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Governor Newsom announces $299 million for encampment closures

A homeless encampment in Oakland—one of the nearly 6,000 encampments closed since 2021.
Thomas Hawk
Flickr / Creative Commons
A homeless encampment in Oakland—one of the nearly 6,000 encampments closed since 2021.

On Tuesday morning, California’s Interagency Council on Homelessness began accepting applications for money to close encampments. The state will dole out the $299 million in grants to cities, counties, and continuums of care.

The funds are designed to cover the many costs associated with encampment sweeps: from increased police presence during the operation, to paying Public Works staff to clean the sidewalks. The funds are also intended to move encampment residents into housing.

Governor Newsom first created his “Encampment Resolution Fund” in 2021, as a part of his $12 billion-dollar budget for housing and homelessness. Newsom touts the program as a success: According to his office, $415 million in funding had already been disbursed to 66 communities across the state. This money has been used to close nearly 6,000 California encampments.

However, there is controversy over whether closing homeless encampments is an effective way to provide care for homeless people. A federal lawsuit in San Francisco barred the city from closing encampments for more than a year. In that case, a federal judge examined whether the city’s encampment closure practices violated state and federal laws, as well as the rights of individual homeless people.

“It’s long been recognized nationally that removing and displacing unhoused people from encampments without them having somewhere to go is not only a humongous waste of money, but actually exacerbates homelessness”

Jennifer Friedenbach is the Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness, one of the parties that brought the lawsuit against the city.

“So to give an example, you can have one person in an encampment, and we end up with 15 city personnel, six different vehicles, for three to four hours at a time, really a massive expenditure and operation, when it could have just been one person who was working with that person to get them into housing.”

Applications for Governor Newsom’s new encampment closure funding will be accepted on a rolling basis until June 30, 2024, or until the funds are exhausted.

Alastair Boone is the Co-Editor in Chief of Street Spirit newspaper, and a member of KALW's 2024 Audio Academy.