New law makes it easier for authorities to force troubled homeless into conservatorships

Authorities in three large counties have a new tool to address homelessness.

Reflecting frustration over the fact that years of adding resources to fighting homelessness had brought little progress, Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill making it significantly easier for authorities in three counties with 40 percent of California’s population to force the most severely troubled individuals into conservatorships. Those are arrangements in which after judges give their consent, individuals can be compelled to remain hospitalized and receive treatment for addiction, mental illness or both.

Senate Bill 40 was introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. It allows the counties of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego to set up pilot programs under which police, social services and public health advocates can seek to have judges approve conservatorships for individuals after their eighth “5150” or emergency crisis hold within a year. The law sunsets in 2024.

But the driving force behind the concept has been San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who for years has argued that her city needs a more effective way to deal with the relative handful of homeless people responsible for extreme incidents that harm quality of life for city residents and tourists alike.

“We can’t compel anyone to do something if they don’t want to do it,” the mayor told the San Francisco Chronicle last week. “And in most cases, for someone who is mentally ill, they are not accepting what we are offering — which means the conservatorship legislation is going to be very helpful for a small group of those people.”

The ACLU of Northern California — one of the best-funded, most high-profile local ACLU chapters in the nation — strongly opposed the measure, faulting its due-process provisions as inadequate.

Targeted individuals found in need of involuntary detention under the new law would first be given a 28-day housing conservatorship and then six-month arrangements. It provides individuals opportunities to challenge authorities’ decisions in the courts. But the hardline elements of the law were too much for civil liberties groups.

“Fundamentally, care should not begin with handcuffs,” a coalition of groups including the ACLU told Wiener in April.

Counties may not have adequate facilities to use with law

Another sharp criticism was that none of the three counties had adequate facilities allowing authorities to get many troubled individuals off the streets.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the San Francisco-based nonprofit Coalition on Homelessness, told Pew’s Stateline news service that “of course there aren’t [adequate resources]. … Look around the city. If there were beds, you wouldn’t see what you see.” Wiener’s law “doesn’t really do anything but sounds good to the public.”

Statistics cited in a recent Chronicle article back up this concern. It noted that two people who were already in an existing conservatorship program in San Francisco were being held inside of a locked hospital ward because of an estimated five-month wait time to get into a residential facility.

Former state lawmaker Kevin Murray, a supporter of more aggressive use of conservatorships with the troubled homeless, last month blasted the city and county of Los Angeles for inadequate facilities. A recent Los Angeles city audit offered similar concerns.

In June, San Diego County supervisors responded to years of criticism over its mental health and homelessness programs by beefing up spending in the 2019-20 budget. While the city of San Diego has won praise for its efforts to provide shelter to the homeless, it’s also been faulted for its sparse options on care for the mentally ill homeless.


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  1. Queeg
    Queeg 9 October, 2019, 23:24


    Slippereeee Slope to Soylent Green!

    Reply this comment
    • Ebolan
      Ebolan 10 October, 2019, 14:30

      Governor Nuisance will make them swabbies in Queeg’s navy!

      Reply this comment
    • Edward Ryan
      Edward Ryan 8 November, 2019, 12:24

      I’d like to comment on corruption by the California Attorney General’s failure to investigate a formal 75 page complaint on the LAPD Crime-buster Vigilante Facebook scandal matter. This is a serious matter as the Los Angeles criminal justice system skews when it comes to fair justice for all as LA homeless are attacked by LAPD supported vigilantes, then arrested and jailed if the try to fight back in self- defense. Now there is proof of “jury trial rigging “by LA Prosecutor and LAPD Slo for Topanga. Both are members of the secret vigilante Facebook group, and 2 other Vigilante group members as witnesses for a bogus littering trial where Van Nuys Judge Harmond seems to play along by issuing an extreme sentence. LAPD command now spreads disinformation saying LAPD members only posted insults to homeless when the truth is LAPD supplied tracking and other info to vigilante members. The info was used to do violent crimes and community terror stalking onto targeted homeless victims. A homeless advocate and activist for LA political reform was harassed then convicted and incarcerated for months when he was attacked on 12/29/16 in Van Nuys by the same LAPD crew. False police reports were used and judge Mulcahy Van Nuys court prevented the mentioning of vigilante abuse at trial. This happened to Ed Ryan [email protected] who had to flee LA after release because of more vigilante harassment by LAPD connected crews. Ryan’s jaw was smashed by a vigilante attacker wielding a hammer and LAPD refuse to take his complaint and investigate. Ryan now lives in Mass as LA Court court issued a probation violation warrant to further silence him. LA superior Court Presiding Judge, Kevin Brazile has so far ignored Ryan’s comprehensive complaint. Ryan challenges reporters to read the 8/1/18 complaint to Atty Gen Becerra that has plenty of screen shots of captured vigilante and LAPD postings to surely warrant the Cal AG to investigate, but he remains silent on the issue. Also remaining totally silent on this atre LA Mayor Garcetti I’d like to discuss Corruption in Los Angeles as the LAPD Crime-buster vigilante Scandal is being ignored and all LA city Councilors. LA City Atty Furey also is silent even though his long time Deputy Karin Philips is involved and is being reported to Cal BBO flor ethical violations of not disclosing vigilante group membership by entire prosecution team in People v Kevin Perelman , the van Nuys Superior Court jury trial in front of LA Superior Court Harmond that was rigged Atty Philips and LAPD SLO Dines

