Mr. Governor, 24 billion dollar is not your money.

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On May 10th, the press conference held by Governor Gavin Newsom was a challenging moment for him. During the conference where he announced the revised budget, KFF Health News journalist Angela Hart posed sharp questions that caught the governor off guard. She asked whether the Newsom administration believed they had taken sufficient measures to ensure proper execution of the budget or if they were concerned about reducing spending due to homeless programs. It was an unusual sight to see Governor Newsom, usually confident and charismatic, taken aback.

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Recently, the California State Auditor revealed that over the past five years, California had spent a staggering $24 billion on homeless-related issues. However, even more surprising was the fact that the state government had not consistently tracked whether this massive expenditure had actually improved the homeless situation. Data on how the homeless budget was executed from 2018 to 2023 was insufficient, making it impossible to verify whether the budget had been appropriately utilized.

The California Interagency Council on Homelessness (CAL ICH), the agency responsible for overseeing homeless programs, failed to adequately monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of state efforts. While they reported financial data for the fiscal years 2018-2019 through 2020-2021, they stopped tracking and reporting data afterward.

As a result, despite pouring additional funds over the past two years, the state had no idea whether they were achieving their goals. The responsibility for these irresponsible results lies squarely with Governor Gavin Newsom.

The recent audit closely examined five specific state-supported homeless programs, but only two had available data. The remaining three programs lacked any data, preventing the release of conclusive results. The Homekey program, which aims to convert motels into permanent housing, is ongoing but still lacks clarity on cost-effectiveness. Similarly, the CalWORKs housing support program, targeting homeless families, received a cautious evaluation.

State Auditor emphasized the need for improved assessments. Now, more than ever, California’s state government must revise program plans to align with their goals, collect consistent data, and ensure transparency.

Solving homelessness isn’t just about how much money is spent; it’s about how it’s spent and whether it’s making a difference. Transparent budget execution and proper auditing are crucial moving forward.

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