Midterms 2018: Proposition 2 aims for housing for mentally ill homeless people

Oct 16, 2018

Should voters approve new housing for an estimated 20,000 homeless people with severe mental illness?

While most people agree the end goal of Proposition 2 is noble, there is disagreement over two-billion in bonds needed to build the homes.

California already has a revenue stream set aside specifically to pay for mental health services. It comes from what's known as the "millionaire tax" - passed by voters back in 2004.

Prop. 2 would tap into that source - and that has some upset.

Lauren Rettagliata is an advocate for people with serious mental illnesses. She's worried about the up-to $140 million dollars per year the state would use to pay back the bonds.

"I hear many of the proponents say, we're just going to take a sliver of the money to do this," Rettagliata said. "That's not a sliver, that's a lot of money."

Those bonds would help counties kickstart construction.

Deborah Anderluh is with the Steinberg Institute, which advocates for better mental health policy. She said the $140 million is a sliver when you compare it to the estimated $2 billion or more in expected annual revenue.

"I know that the opposition, the idea is well, this is taking money away from existing funds for mental health services," Anderluh said. "And what we say is that those services, they don't work well without the housing."

She said studies show housing those with mental illness ends up saving money.

"People were in housing and getting treatment and on the road to recovery instead of in jail or in the hospital," Anderluh said.

Prop. 2 has broad support from cities, counties, police, fire, and the statewide National Alliance on Mental Illness.