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Dems secure $600M in federal taxpayer funds to fight homelessness, but some are skeptical it will help

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California Democratic senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler announced just over $600 million in federal dollars to curb the spiraling homelessness crisis in the state, as officials struggle to get a handle on the problem exacerbated by drug addiction and mental illness. 

“As we continue our statewide count of people experiencing homelessness, one thing remains clear: We need significantly more federal investment to address this humanitarian crisis,” Padilla said in a Jan. 29 statement. 

Butler said in a statement the funds would be “especially important to our youth experiencing homelessness, including unaccompanied and pregnant or parenting youth who will now have more access to programs aimed at preventing homelessness.”

The funding is part of a $3.16 billion investment from the Biden administration to support nonprofit organizations, housing authorities and local governments struggling to reduce homelessness nationwide.  

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A tarp and trash belonging to homeless people encamped by the Tuolumne River in Modesto, Calif., Jan. 23, 2024.  (Modesto Police Department)

Despite more taxpayer dollars at work, the homeless population continues to skyrocket in the Golden State. It’s up 6% compared to last year and boasts the highest number of homeless people living outdoors in the country. About 181,000 people were considered homeless in the state’s 2023 count, and most are suffering from drug addiction or mental illnesses. 

According to a University of San Francisco study last year, 82% of homeless people statewide said they had a mental health condition or abused substances in their lifetime. 

Chris Moore, a candidate for Alameda County supervisor and a board member with Bay Rental Housing Association, thinks the earmarked money “is good,” but that the state “isn’t using best practices.”  

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“And I think with more money, it’s great, but we need to start looking at best practices,” Moore told Fox News Digital. “And looking at what they’re doing there in Houston and start solving the problem rather than enabling the problem.” 

Houston cut its homeless population by 64% over the last 12 years and 17% last year through collaboration between various organizations despite minimal financial investment. Texas has spent significantly less money on homelessness compared to California — $806 versus $10,786 per homeless person.

Homeless man on the streets of SF

Homeless men on a sidewalk in San Francisco Sept. 2, 2023.   (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

California has dipped its toes in some of the country’s most controversial practices to confront its growing homelessness problem. 

The state has spent roughly $20 billion on homelessness in the last five years since Gov. Gavin Newsom took office under what’s called the “housing first” solution. It’s the belief that homelessness is solved through first putting people in apartments, motels, hotels or “tiny homes,” rather than mandating rehabilitation for drug addiction or mental health treatment. 

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Some say this strategy doesn’t work, as most government-run housing programs don’t require “wraparound” services, a holistic care model that includes drug rehabilitation and mental illness treatment.

Instead, the “harm reduction” model has been adopted by the state’s Department of Health, which focuses on reducing the consequences of drug use through offering clean syringes, naxolone and other materials to “meet people where they’re at” and make drug use “safer.” 

Rev. Andy Bales, the former CEO of Union Rescue Mission, one of Los Angeles’ largest faith-based nonprofit organizations that does not rely on government funding, told Fox News Digital that more people will become homeless under the strategy. 

Newsom smirks at news conference in Sacramento

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., March 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

“Housing First, specifically with the Harm Reduction rules, which really translates to the free flow of hard drugs and alcohol, has been an utter failure,” Bales said. “And there’s a reason why we’ve made absolutely no progress after California has spent $22 billion in the last six years. And yet homelessness has skyrocketed.”

Bales retired in 2023 from the nonprofit after 20 years. He said he continues to study the state’s homeless policies and population trends.

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“California alone represents 50% of all street homelessness because they have doubled down on the policy of housing first and harm reduction, and so if it continues to be spent, like it has been, we won’t see much positivity or improvement because it’s a failed policy,” he said. “There’s so much evidence to show that the numbers don’t lie.

“It’s a mistake to only fund one strategy,” he added. “You know, multiple strategies could make a difference.”

Homeless housing programs that use this approach can be identified through the National Harm Reduction Coalition’s interactive map. 

“Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use,” the National Harm Reduction Coalition website states. “Harm eduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.”

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Newsom is facing pressure by voters to curtail the issue at its root. In March, residents will vote on Newsom’s proposed $6.4 billion bond aimed at adding approximately 25,000 psychiatric and addiction treatment beds across California, a move aimed to be a “course corrective” action from when California dumped thousands of people from psychiatric centers onto the streets. 

“There was a righteousness in the 60s, with Democrats and Republicans saying, ‘We have to move away from these locked institutions,’” Newsom said last year before signing several mental health bills. “We were supposed to replicate that with community-based care, and there was no accountability — there was no obligation either way.”

