FULLERTON (CNS) - Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday hailed a new center in Fullerton that will aim to address the root causes of homelessness.
The Homeless Outreach and Proactive Engagement, or HOPE, Center will be a "unified command center" for social workers and local law enforcement to work together on helping transients get off the streets. The North Orange County Public Safety Collaborative, which comprises officials from 11 cities, has received $35.8 million in state funding to address homelessness in a variety ways.
"You've seen a 23% reduction in your point-in-time count (of homeless) in this county -- one of the best-performing counties in the state, and it's because of the leaders here today," Newsom said at a ribbon-cutting for the new center. "Let's keep up the good work."
Newsom said the issue of homelessness in the state has suffered from years of neglect, but that is changing.
"What's happening as it relates to homelessness in California is unacceptable," Newsom said. "What's persisted in this state for decades is unacceptable. One has to take responsibility and ownership. We need to own this and I want folks to know we do... We mean business."
Newsom cautioned, however, that, "We can't change decades of neglect overnight."
Newsom said he visited Orange County because "I believe success leaves clues."
He praised state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, for leading the way for the new center.
Newsom praised the county for its efforts to send out vans of social workers to meet with transients to aid them.
Fullerton Police Department Chief Bob Dunn said local authorities have been collecting names of chronically homeless individuals with their permission so they can better keep track of "people who fall out of the system, and to shore up those areas with money or programs or nonprofits." The work is aided by data with help from experts at the Cal State Fullerton social sciences department, Dunn said.
Newsom rejected the notion that some transients prefer to live on the streets and won't seek help or permanent housing.
"That's a lazy mindset," Newsom said. "That's why I love these vans and data platform we've got.."
Newsom said a volunteer or staffer might see a chronically homeless person every night for years, but then one night "they're finally ready" to accept help.
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, was also praised for her work on the issue over the years.
"We lost almost 40 people, individuals who are homeless, individuals on our streets, every month, and that number continues to rise," Quirk-Silva said. "Today, we are here for hope -- just exactly what that means. We are hopeful about chances. We have to keep those numbers of people dying on our streets down. And that's only going to happen with collaboration, communication and compassion."
Sen. Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, said it was a "great day for Orange County, a testament to innovation, to leadership, to compassion and collaboration."
Umberg praised Newman's persistence on the issue.
Newman said, "Today's ribbon-cutting builds on five years" of efforts to create "an innovative and promising model to address the root causes of homelessness -- using data-centric, evidence approaches."
In the spring of 2017, Newman said he met with multiple area police chiefs and city managers on ways homelessness could be addressed.
Out of that meeting, the group worked on a "regional, multi-city collaborative" approach to the issue, using data.
"And we're doing it without arrests," Newman said. "We are making progress without having to arrest our way out of it, and that's a change that makes a huge difference."