed it.
“The California Assembly now stands alongside the Board of Supervisors, as well as more than 13,000 people – and counting – who have signed a petition seeking a statewide emergency declaration from our Governor,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “We must seize this momentum to act on homelessness, the defining civil rights issue of our time.”
Testifying at the state Capitol, Assemblymember Ting said, “Today we are saying we can no longer do this by ourselves, city to city. We as a state need to come together, work together, to find a solution.”
“Homelessness affects every community in California, and it should impact the conscience of every (Assembly) member and of every Californian,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said. “We didn’t get to this point in a matter of days, and we won’t resolve the problem in a matter of days either. This resolution, however, helps to instill a sense of urgency.”
Assemblymember and former Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins said, “I believe very much in this resolution today, but I believe it is absolutely up to us to make it happen.” She added state lawmakers need political will “to figure out how we’re going to follow up on this resolution with action.”
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this month to ask both the California Assembly and Senate to seek a statewide emergency declaration from the governor. In the motion, co-authors Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl urged that the declaration include access to $500 million from the State Fund for Economic Uncertainties to implement statewide re-housing efforts, including street engagement, service triage, crisis housing, permanent housing navigation, rental subsidies and case management.
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas traveled to Sacramento on behalf of the Board to witness the vote on HR 56 – his fifth visit to the state Capitol in as many weeks to rally support for addressing homelessness.
Assemblymember Philip Chiu, who chairs the Assembly’s Housing and Community Development Committee, emphasized the severity of the crisis. “While California has only 12 percent of our country’s population, we have 20 percent of our country’s homeless,” he said.
“Skid Row in Los Angeles is now everywhere – in the north San Fernando Valley, the Antelope Valley, the south Los Angeles coastal areas, on the gateway cities going into Orange County, in the east County,” added Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas. “HR 56 seems to me to be an appropriate way to goad the administration, to encourage the Governor’s continued focus on services with housing.”