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California governor calls state’s homeless crisis ‘a disgrace’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Tents of the homeless line a street corner in Los Angeles, California on January 8, 2020. (AFP photo)

California Governor Gavin Newsom has called the state’s homelessness crisis “a disgrace,” as the growing homeless population continues to overwhelm America’s most populous and wealthiest state.

Newsom, a Democrat, devoted most of his annual State of the State address on Wednesday at the California legislature to the homeless crisis.

“Let’s call it what it is: It’s a disgrace that the richest state in the richest nation, succeeding across so many sectors, is falling so far behind to properly house, heal and humanely treat so many of its own people,” Newsom told lawmakers in the state capital of Sacramento.

“Every day, the California dream is dimmed by the wrenching reality of families and children and seniors living unfed on a concrete bed,” he added.

California’s homeless population soared 16 percent last year to about 151,000 people, a problem that the governor said disproportionately affects minorities.

Newsom urged state lawmakers to increase tax on millionaires to help those with mental illness who are homeless, and called on cities to spend the $160 million they have collected from a wealth tax more quickly.

A lack of affordable housing in California has exacerbated the crisis, increasing prices and contributing to more people moving out of California than moving in, the first time in 10 years the state has had a migration loss.

California, the wealthiest and most populous state in the US, already has more people living in poverty than any other state, and Los Angeles, the state’s largest city, has the highest poverty rate at nearly 20 percent, according to a study published in June by the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority.

Republican President Donald Trump has frequently criticized California over the homeless issue and lambasted the state’s officials again on Tuesday during a visit to Los Angeles, saying federal intervention might be necessary.

“And if they can’t do it themselves, we’re going to do it,” the president said. “The federal government is going to take it over and we’re going to do it.”

In December, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development reported a 2.7 percent increase in the nation’s homeless population driven by a spike in the state of California.

The states with the highest rates of homelessness per 10,000 people were New York, Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington. The District of Columbia (Washington, DC) had a homelessness rate of 94 per 10,000 people, more than twice as high as New York.

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