California Organizations Speak Out against State Legislative Homeless Measure

Possessions of a homeless person on Capital Mall Drive in Sacramento on Saturday, September 11, 2021.(Photo by Robert J Hansen)

By Rena Abdusalam

SACRAMENTO, CA – More than 100 organizations have joined with Equal Rights for Every Neighbor coalition—a partnership of community-based organizations and people advocating for solutions to solve homelessness—to oppose Senate Bill 1011, according to a released statement last week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLUSC) of Southern California.

The alliance recently submitted a letter to the California Senate Public Safety Committee expressing its opposition to SB 1011, which will be heard in the committee April 16.

According to the organizations, SB 1011 “would criminalize houselessness across wide swaths of the state without offering real, tangible solutions to the state’s housing crisis.”

The letter states groups in opposition include “a diverse coalition of civil rights and disability advocates, homeless, housing, and health champions, homeless services experts, and people with lived experience.”

Other names opposing SB 1011 include the California Nurses Association, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Steinberg Institute, ACLU California Action, Housing California, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and several others.

“SB 1011 would prohibit under state penal code the act of sitting, lying, sleeping, or storing personal property on any street or sidewalk if a homeless shelter is ‘available’ and within 500 feet of any public or private school, open space, or major transit stop,” the letter declares.

The letter additionally notes, “Not a single jurisdiction that has implemented laws making the experience of houselessness a crime can show these laws work to achieve any valid policy. To the contrary, laws that make living on our public streets or sidewalks a crime are completely ineffective at achieving stated goals.”

The letter cites a 2023 RAND report that presented findings and trends of Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis, stating laws criminalizing homelessness “fail to decrease the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, despite widespread enforcement through encampment clearing.”

The letter affirmed the findings, stating that “criminalization drives people into further poverty and keeps people unhoused longer, according to this report.”

The letter charged SB 1011 would cause ineffective responses to homelessness and is “predicated on false assumptions and stigmatizing characterizations.”

SB 1011 would also counter the state’s progress toward viable solutions for houselessness and restrict options for local governments, according to the opposing coalition, adding the measure punishes individuals for conditions not in their control, such as rent, which would “disproportionately impact Black and indigenous Californians” and encourages prejudicial policing.

“SB 1011 not only fails to offer any viable solutions, it is a reactionary response, promoting the same failed policies that keep people unhoused at great costs to local governments, taxpayers, state values, and, most critically, to people who have suffered marginalization, stigma, worsening health, violence, and punishment for conditions they cannot control,” declared the letter.

About The Author

Rena is a junior at Davis Senior High School and is currently exploring her interest in the criminal justice system. After high school, she plans to attend college and continue to pursue a career in law.

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