Advocates said, ““It’s about shifting the dialogue so we can start talking about the root causes of homelessness.”
The San Francisco Gate reports that the bill, which was “significantly scaled back” from the original which was first introduced last year, is designed to provide “a few basic protections” to California’s homeless citizens. Supporters of the bill have compared current legislation concerning homeless people to the Jim Crow and “Anti-Okie” laws of the past, which segregated or removed those members of society who were deemed “undesirable.” Ammiano said, “Citations, arrests and jail time do not solve homelessness. They just route crucial public dollars that could be spent on housing to an already impacted court and corrections system.”
If passed, the bill would add a person’s housing status “to the list of categories included in the state’s antidiscrimination law.” It also gives people the right to:
… move freely, rest, solicit donations, pray, meditate, or practice religion, and to eat, share, accept, or give food and water in public spaces without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment or arrest.
Other declared rights would include the ability to set down personal belongings and the right to restitution if that property is “confiscated, removed or damaged” by law enforcement or security guards.
Homeless people also would be guaranteed an attorney if they were given a citation for an activity related to their housing status and could sue for discrimination violations based on their housing status.
Local governments would be exempt from the “provision on sitting, sleeping, eating and soliciting in public places,” if they, “provide year-round non-medical assistance for adults, that are not in areas of high unemployment and that don’t have a public housing waiting list longer than 50 people.” They would also be required to provided 24 hour “health and hygiene centers” with bathrooms and showers.
Opponents such as Assemblyman Donald Wagner argue that the current “sit-lie” issues need to be left up to the individual municipalities to deal with as they chose. He said, “The homeless situation in San Francisco is going to be very much different from the homeless situation in Fresno, Los Angeles or central Orange County. By Sacramento passing this law, it doesn’t allow those cities to fix their own problems.” Wagner told the committee he would be “more inclined” to support legislation offering real, tangible solutions to homelessness. He said, “All the bill does is say leave the homeless alone. It doesn’t say help them get a home, help them get shelter, help them get a job.”
The bill, which was passed through the Assembly Judiciary Committee with a 7-2 vote, will now go before the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.
Photo: AP/Rich Pedroncelli