Homeless ‘bill of rights’ up for Sacramento debate

homeless wikimediaIt could soon get easier to live on the streets in the Golden State. As controversy swirled around the police shooting of a homeless and mentally ill man on Skid Row in Los Angeles, legislators in California considered a new set of regulations activists said would “decriminalize” homelessness by providing a so-called “right to rest” in public.

The “right to rest” movement has picked up steam first on the West Coast, with similar bills under review in the Hawaii and Oregon legislatures.

Following suit, state Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, introduced Senate Bill 608, known as the Right to Rest Act. Using broad language written by the Western Regional Advocacy Project, the bill would enshrine such actions as eating in public and occupying legally parked cars as “basic human and civil rights.”

What’s more, SB608 would authorize someone discriminated against in the use of public space to sue to enforce their newly codified rights in a civil action.

In a statement, Liu described homelessness as a “social,” not criminal, issue. “Citing homeless people for resting in a public space can lead to their rejection for jobs, education loans and housing, further denying them a pathway out of poverty,” she said.

Last month, Berkeley Law’s Policy Advocacy Clinic released a report on “the growing enactment and enforcement of anti-homeless laws in the Golden State.” In a forceful denunciation of California’s current homeless policies, the Clinic pushed for the kind of changes WRAP helped draft into model legislation:

“Without state-level intervention, California cities have been engaged in a race to the bottom by increasing criminalization, hoping to drive homeless people elsewhere and make them someone else’s problem. Comprehensive reform must target the full range of state codes and municipal laws that criminalize homelessness.”

A pressure cooker

SB608 comes at a time when homeless issues in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles have gained a higher profile as a result of rising rents in urban cores.

As CalWatchdog.com reported, the Skid Row shooting of the man known as Africa drew sharp rebuke from community activists in downtown Los Angeles, some of whom pinned blame on the LAPD’s new Safer Cities Initiative. That effort targeted Skid Row — now at the frontier of downtown’s gentrification — with increased monitoring conducted in part by cops with beefed-up training in how to interact with the homeless and mentally unwell.

Critics noted that, although the initiative launched in 2006 by then-police chief William Bratton cut crime, it imposed an unending series of infractions on the homeless. Activists complained that more than half of Skid Row-area homeless had been arrested in the past year.

The problem seemed cyclical: one reason why Skid Row hosted one of the densest populations of homeless in America was because the surrounding areas had seen a robust influx of new renters and owners, raising housing costs.

Mainstreaming a worldview

Despite the fairly radical, social-justice approach taken by the activists who are shaping “right to rest” legislation, the agenda found an advocate in Liu, widely perceived as safely mainstream. On her official website, Liu recently touted her perfect legislative track record last year, when she went eight for eight of her bills enacted into law.

For Paul Boden, director of WRAP, activists’ appropriate ambitions reached nationwide. Himself homeless as a teen, Boden has volunteered and worked on homeless issues for 30 years.

Now he has sensed the stars are aligning for a push that extends far beyond the West Coast. Boden insisted, “From Hawaii to New York and from Maine to Texas, it’s time for this to stop.”

9 comments

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  1. Queeg
    Queeg 6 March, 2015, 16:44

    Comrades, When all said and done equality under Socialism no work in California.

    Each and every group getting special treatment leaves normal, respectable, silent, patriotic, generous , hard working residents the least protected.

    Equality cannot be attained!

    Reply this comment
    • Ursus Siara
      Ursus Siara 7 March, 2015, 06:00

      A citizen, regardless of their economic situation, is entitled to being
      Treated with the same respect as anyone else. The criminals within our
      Own government have conspired with their cronies in business to rape and pillage the resources that many in the middle class invested in to
      Protect them from the risk of becoming homeless. I believe that a laager proportion of those currently finding themselves without traditional housing are victims of circumstance. I came to this conclusion when I became homeless myself last year. Many cities have passed ordinances
      that allow police to treat the homeless differently. A friend of mine who was simply collecting recyclable bottles and cans ( too buy food) was harassed by local law enforcement, who took the bag of recycyclables he had collected ( stealing the food out of his mouth) and laughed at him, telling him that they “did not recognize his status as a homeless person”.
      This came about because the city he found himself stuck in (Hayward, Ca. ) had recently passed a local ordinance making that the official position of the city, whose purpose was to make it easier for police to “drive” the homeless out, despite the fact that many of the homeless I have met there grew up there. Your assumption that these people are NOT patriotic, law abiding citizens worthy of their civil rights suggest to me that you are an ignorant and callous individual. I wouldn’t want for anyone to find themselves in that horrible circumstance, having been there myself. In your case, however, might do you some good.

      Reply this comment
  2. Donkey
    Donkey 7 March, 2015, 20:43

    Citizens are being beat, harassed, and murdered by state sponsored police in complete violation of the Bill of Rights. There is no need for a new round of “rights” for the homeless. We only need the state to follow the Constitution and treat our fellow citizens as they would want to be treated themselves. Of course the RAGWUS feeders will have none of that !! 🙂

    Reply this comment
  3. desmond
    desmond 8 March, 2015, 05:13

    It would be great for people to park their vans at Pebble Beach and become part of the current community. Makes sense. Another one, Disneyland. This is great. The halls of the state capital in Sac., that is a no brainer as a homeles shelter. All private/public property in Cal. Is the property of the homeless. Gee, make it law. Then, abolish the border guards and use buses and trains to disperse the new voters throughout the state.

    Reply this comment
    • Queeg
      Queeg 8 March, 2015, 09:40

      Citizen Desmond. Equality through Diversity Dispersion affords all to share in the boiling melting pot!

      Reply this comment
  4. Denver
    Denver 8 March, 2015, 18:59

    Homeless problem? Re-open the insane asylums for the mentally ill who refuse to take their meds.

    Problem solved.

    Reply this comment
    • Ursus Siara
      Ursus Siara 9 March, 2015, 05:52

      While that may solve part of the problem it doesn’t address what I observed to be the largest growing segment of the homeless population and that was middle aged males that were formally middle class. Many of whom had formal educations.

      Reply this comment
  5. Richard Fromage
    Richard Fromage 24 May, 2018, 14:29

    Californians should be compassionate and share their home with the homeless.

    Reply this comment

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