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California Voices Launches With Focus on Homelessness

A key part of CalMatters’ mission of explaining California policy and politics is to be a forum for reasoned and diverse voices on the biggest issues facing the state. 

Today, we elevate that priority with the launch of California Voices, an expanded and reimagined commentary section. 

California Voices editor Yousef Baig explains his goal this way: “Many people feel ignored… . Expanding the voices we hear from can make difficult discussions more representative of California, and the solutions easier to reach.”

In addition to encouraging dialogue that advances solutions, California Voices will amplify those directly impacted by policy decisions — people such as Anastacio Rosales, who wrote a commentary in June calling for accountability for public officials who promised to help him and his neighbors in flooded Planada.

The first issue focus is one that is top of mind for many Californians — the homelessness crisis. At last count, 170,000 people are unhoused, and most are on the streets. The new California Voices homelessness page features several different points of view:

  • Zella Knight, a formerly unhoused person who is now a Los Angeles activist, writes about her own experiences, while Tomiquia Moss, founder of All Home, says it will take big, costly fixes to overcome decades of bad policy.
  • Sara Martinez, a vice president at the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, offers some lessons from that Texas city where the unhoused population shrank by more than half in the past decade. (As CalMatters’ Marisa Kendall found after visiting there this summer, some of the solutions are not easily transferable and will only get California so far.)
  • Patricia Fontana, a Berkeley activist whose son has a serious mental illness, argues that mental health treatment must be part of the solution, while Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg writes about why he supports Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mental health initiative on the March 5 ballot.
  • And state Senate Republican leader Brian Jones of San Diego asserts that instead of throwing more money at the problem, the state needs to change its policies, starting with clearing more encampments.

As part of the launch of California Voices, Yousef will be hosting a virtual event from 11 a.m. to noon on Nov. 14 on how to pitch a commentary piece. Register here. And read more on California Voices from our engagement team.

Speaking of homelessness: A third of the nation’s homeless veterans are in California despite billions in spending over the past decades — so Gov. Newsom has a new strategy to help them, reports CalMatters health news intern Shreya Agrawal.

The old approach: Building veterans homes. But some facilities are underused, and the homeless veteran population in California has held steady since 2014. 

Newsom’s new strategy: Targeting veterans with serious mental health conditions as part of his $6.4 billion mental health bond on the March 5 ballot. 

Veterans’ groups say the effectiveness of the program would depend on getting the word out and services helping veterans escape homelessness. Read more in Shreya’s story.

Source : Calmatters

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