California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said the state will make nearly $300 million available to local municipalities to clear out homeless encampments and move the homeless into housing.
The funds would go to the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, to remove camps on state property and assist the homeless with resources and finding other places to live.
"I think we can all agree that we need to do more to clean up encampments," Newsom said in a virtual news briefing.
"We weren't just cleaning up encampments – out of sight, out of mind – and displacing people, removing people, but that we're trying to resolve the underlying issues in the first place and actually support people in getting them back on their feet to self-sufficiency," he added.
He added that the funds are not a "blank check" and that cities and counties will be expected to reach certain benchmarks and goals.
Caltrans says it welcomes the money to help clean up camps near freeways, park and rides, and bike paths.
"Caltrans is working to connect people experiencing homelessness on its right-of-way to move to a more secure and stable housing situation offered by local partners," Alisa Becerra, a Caltrans deputy director, told KTVU Fox San Francisco.
California state Sen. Brian Dahle, a Republican, pushed back on statements by Newsom that he cleared more than 5,600 homeless encampments across the state.
- Finding affordable housing in LA could get easier with this proposed search system
- Unarmed response teams can be called in these LA areas for non-violent disturbances
- LA's latest homeless plan could turn hotels into squatter dens: expert
"The governor didn’t clear these homeless encampments; they just moved them down the street," he said. "California spends more tax dollars per homeless person than we do on our students. The homeless crisis is a national embarrassment. This governor needs to focus on real results instead of chasing presidential aspirations and gas-lighting Californians."
Homelessness has long been a top issue for California voters and elected officials. Residents and business owners have often complained of large encampments blocking sidewalks, creating more crime and being a haven for open-air drug use.
San Francisco recently removed homeless camps around the city ahead of the U.S.-China summit in which President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month.
While many applauded the effort, others voiced frustration about the cleanup to glam up the streets.
"At first I thought … the media was making a way bigger deal out of this than it needed to be," CrossFit Golden Gate gym owner Danielle Rabkin told "FOX & Friends First." "Of course, we needed to clean high-security zones. But then I realized they were cleaning outside those high-security zones. And then that Newsom clip surfaced, and it was abundantly obvious that they were cleaning because of optics and not security."
Newsom has admitted the beautification project was prompted by the visitation of world leaders.
"I know folks are saying, 'Oh they're just cleaning up this place because all those fancy leaders are coming to town.' That's true, because it's true, but it's also true for months and months and months before APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit], we've been having conversations," the governor said.
"It is extremely frustrating," Rabkin said of the remarks. "He doesn't care about having clean streets for the constituents he serves. But at the snap of the fingers, things are clean, just in time for this conference."