      Reply this comment
  2. Standing Fast
    Standing Fast 11 October, 2019, 13:14

    There are quite a few cities where help offered to homeless individuals is turned down on a regular basis. The people causing the trouble are mostly drug-addicted and/or mentally-ill who do not recognize the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

    Newsom’s “eighth arrest” in a twelve-month period threshold surprised me. It would be difficult to meet that requirement unless someone is really making a career of being a serious public nuisance. They do belong in supervised, secure environments because they are not capable of taking care of themselves in their present circumstances. Maybe under any circumstances.

    As for the Due Process protections, I am all for making sure they are constitutional and clear. But, nobody has a constitutional right to violate the rights of others, including the right to be secure in their homes and property, or to come and go in safety, or to defend themselves from those who threaten their lives, liberty and property.

    We should not be making it easy for people to live in the streets. That is how we got into this mess.

    Reply this comment
  3. Taheeta J. Bunns
    Taheeta J. Bunns 11 October, 2019, 16:32

    It is incredible that a state with so many resources
    cannot stomach the will to resolve in a few weeks, not years.
    People have lost compassion, more interested in the NFL, NBA, and Hollywood.

    Reply this comment
  4. oregon dude
    oregon dude 19 October, 2019, 08:39

    It is amazing to watch demoncrats preen and screech about the need to protect our allies the Kurds from our allies the Turks IN PERPETUITY, at a cost of BILLIONS, when we literally toss hundreds of thousands of Americans onto the streets of our cities to rot and slowly die right in front of our faces. EVEN MORE FRIGHTENING IS THE FACT THAT “PROGRESSIVES” FEEL NOTHING! ABSOLUTELY STONE COLD!

    The ONLY solution to the homeless crisis is old-school TOUGH LOVE. This means REMOVAL BY FORCE! Then triage: yes, there will be CAMPS with shelter, food, showers, medical care. The drug-addicted and mentally ill will be institutionalized, evaluated and cared for. The simply down on their luck will be found employment and a place to live. IT CAN BE DONE.

    Reply this comment
    • Standing Fast
      Standing Fast 19 October, 2019, 12:51

      Your suggestion sounds like a plan. Meantime, politicians and wannabes are holding pow-wows at our expense to ask the all-important question to which we ALREADY know the answer:

      What are the causes of homelessness and what can we do about it?

      Progressives think Tough Love is mean-spirited and hateful, but Enabling anti-social behavior is kind and loving. They say that it takes about 50 contacts with a homeless person before they MIGHT decide to take you up on your offer of assistance getting off the streets.

      It is an election year issue. But, I think the tide is turning against the Housing First model in favor of adopting a Screen First, Housing Second model. Also, some cities offer jobs & low-cost housing to sober homeless who will work for wages cleaning the streets until they find a better job–and it is a great success. Not all homeless will go for it, but it is a godsend to those who want to get their lives together.

      Keep hammering away!

      Reply this comment
  5. P.D. Asilomar
    P.D. Asilomar 25 November, 2019, 23:44

    A lot of of you seem to miss the fact that the homeless are now coming from working class people, senior citizens, and have been evicted by greedy landlords jacking the rent up until they can no longer afford to pay it. Young, old and in between are living in the street or in canyons because they simply can’t afford housing, and there is not enough of it.

    Mentally ill? Hey, being homeless will MAKE you mentally ill! It’s called PTSD, stupid! Ever been evicted? It’s like having a fire with no insurance!

    The current defense budget is somewhere around $700 billion. Just allocate 5 billion and we can solve this 500,000 homeless nationwide blot on our escutcheon under control.

    HOUSING FIRST! THEN work on the issues that brought them to the state they’re in!

    My God, how flint hearted and ignorant are some of these comments! And I’ll bet they come from “Good Christians” too!

    Matthew 35-40:

    “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’

    “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’

    “And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did unto Me.’

    Reply this comment

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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