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Gov. Brown Wants Millions For Homeless Aid In Proposed Budget

SACRAMENTO (AP) - Cities and counties would receive $359 million from surplus state revenue to help California's growing homeless population under the proposed budget Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday.

About a fourth of homeless people in the United States live in California, which has just 12 percent of the country's overall population, according to federal data.

Brown, a Democrat who has been criticized for not acting more quickly to address the problem, said the money will help, but more will be needed to solve the root causes of homelessness, including mental illness and drug addiction. It will be a challenge for whoever is elected in November to succeed Brown.

"It isn't enough to just throw dollars down to the cities," Brown said at a news conference.

The money would include $250 million for emergency aid block grants, $32 million for the state's welfare program CalWORKs and $50 million for people will mental illness. It also includes funding for domestic violence shelters, a state council that coordinates homeless assistance, and support for homeless youth and seniors.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said Friday he and other mayors are sorting out what the money would mean for local government. A bipartisan group of mayors from California's 11 largest cities has lobbied at the state Capitol this year for $1.5 billion to tackle homelessness.

Liccardo said he appreciated Brown's response to their request, but said they'll push "for a larger commitment in light of the magnitude of the crisis."

Liccardo said money could go toward building tiny housing units at a cost of $20,000 each and rehabilitating motel rooms into usable apartments.

The budget should include even more money for permanent housing with on-site support for homeless people, Assemblyman David Chiu said.

"The governor's budget does not invest enough of California's considerable surplus into programs that would address the high cost of housing (and) the state's severe homelessness crisis," the San Francisco Democrat said in a statement. "If we are going to have a lasting impact on the lives of all Californians we must invest more in increasing the supply of affordable homes for our rent-burdened, low-income families."

The funding Brown proposed would be a one-time expenditure to tide communities over until new fees approved last year start generating revenue, Brown says.

Last year, lawmakers approved a fee on real estate transaction documents to fund subsidized housing. They also placed a bond measure on the November ballot to allocate $4 billion for housing for low-income people and veterans.

Brown's budget proposal also calls on the Legislature to place another bond measure on the November ballot for $2 billion to house people who are homeless or at risk of losing their homes. Lawmakers approved the money in 2016, but it has since been tied up in court because of a lawsuit that argues the money comes from a source voters approved to fund mental health services, not housing. Brown says bringing the issue directly to voters will clear up the legal questions and allow the money to be spent.

More than 25 percent of homeless Californians have severe mental illness, according to Brown's office.

The budget proposal also includes an additional $312 million for overall mental health services, including care specifically for young people and early detection.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg applauded the increased money for mental health and homeless aid in the updated budget proposal, known as the May revision.

"For the first time ever in my memory, mental health is a lead issue in the May revision," Steinberg said. "This is a tipping point."

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.

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