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Alaska

Alaska Senate Champions Low-Income Seniors and Legal Aid in Sweeping Legislation

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Alaska Senate Champions Low-Income Seniors and Legal Aid in Sweeping Legislation


As dawn breaks over the snow-dusted peaks of Alaska, a significant legislative stride has warmed the hearts of many, especially the state’s most vulnerable citizens. In a recent session, the Alaska Senate passed key pieces of legislation, marking a pivotal moment for low-income seniors and Alaskans seeking legal aid. Among these, Senate Bill 170 shines brightly, offering a beacon of hope and stability to nearly 9,000 senior Alaskans by permanently extending a vital benefits program.

A Lifeline for Alaska’s Seniors

In a unanimous decision that transcends political divides, the Alaska Senate approved Senate Bill 170, permanently safeguarding monthly payments ranging from $76 to $250 for low-income seniors. This legislative act, championed by Sen. Scott Kawasaki, not only solidifies the state’s commitment to its elder population but also removes the looming expiration date that cast uncertainty over the program’s future. The Senior Benefits Payments Program, a critical source of support for those over 65, faced potential cuts in 2019. However, the public’s strong opposition and the recent legislative amendment have cemented its permanency, ensuring that Alaska’s seniors can continue to rely on this essential financial aid.

Strengthening Legal Aid for the Needy

Another legislative victory, Senate Bill 104, targets the growing need for civil legal aid among low-income individuals and survivors of domestic violence. By increasing the state funding for the Alaska Legal Services Corp by approximately $450,000 annually, this bill significantly enhances the capacity to provide free legal assistance. This move not only underscores the importance of access to justice for all Alaskans but also strengthens the support network for those in dire need of legal representation. The increase in funding is a testament to the state’s commitment to aiding its residents in navigating the complexities of civil lawsuits, offering a lifeline to those who otherwise might be left to face legal challenges alone.

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A Commitment to Community and History

Complementing these impactful pieces of legislation, the Alaska Senate unanimously passed bills to rename a bridge in honor of Raymond and Esther Conquest and to establish Alaska Veterans’ Poppy Day. These acts not only reflect the Senate’s dedication to community and historical recognition but also highlight the broader theme of commitment to public service and remembrance. By honoring the Conquests and establishing a day to recognize veterans, the Senate weaves the fabric of Alaska’s history and values into the present-day legislative framework, ensuring that the legacy of service and sacrifice continues to be celebrated.

In a world where legislative actions often go unnoticed, the Alaska Senate’s recent decisions serve as a resounding affirmation of the power of government to effect positive change in the lives of its citizens. These bills, particularly Senate Bill 170 and Senate Bill 104, embody the spirit of empathy, support, and unwavering commitment to the welfare of Alaska’s most vulnerable populations. As these legislative measures take effect, they promise not only to provide immediate relief but also to lay the groundwork for a more compassionate and just Alaska.





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Arizona

Man arrested for making ‘violent threat’ to Arizona election official in 2022

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Man arrested for making ‘violent threat’ to Arizona election official in 2022


A man was arrested in San Diego Thursday for allegedly leaving a voicemail on the personal cell phone of an Arizona election official in 2022.

William Hyde left a violent threat on the voicemail of the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office employee’s phone “on or about November 29, 2022,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced.

Hyde, 52, is set to make his initial appearance Friday at a federal courthouse in San Diego.

According to the newly unsealed indictment, Hyde allegedly left two voicemails a day after the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and the employee, met that November to certify the 2022 election results in the largest county in Arizona.

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In the voicemail, Hyde allegedly said “You wanna cheat our elections? You wanna screw Americans out of true votes? We’re coming, [expletive]. You’d better [expletive] hide.”

“Intimidation of election officials strikes at the very heart of our democracy,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Tara McGrath said in a statement. “Even just one case can have a ripple effect. This Office will aggressively prosecute any attempt to intimidate, threaten, or frighten election officials as they engage in these critical duties.”

Arizona – one of a few states that helped decide the 2020 presidential election – has been at the center of political controversy after election results have been contested in recent cycles and election workers have faced threats and intimidation.

State officials certified Arizona’s 2022 election results in early December 2022. The once low-profile act has now become a high-stakes and high-pressure certification process, as Maricopa County is a hot spot for allegations of voter disenfranchisement.

Hyde, a resident of California, has been charged with one count of communicating an interstate threat. If he is convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the DOJ said.

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The FBI San Diego Field Office investigated the case with help from the FBI’s Phoenix Field Office. The case is part of the DOJ’s Election Threats Task Force, launched in 2021, to address a rising number of threats of violence against election workers.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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California

Biden Meets With Navalny's Widow in California

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Biden Meets With Navalny's Widow in California


As the United States is set to announce sanctions against Moscow following Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s death, President Joe Biden met with his widow in San Francisco on Thursday. VOA Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.



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