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Gov. Gavin Newsom visits San Diego, highlights plans to combat homelessness across California

Under the California Blueprint, Newsom has proposed spending $2 billion on homelessness with a focus on mental health and addiction.

SAN DIEGO — Gov. Gavin Newsom visited a homeless encampment in downtown San Diego Wednesday morning to highlight his California Blueprint, a plan to tackle "existential threats," including the housing crisis, through a proposed $286.4 billion budget.

"This past year, California has been able to move 58,000 individuals off our streets and into the housing and treatment they desperately needed," Newsom said. "The California Blueprint will double down on those efforts, focusing on clearing encampments, while also setting the groundwork for long- term systemic change with significant investments in mental health and substance abuse treatment to get vulnerable people off the streets."

The proposed additional $2 billion package -- for a total of $14 billion -- to the state's multi-year plan to confront the homelessness crisis is intended to create 55,000 new housing units and treatment slots when fully implemented.

"We have to do more and we have to do better," said Newsom, who was joined by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

WATCH: Mayor Todd Gloria addresses homelessness crisis in San Diego (Jan. 12, 2022)

In the short term, he said, plans are to spend about $2 billion on "immediate and short-term" solutions that include "rapid rehousing" strategies.

The California Blueprint is intended to bolster last year's investments with an additional $1.5 billion for behavioral health bridge housing to get people off the street and into treatment, and $500 million toward "encampment resolution grants for local jurisdictions to implement short- and long-term rehousing strategies for people experiencing homelessness in encampments around the state," a statement from the governor's office read.

Newsom's proposal includes expansion of the Returning Home Well program, intended to provide transitional housing and mental health services to people leaving prison or jail. Additionally, it calls for expanding Medi-Cal benefits to include mobile crisis response -- investing $1.4 billion over five years so that people experiencing homelessness can receive behavioral health care.

"Behavioral health and homelessness are inextricably linked, and we have the chance to invest in the former to help prevent the latter," state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. "Governor Newsom's proposal will help expand access to housing and medical support for vulnerable populations with complex behavioral health conditions and people living in encampments."

The governor said he understands taxpayer frustration at the homelessness crisis, but asked for patience. He said many people on the streets deal with addiction, and they will not be admitted to shelters unless they are sober, creating a difficult-to-solve issue through the old shelter system.

"We are targeting intervention and we are targeting partnerships," he said.

Gloria, meanwhile, said that at this time last year, around 1,100 shelter beds existed in the city. Now there are more than 1,300, a number he said will continue to grow in tandem with the acquisition of hotel rooms through state and federal funding.

"That means more people on their way to permanent housing, ending this nightmare," Gloria said. "I thank [Newsom] for coming to San Diego today to highlight our program to reach out to residents living alongside our freeways and connect them to the safety of our shelters and the help they need to end their homelessness."

The governor also spoke briefly about the state's response to COVID- 19. He said California has 31% of the nation's COVID-19 testing sites and has per-capita case, hospitalization and death rates far below those of similarly large states.

"The positivity rate is high, but it is half the rate of states like Texas and Florida," he said. "We just need to get through this last surge. Just a few more weeks."

WATCH: Gov. Gavin Newsom visits homeless encampment in San Diego (Jan. 12, 2022)

Earlier this week the governor proposed a $286.4 billion budget focused on some of the state's biggest issues — including climate change, homelessness, education, abortion, high-speed rail, the COVID-19 pandemic and crime.

Under the California Blueprint, Newsom proposed spending $2 billion on homelessness; last year his budget included $12 billion for the issue which affects an estimated 161,000 people in California - more than any other state in the US. His focus for the proposal includes people struggling with mental health or drug and alcohol addiction. A quarter of homeless people in California have a severe mental illness, according to the Associated Press.

“I don’t want to see any more people die in the streets and call that compassion,” Newsom said Monday, detailing his $286.4 billion blueprint. “There is nothing compassionate about someone dying in the streets or stepping over someone on the streets or sidewalks.”

A large portion of funds earmarked for homelessness - $1.5 billion - would go to housing to get people off the streets and into treatment over the next two years. This would include the building of "tiny homes" and other temporary shelter options.

The other $500 million would be for cities and counties to find housing for people now living alongside highways and medians. 

Gloria is also expected to address homelessness - and his "housing-first strategy" - on Wednesday in his State of the City address

Following Gov. Newsom's San Diego visit he is slated to make a stop in Los Angeles County to visit a testing site and highlight his COVID-19 Emergency Response Package.  

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