California legislators want to know how money earmarked for homelessness crisis is being spent

Despite increased public investment, the number of people living on the street is growing statewide, rising from 4,350 to 7,000 in San Jose.

California wants to audit how the city of San Jose spends its homeless funds, as requested by Democratic state Sen. Dave Cortese. "Our residents deserve to know how (homelessness) dollars are getting there and how they are being invested. What’s working and what’s not, and I think we need to know that as well. Adding transparency will help both the state and local jurisdictions work together to figure out how to best spend these dollars going forward," said Senator Dave Cortese said, addressing the Joint Legislative Committee. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers want to know what is being done with the money and have called for the creation of an audit to investigate the issue. In addition to Democrat Dave Cortese (San Jose), Republicans Rosilicie Ochoa (San Bernardino), Roger Niello (Sacramento) and Democrat Evan Low (Silicon Valley) have called for an audit of public funds earmarked for homeless assistance.

"We would like to know how the state and cities use state, federal and local funds to address the homelessness crisis and how effective the investment of public funds has been to date," Cortese said in the letter requesting the audit. Although the initiative was introduced March 22 and was unanimously accepted, 12 votes to zero, Senator Cortese became aware of the seriousness of the homeless crisis in San Jose when he visited the encampment in the city's Columbus Park last year. "What I saw was far worse than a tent city, it was a public health disaster. Rodents were running around your feet, massive piles of trash, tons of broken RVs and abandoned cars, cars turned upside down with people living inside. These homeless encampments are not safe, they’re not humane, we all know that. They’re actually brutal," Cortese said.

California dedicated $12 billion in 2021 to fight homelessness and $23 billion over the past five years, as revealed by the audit. Specifically, in the city of San Jose, Cortese claimed that the number of homeless had increased from 4,350 in 2019 to 7,000 in 2022.

The problems with people living on the street are especially troubling in the city of San Francisco, where last September, business owners in the Castro district protested in the streets against crime and threatened not to pay municipal taxes if public safety problems were not fixed. Some small business owners reported that the homeless suffer frequent psychotic episodes, have become violent, broken shop windows and harassed people.