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Fighting for Home: Riverside’s push for continued funding to combat homelessness

“On April 23, I stood with the Big City Mayor’s Coalition to urge state legislators not to cut vital funding that has significantly reduced homelessness in Riverside.”

Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson speaks at the State Capitol, joined by Big City Mayor's Coalition members, advocating for ongoing state support through the HHAP Grant Program on April 23, 2024.

As your Mayor, addressing homelessness remains one of my top priorities. On April 23, 2024, I joined several of my colleagues from the Big City Mayor’s Coalition to urge our state legislators to continue investing in our efforts to address homelessness with direct funding from the Homelessness Housing Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) Grant Program. Since 2018, the State has provided direct funding to large cities, counties, and continuums of care for addressing homelessness with HHAP funding. The State currently does not have plans to continue this funding in the budget that is currently being negotiated by the Governor and Legislature. Amidst a challenging budget crisis, I believe it is critical to maintain our investments to address homelessness if we wish to see continued results. 

The 13 Big City Mayors, who represent nearly 11 million residents across the state, have used this funding to create more than 15,000 new beds, fund key operations, and serve roughly 150,000 homeless individuals. In Riverside, this has translated to a 12% reduction in chronic homelessness and a 73% reduction in transitional-aged youth who are homeless. Since 2018, we have used HHAP funding locally to serve over 1,500 individuals with shelter, rental assistance, recuperative care, and jail in-reach services. While Riverside has effectively leveraged these dollars to provide assistance to those suffering from homelessness, our data tells us that for every person we help exit homelessness, six more become homeless. It is imperative to address and manage the inflow and outflow for us to continue making progress. 

Legislatively, we have witnessed the momentum building with key bills like CARE Court and conservatorship reform passed and implemented over the last two years. Most recently, we saw the passage of Prop 1 by voters this past March. These are the first major changes to our mental health laws in the state since 1967! Federally, the Supreme Court is taking up the Grants Pass v. Johnson case, which restricts local governments from enforcing anticamping laws. While it currently seems the Supreme Court is divided on this issue, I am hopeful that they will address this 9th circuit ruling and give us the ability to enforce our anticamping laws without the threat of litigation. 

 While these are major strides to push back against the increasing tides of homelessness, our work is not done. We are requesting the state continue funding HHAP with an additional 1 billion in next year’s budget and commit ongoing funding to allow us to better plan for sustainable solutions to reduce homelessness in our cities. We cannot expect to address homelessness without investing in strategies that are working to help our seniors, youth, and those suffering from mental illness and drug addiction. Our efforts to address homelessness are in jeopardy with the loss of this funding source. Without HHAP funding, one thing is certain: we will lose our momentum and resources and see more homeless people on the street as a result. I am determined not to let that happen and to continue advocating for our fair share of resources.