© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during a visit by U.S. First Lady Jill Biden, at The Forty Acres, the first headquarters of the United Farm Workers labor union, in Delano, California, U.S. March 31, 2021. Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS/F

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday said he was committing $12 billion toward the state’s seemingly intractable homeless problem in what he said was the largest amount of money spent at one time to get individuals and families off the streets.

The move comes as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, along with smaller cities and towns, grapple with mushrooming homeless populations and the spread unsanitary conditions and disease in blighted communities.

The $12 billion in homelessness spending is part of a larger $100 billion package Newsom calls the “California Comeback Plan,” in reference to economic damage sustained to the nation’s most populous state during the coronavirus pandemic.

The first-term Democrat faces a Republican-led recall effort over his handling of the pandemic.

“The California Comeback Plan invests a historic $12 billion to expand these successful programs and seeks to end family homelessness within five years,” Newsom, 53, said in a written statement.

“That’s the idea behind the Comeback Plan’s homelessness investments – more, faster and with accountability and efficiency stitched into the fabric of these new investments,” he said.

Of the $12 billion, $7 billion would be used to acquire more temporary housing under “Project Roomkey,” a program in which the state provides money for cities and counties to rent hotel rooms for people living on the streets.

Another $1.75 billion would be spent to build affordable homes, some $450 million to address student homelessness and 150 million to “stabilize and rehouse” people given shelter under Project Roomkey.

Last month, U.S. District Judge David Carter ordered Los Angeles to find shelter for the roughly 4,500 people living on the streets of the city’s infamous Skid Row neighborhood.

Carter delivered a blistering criticism of city officials, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, for the problem. Garcetti is reportedly being considered for an ambassador role in the Biden administration.

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