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Bay Area awarded millions in Project Homekey grants for new homeless housing

Bay Area cities and counties will receive more than $226 million in state grants to create over 800 new units of supportive housing for homeless people, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.

The money will come from Newsom's Project Homekey program, which helps local governments, tribes and nonprofits fund homeless housing either by buying and converting hotels, apartments and other buildings, or by constructing new units from the ground up.

Newsom announced the grants — part of $694 million in total awards for 35 projects across the state — while visiting a recently completed Homekey project in Los Angeles. While acknowledging the "anger" and "frustration" many feel over the homelessness crisis, Newsom said Homekey is an example of the more active role the state government has taken in recent years to tackle one of California's most dire challenges. That includes $15 billion in the state budget the past two years for homelessness and behavioral health programs.

"Some people have given up on the prospect that we can ever solve this issue, and I want folks to know you shouldn't give up," he said. "I want folks to know we're just winding up. I want folks to know we're just getting started."

Bay Area cities and counties that received awards include:

  • Oakland: $5.6 million for 24 interim units and 10 interim youth units
  • Newark: $38.1 million for 124 permanent units and one manager unit
  • Palo Alto: $26.6 million for 108 interim units
  • San Francisco: Two awards totaling $73.4 million for a total of 221 units
  • San Jose: $51.6 million for 204 interim units
  • Santa Rosa: Two awards totaling $24.7 million for 91 units
  • Sonoma County: $6.3 million for 21 permanent units and one manager unit

Newsom's office was unable to immediately provide more information about the awards.

San Jose's award will go to help build a 204-unit temporary housing project on city-owned land at Branham Lane and Monterey Road in the southern part of the city near Edenvale Gardens Regional Park.

In an email to San Jose residents, Councilmember Sergio Jimenez said construction on the facility should begin in the next few weeks after authorities clear a homeless camp from the site. The project is expected to be up and running by summer 2023, he said.

The $3.75 billion Homekey program, launched in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, has now funded more than 200 projects totaling 12,500 units of temporary and permanent homeless housing with wraparound services, according to the state. Much of that funding has come from federal pandemic economic recovery efforts.

In the Bay Area, at least 62 planned and completed projects have received grants for over 3,600 new units, according to state data — though some sites have been slow to get off the ground because more money was needed for renovations or due to struggles finding developers and nonprofit service providers, among other issues.

Wednesday's announcement comes three months after long-awaited data showed homelessness in multiple Bay Area counties swelled during the pandemic, despite the launch of Homekey and other efforts to help people get off the street.

The data came from a Bay Area-wide "point-in-time count" conducted in February. Santa Clara County counted 10,028 unhoused residents — up 3% from the last tally in 2019. Alameda County counted 9,747 people — up 22% from three years prior. Contra Costa County saw the biggest jump, counting 3,093 unhoused people this year — up 35% from 2019.

San Francisco, however, saw a drop of nearly 4% to 7,754 people. Officials credited the millions of dollars the city has invested in recent years to house homeless people in hotels, safe parking sites and new supportive housing.

The new Homekey awards will only be able to help provide housing for a fraction of the Bay Area's homeless population. But Newsom said the goal of the program is to eventually find residents more lasting homes.

"The idea," Newsom said, "is to move people along, to address the underlying issues and allow people the opportunity to live in dignity and to get back on their feet."

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