Sacramento mayor candidate Darrell Steinberg joins old Capitol colleagues to announce billion-dollar homelessness initiative

Darrell Steinberg, at podium flanked by many former Capitol colleagues, said the “problem of homelessness is actually getting worse” in Sacramento.

Last night at City Hall, TV cameras from three different media outlets videotaped homeless activists protesting Sacramento’s “discriminatory” laws. That’s what happens when the city sends 50-or-so cops to arrest a dozen-or-so homeless folk on New Year’s Day: traditional media finally starts paying attention.

Anyway, a few blocks away, inside an apartment building for low-income residents, mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg joined his old Capitol colleagues to work on homelessness solutions.

With his former state Senate colleagues at his side, he announced the first initiative of the 2016 legislative session: a bill that would fund construction of thousands of affordable and workforce housing units throughout California.

“The problem of homelessness is actually getting worse,” Steinberg told the audience inside Mercy Housing on H and Seventh streets. And he said these issues are not exclusive to downtown Sacramento. “It’s Land Park, it’s Carmichael.”

The solution, he argued, is to focus on a housing-first approach to getting people off the streets by financing the construction of more low-income housing.

At the event, Steinberg and lawmakers from both political parties flanked state Sen. Pro Tem Kevin De Leon of Los Angeles as he introduced the plan conceived by his predecessor. Called “No Place Like Home,” the initiative would use monies from Proposition 63's tax on millionaires—which Steinberg also conceived—to pay for new housing.

The details aren’t yet ironed out, but the idea is to take a small percentage of Prop. 63 revenue and leverage it into $2 billion worth of grants, which will be doled out to counties to pay for the housing.

Still in its nascent phase, the initiative will face all kinds of obstacles. Will Assembly leadership and Gov. Jerry Brown embrace it? Will counties be willing to relinquish control over a small piece of Prop. 63 dollars? Is the plan to take out bonds on the revenue even legal?

Steinberg is hopeful. He reiterated that it’s crucial to find new money to provide cities the actual housing resources to get people off the streets and into social-service programs. “This is a spark” he told SN&R after the meeting.

The mayoral candidate also said in his speech that we need to approach homelessness solutions in a “humane and cost-effective way.” He did not, however, criticize Sacramento’s approach to enforcing the anti-camping ordinance at the protest a few blocks away. “We can’t have people camping in the streets,” he said.

Sen. De Leon, who held a similar press conference at L.A.'s skid row yesterday morning, responded differently to a question about the criminalization of homeless people: “It’s nonsensical the way law enforcement has executed some of these laws.”

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