Newsom Launches Plan to Treat Mental Illness Among the State’s Growing Homeless Population

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: May 27, 2024

California Governor Gavin Newsom has already pledged to spend billions of dollars helping the state’s immense number of unhoused residents struggling with mental illness. However, this funding comes with strings attached.

Gov. Newsom explained during a visit to Redwood City in the Bay Area last week that he expects every county in California to report the outcomes of their mental wellness programs for those experiencing homelessness. And if they don’t, Newsom could cut their funding.

More Than 180,000 Californians Are Living Without Homes

As of December 2023, there were more than 180,000 people experiencing homelessness in California, which is more than 28% of the nation’s total homeless population.

Homeless people rest on a public sidewalk in Los Angeles, California

Source: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

According to California Healthline, “a staggering 82% of people experiencing homelessness said that they had a mental health condition or substance use challenge[s] in their lifetime. And 66% said they were currently experiencing mental health problems.”

Gov. Newsom Gives $3.3 Billion for Mental Wellness Centers

The growing population of people experiencing homelessness in California is a crisis by anyone’s standards, and residents of the state have been pushing the government to take action for years.

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during an interview

Source: @ABC7 News/YouTube

Although the state does offer some of the best mental health services for the homeless in the country, it simply hasn’t been enough to truly combat the problem. Which is why Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would be allocating an additional $3.3 billion to help homeless residents with mental illness, effective immediately.

Gov. Newsom Wants California Counties to Start Building Treatment Centers

When Gov. Newsom announced his decision, he explained that the money would be distributed to the state’s 58 counties, and he expected them to use it to renovate or build new behavioral health treatment centers.

Two faceless people exchanging U.S. cash

Source: Freepik

Newsom and his supporters wholeheartedly believe that this influx of cash will not only create thousands of mental wellness centers around the state but, more importantly, that these institutions will actually help end the homeless problem.

California Already Has 5,500 Behavioral Health Beds

As of May 2024, California already has 5,500 behavioral health beds, but Gov. Newsom wants the state to use this $3.3 billion to create 8,000 more.

A photograph of several empty beds in a homeless shelter

Source: Depositphotos

He explained that counties can decide if they need crisis facilities, homes for addiction or locked treatment beds, but they have to use the money to create temporary or even long-term homes for the unhoused.

Gov. Newsom Wants to See Results

However, the governor also wants the counties to understand that this is not a handout, as he expects to see results in print as soon as possible.

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaking from a podium in front of several U.S. and California flags

Source: @CaliofrniaGovernorGavinNewsom/YouTube

Gov. Newsom said in a statement to the counties’ leaders this week, “It’s time to do your job. It’s time to get things done. You asked for these reforms, we’ve provided them. Now it’s time to deliver.”


If California Counties Don’t Build Behavioral Beds, There Will Be Consequences

Gov. Newsom made this assertive statement while standing in front of the construction of a new mental health facility in Redwood City. Showcasing that clearly, some counties, like San Mateo, have acted on his direct instruction.

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks to a crowd outside

Source: Alamy

Newsom didn’t shy away from calling out the counties that haven’t. He said, “There are a number of counties that are saying, well, we just need more money and more housing before we can move with these reforms or to do anything.”


It’s Not Just Newsom Who Wants Accountability

Of course, it’s not just the governor who wants California held accountable for this immense cash influx. Golden State residents want to ensure that their tax money is being used to truly and tangibly address the state’s homelessness problem.

A view of a wealthy California neighborhood on a sunny day

Source: Freepik

Newsom said in Redwood City, “We heard you. The public wants accountability, not interest in how much money we’re spending; I’m not, either. I want to know what we are resolving to get done.”


Newsom Will Cut Funding to Counties Without Results

During the statement, one reporter asked Gov. Newsom if he plans to cut or freeze funding to counties or cities that don’t turn in their reports explaining what they’ve spent the money on.

A close-up photograph of a U.S. $1 bill frozen in ice, signifying “frozen funds”

Source: Depositphotos

To which Newsom replied, “Yeah, we’ve made that crystal clear.” So it seems that the governor and his team are going to ensure each of the state’s 58 counties do actually “get it done.”


The Interagency Office of Homeless Requested $3.5 Million More

While Governor Newsom has promised that his team is watching the outcomes of this $3.3 billion funding, his Interagency Council on Homelessness apparently said they need an additional $3.5 million to follow up with the counties.

The logo for the Interagency Council on Homelessness

Source: @District_ICH/X

Some say that this is a sign that Newsom’s team is not watching the counties as closely as they say they are. Republican assemblymember Josh Hoover said, “I think [asking Californians for another $3.5 million is] unacceptable, and I think that’s an excuse for not doing the work.”


Gov. Newsom Created a Mental Health Website

In addition to the $3.3 billion funding for renovating and building new mental wellness centers, Governor Newsom also created a new state-wide website that he hopes will make a real difference in thousands of lives.

A screenshot from California’s mental health website offering assistance to those in need


Now, California residents, both housed and unhoused, can visit to get the help they need. From a direct support line to doctors’ offices, shelters and every other resource the state offers, they can now all be found in one place.


Will Gov. Newsom’s $3.3 Billion Actually Help the Homeless?

Although Gov. Newsom clearly plans to enforce his instructions regarding the $3.3 billion he distributed to fund new mental wellness centers, many wonder if it will actually work.

Exterior of Cordilleras Mental Health Center in Redwood City, CA

Source: @rwcpulse/X

However, that conversation will have to wait until the additional 8,000 behavioral health beds have been built. And it seems that they might be ready sooner than later, with Gov. Newsom making sure that each and every county is getting to work.