California Gov. Gavin Newsom lauded efforts to clear houseless encampments throughout the state in a press release Aug. 26.
The state has cleared 1,262 sites since the initiative began in September 2021, according to the press release. Furthermore, the state has removed 1,213 tons of trash — enough to fill “22 Olympic-size swimming pools.”
“Leaving people on the streets and our highways is dangerous and inhumane. It’s unacceptable,” Newsom said in the press release. “(We’re) getting people off the streets and into the housing and services they deserve.”
The press release notes that 283 of the cleared encampments were located throughout the nine Bay Area counties.
The cleanup efforts are organized by Caltrans and are done in collaboration with local law enforcement agencies and California Highway Patrol, according to Caltrans spokesperson Will Arnold. Newsom joined Caltrans on Aug. 25 in Los Angeles to highlight the state’s “successful” efforts.
Arnold said in an email local governments are responsible for providing housing assistance to unhoused people dislocated from the cleared encampments under state law. City of Berkeley spokesperson Matthai Chakko confirmed and noted the city’s own efforts in this endeavor.
“It is CalTrans’ policy to coordinate with local governments to make outreach and service offers to people living on CalTrans parcels,” Chakko said in an email. “The City of Berkeley doesn’t directly receive flexible homeless funding from the State, but we nonetheless do outreach to those living on CalTrans parcels, offer services and, when possible, offer housing.”
Arnold said in an email the cleared encampment sites were assessed for immediate threats to essential infrastructure, particularly in situations where shelters are built along state right-of-way property.
Such threats include modifications to structures increasing risk of collapse, blocking traffic and pathways and fire threats to highway overpasses, according to Arnold.
“Caltrans is responsible for ensuring the safety of the state’s transportation network for all Californians, including protecting and maintaining the highway infrastructure,” Arnold said in an email.
California’s 2022-23 state budget earmarked $350 million toward assisting people living on state right-of-way property. The press release notes that these funds were taken from a total of $700 million designated for encampment resolution grants.
The press release also celebrated Newsom’s efforts to tackle the state’s homelessness crisis, noting that since Newsom took office, $14.7 billion has already been invested toward a coordinated statewide approach to encampment resolution through the state’s Homekey program.
According to the Homekey website, the program builds upon the success of Project Roomkey, a state effort established in March 2020 to provide shelter to unhoused people made particularly vulnerable by the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2022, Newsom awarded $16.2 million to the city of Berkeley for a Homekey project.
“When Governor Newsom took office, California lacked money, coordination and accountability in tackling the state’s homelessness crisis,” the press release reads. “Now, three years later, the state has become a national leader.”
More than 67,000 people have been provided with shelter or housing by the state since the beginning of the pandemic, the press release notes, with an additional 55,000 housing units being — or in the process of being — deployed.