Nearly two years after California lawmakers approved a $2-billion bond to help finance new housing for the state’s homeless, not a penny has been spent, and it’s unclear when any of the money will be available.
The dollars are tied up in court as a Sacramento attorney challenges the state’s plan to pay off that debt with money California voters approved in 2004 for mental health services. The funding, the attorney contends, should not be diverted from treatment programs, even if the mentally ill benefit from the housing. State housing officials said they don’t know how long the litigation will take to resolve.
The delay is causing deep frustrations. Over the last year, homelessness increased nearly 14% in California and now affects more than 130,000 people in the state — a quarter of the nation’s homeless population. The lack of funds is slowing the amount of housing that can be built, said Ruth Schwartz, co-founder and executive director of the Los Angeles nonprofit Shelter Partnership.