Earlier this year, the Governor unveiled a proposal for additional funding for mental health needs for people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness and veterans. Housing is an important component of the final package approved by the Legislature.  Two bills moved on to the Governor’s desk:

AB 531 (Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks) – Authorizes the placement of a ballot measure – the “Behavioral Health Infrastructure Bond Act of 2023”- on the March 2024 ballot to ask the voters to approve the issuance of $6.38 billion in general obligation bonds for permanent supportive housing and new community treatment beds/residential settings for people with behavioral health challenges. Of the total, $1.927 billion would be set aside for the development of permanent supportive housing for veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness and for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness with behavioral health challenges. The remaining funds would be set aside for behavioral health treatment and residential settings eligible under the Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program. The housing approvals assisted with these funds would be by right, with streamlined, ministerial review.

AB 326 (Eggman, D-Stockton) – Places a measure on the March 2024 ballot that asks voters to make significant technical and procedural changes to the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), which it renames the Behavioral Health Services Act (BHSA). Changes would include expanding the program to include treatment for substance abuse disorders and revising the funding buckets for the use of funds. Thirty percent of the funds would be allocated to housing interventions for people with serious mental illness, emotional disturbances, or substance use disorders. These interventions could include rental assistance, operating subsidies, and capital investments, among other programs. Of the housing funding, a minimum of 50% of the funds must be directed to people who are chronically homeless, with a specific focus on people residing in encampments.

The State has several ongoing programmatic efforts designed to address homelessness in parallel with the proposed funding package described above. The Governor recently announced the latest round of $81 million in Encampment Resolution Fund (ERF) awards out of the competitive grant program’s $350 million total allocation. ERF grants enable local jurisdictions to support the wellness and safety of people experiencing homelessness in encampments by providing immediate services and creating pathways to safe, stable housing.

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About the Author

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Colleen Murphy is a Principal with LeSar Development Consultants’ Homelessness Solutions Team, where she designs and implements homelessness-related programs emphasizing unsheltered/encampment strategies and the intersection of homelessness and healthcare. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from James Madison University and a postgraduate diploma in Epidemiology from the University of London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Biography | Email

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