California’s Proposition 1: ‘Treatment Not Tents’

Prop. 1 could be a step in the right direction for supportive housing, but it could also make cuts to mental health services across California.

California’s Proposition 1: ‘Treatment Not Tents’ (Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Californians will vote on Proposition 1 — which could change homelessness and mental health services across the state. 

Prop. 1 aims to support the state’s most vulnerable residents, those who struggle with behavioral health problems as well as homelessness. Gov. Gavin Newsom championed the proposition, which has caught the attention of many healthcare providers, law enforcement and first responders.

The Proposition is the only statewide initiative this election cycle. If passed, Alameda County will build thousands of new supportive housing units — reserved for formerly homeless veterans and those who struggle with severe mental health conditions and substance abuse. The proposition is projected to provide 6,800 new treatment beds and 4,350 new units of housing, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Prop. 1 will spark more guidelines around the Mental Health Services Act, a tax enacted in 2004 that funds a third of behavioral health services statewide. If passed, counties will have to devote 30% of MHSA funds to housing interventions. This will triple the amount of funds currently spent on supportive housing in California, from about $15 million to just over $43 million. 

However, experts have expressed concern at the amount of stock going into Prop. 1 as a solution to the current homelessness epidemic in California. In a state with an estimated homeless population of 180,000, the current projections will hardly make a dent. 

A key flaw is that this measure will make no changes to the MHSA tax, the same money will just be used differently. This proposition will shift funds from existing mental health services, capital services and technology — limiting critical care to all Californians. 

This component is especially controversial, as lack of mental health services is still a large issue statewide — standing especially strong for people of color with lower economic status. 

In places like Berkeley, the outcome of this proposition stands unclear — as the city’s public health agency stands alone, which means they receive a chunk of the MHSA funding directly. If Prop. 1 is passed, Berkeley will receive less direct funding, altering the flexibility that allows them to distribute to local services. 

The general consensus of the proposition has attracted a large majority of voters statewide. With thousands of potential supportive housing units on the line, cities across the Bay Area have adopted and endorsed Prop. 1. If the legislation is passed it will be a necessary step forward in the urgent need for supportive housing statewide. 

Piper Stuip (she/her), is a high school sophomore at Oakland School for the Arts focusing on creative writing.

Edited by shaylyn martos

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