Opinion

Suicide prevention and Newsom’s focus on housing, homelessness

Homeless people in tents underneath a Los Angeles bridge. (Photo: mikeledray, via Shuytterstock)

Californians’ top two concerns as measured recently by the Public Policy Institute of California poll are homelessness and housing. At Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California (ABC NorCal), those matters are top concerns as well. So, we were grateful that Gov. Gavin Newsom focused on those topics and that the governor in his budget directed funds to deal with two issues that we have long believed must be confronted head on—housing and mental illness care.   

Gov. Newsom pledged up to $1.4 billion to attack the homeless situation. To help people on the verge of homelessness keep their apartments, Newsom is proposing a sum of $750 million, some of which will go towards subsidizing rent to keep people from falling into homelessness. He also said he would sign an executive order to provide trailers and tents as temporary housing.

The governor also plans to deal with on of the root causes of homelessness — the fact that many of the homeless have mental health issues.

One way to solve the housing cost crisis and the homeless crisis is to build more homes and more affordable housing. We’re ready to help. Constructing housing supply to both house those seeking shelter and reducing housing costs means all qualified contractors and qualified skilled and trained workers should be allowed to engage in all public projects.

Hopefully, as the governor works with the legislature to direct some of the promised millions in his budget designated to relieve the homeless problem, he will tear down barriers that prevent so many of the state’s qualified workforce from helping relieve the suffering of their fellow citizens by building affordable housing as quickly as possible.

The governor also plans to deal with on of the root causes of homelessness — the fact that many of the homeless have mental health issues. 

That’s an important and personal issue to ABC because the construction trade has the highest suicide rate in the country. The suicide rate in construction stands at 53.2 per 100,000, 4 times greater than the national average, and 5 times greater than that of all other construction fatalities combined. Every death by suicide is a tragedy that affects individuals and communities.

ABC is actively engaged with the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention to tackle this problem with programs designed to create safe cultures, provide training to identify and help those at risk, raising awareness about the suicide crisis in construction, and normalizing conversations around suicide. This effort is particularly important when aimed at the veterans who turn to the construction trades when their military hitch is over.

Many of these individuals still suffer from the stresses and mental pressures of their time in service and carry that into their new chosen profession.

We must come together to address the issues fueling the increased rates of suicide.

Among other proposals, the governor seeks to relieve the mental health care crisis by budgeting state funding to site and build emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing for people who are living homeless with a serious mental illness; generate new funding to get people who are living homeless with serious mental illness off the streets and into long-term recovery; expand “whole-person care” pilot programs, which offer intensive wrap-around services to people with progressed and debilitating mental illness and grow the mental health workforce by increasing training opportunities.

We want to help all construction workers escape the dark shadow of mental health problems and are eager to help build affordable housing to help the homeless. We must come together to address the issues fueling the increased rates of suicide. ABC NorCal couldn’t be happier that Governor Newsom recognizes and is dedicated to altering for good the lives of so many who are both victims of mental health disease and of homelessness.

ABC NorCal is proud to partner with organizations such as Capitol Weekly that work to shed a light on mental health issues that often lead to suicide.

To learn more about ABC’s suicide prevention efforts, visit ABC.org/Safety/Suicide-Prevention.

Ed’s Note: Michele Daugherty is the president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Northern California.


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