SAN FRANCISCO — California’s Governor $1.1 billion plan to remove garbage and graffiti off highways, roads, and other public areas began on Wednesday, with Gov. Gavin Newsom claiming that the initiative will beautify the state and create up to 11,000 jobs.
Priority will be given to at-risk kids and those who have been homeless or jailed in the past for the employment generated under the three-year initiative. According to Newsom, 400 individuals have been employed or offered jobs in the previous week.
The cleaning comes as a result of public outrage over homeless encampments that have sprung up under highway overpasses and near freeway exits and entry ramps across California in recent years. During the epidemic, the encampments have expanded in size, and many are now filled with abandoned couches, beds, and other rubbish.
Homelessness affects an estimated 161,000 individuals in the nation’s most populous state, more than any other. Advocates claim that due to a lack of housing units and exorbitant prices, they are unable to accommodate individuals quickly enough.
The monies from the Clean California program cannot be used to evict persons who are homeless.
“When our teams go out to encampments to tell individuals of our plan to clear up an encampment, we’re doing it with more resources than at any other time in California history to follow through on our pledge to get people housed and out of these hazardous environments,” he said in Richmond.
Caltrans, the state’s transportation agency, is in charge of maintaining many of the roads but has failed to keep up. Caltrans collected 270,000 cubic yards of trash in 2020, according to Newsom’s administration, enough to fill 18,000 garbage trucks.
Newsom stated that the state’s previous largest single expenditure in removing rubbish from public areas was $110 million. Later, in 95-degree temperatures, he went to Fresno, California, to assist a Caltrans team in picking up rubbish off the side of a roadway. He also intended to travel to Southern California for a series of events promoting the cleanup plan.
John Cox, a Republican candidate for governor of California, campaigned in Fresno hours earlier with an 8-foot (2.4-meter) pile of garbage to promote his homelessness proposal, which calls for homeless people to be forced into mental health or addiction treatment before being given homes.
The governor stated that the beautification initiative will be a collaboration between cities and counties, with each receiving one-third of the money in grants.
“We’re going to leverage local money through a matching scheme, so those dollars will be stretched much beyond a billion-dollar state investment,” he added.
Newsom stated that the initiative is about adding art to public areas in addition to cleaning.
In May, Newsom launched a $1.5 billion Clean California program, but in the final budget approved by the governor last month, the Legislature cut the money to $1.1 billion.