Gov. Newsom signs order to make vacant state land into temporary homeless shelters

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Thursday, January 9, 2020
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Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Wednesday to make surplus land available for temporary shelters.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Wednesday to make surplus land available for temporary shelters.

While local officials welcome the initiative, some say it still could run into opposition from neighbors.

The problem has always been finding sites to shelter the homeless for the short and long term.

The Governor last summer asked state agencies to find surplus land for potential sites, and a map of about 100 locations has been created.

Two are in Santa Clara County, the old Alquist state office building on Second Street in downtown San Jose and the Gilroy Armory, which is used in winter to shelter families in cold weather.

"I think that the Governor, I think that the mayors of all of our cities, our county board of supervisors all across the state are really working on this issue. We need to do more, and we need to do it faster," said Santa Clara Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

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The Governor's executive order also calls for mental health and drug treatment services.

Funds may be budgeted for preventive care for the homeless. However, ABC7 news contributor Phil Matier says Newsom doesn't go far enough.

What we don't have is any bold initiative to say re-do California's mental health laws," said Matier. "Questions about whether people be kept under state guardianship. If you are offered housing and you don't take it, what's the next step?"

The executive order also makes 100 state-owned trailers and tent structures available for temporary homeless shelters.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf supports Newsom's initiative.

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I believe that there is no issue that Californians agree on more than the need to end homelessness," said Mayor Schaaf.

A potential hurdle could be opposition by residents living nearby, as has happened in many cities.

"I think we, all in our community, want to make sure is that these are well-run facilities and that we're doing our very best to make sure that we really are protecting the interests of the neighborhood as well as the new neighbors, and I think that it's possible to do that," said Chavez.

Governor Newsom's also setting up a system to monitor how well cities and counties are dealing with the homeless population, getting them off the streets and into some form of housing.

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