Column: Newsom and mayors meet to discuss homelessness. Have we hit rock bottom?
By Mark Morford
Dec. 11, 2018 | 6:00 p.m.
At a time when homelessness seems to be increasing in Colorado, Housing Secretary Dolores Gresham is meeting with more than two dozen city mayors to discuss what government can do to respond.
The meetings come as housing rates continue to decline in metro areas across the country and as homelessness has increased by a whopping 38 percent over the past year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
For years, housing has been a high priority in Colorado. And the federal government has been a significant player in that.
But as housing costs have declined and more young adults of working age are entering the workforce with student loan debt, more people are being priced out of homes, and more are experiencing homelessness, the federal government is seeing a need to step in.
“I think housing’s gotten a lot more attention from the federal government and a lot more resources are directed at that,” said Gresham.”But the challenge is, is there a way that we can give funding to local governments to do more with it?”
Since 2012, the federal government has provided around $600 million in grants, mostly for housing programs, and another $500 million to local governments for emergency efforts in response to the opioid crisis.
But for the past three years the Housing and Urban Development Department has reduced its spending on housing programs by 28 percent, leaving mayors and city councils scrambling for money.
Housing and Urban Development also has its hands full with other pressing issues, including homelessness, homelessness prevention, affordable housing and infrastructure and disaster.
But what Gresham is talking about now is money that could be used to house people more effectively and also to build more housing overall, she said.
That’s why the conversation started with a conference call with mayors to discuss what cities can do to address the crisis, she said.
“We’ve had so many mayors that come to us,