Key CA Senate Committee Kills Measure Aimed at Homeless – Creating Crime for Sitting, Sleeping or Camping

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

By The Vanguard Staff

SACRAMENTO, CA – The California State Senate Public Safety Committee Tuesday defeated a measure that would make it illegal for people to sit, lie, sleep or camp on a public sidewalk or street within 500 feet of a park, school or bus stop.

Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones (R-Santee)—who failed to get a similar bill approved last year—and Sen. Catherine Blakespear (D-Encinitas) authored Senate Bill 1011.

Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Sen. Aisha Wahab (D-Hayward), committee chair, led the opposition, according to a report by the Sacramento Bee.

“Skinner said she couldn’t support a statewide measure to clear homeless camps, adding that local governments already have the power to do so if they wish,” wrote the Bee, quoting Skinner: “But for us to put it in law, it’s like trying to make a problem invisible versus addressing the core of the problem.

“For 50 years, Skinner said, local governments worked to suppress the supply of housing, and the senator said that they bear some responsibility for the state’s homelessness crisis,” the Bee reported.

“Just because people that are unhoused make people uncomfortable, does not mean it should be criminalized,” Wahab said in the Bee.

Amont the bill’s supporters were, listed the Bee, California Baptists for Biblical Values, the California State Sheriff’s Association, the cities of cities of Carlsbad, Exeter and Oroville and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office.

But the measure was opposed by several dozen others, including ACLU California Action, Disability Rights California, the Vera Institute of Justice, the Western Center on Law and Poverty and many pro-housing and homeless advocacy groups.

Jones said the bill was compassionate and could “help protect our most vulnerable populations: children, seniors and families,” wrote the Bee. He noted the measure would “require enforcing authorities to give unhoused people 72 hours notice before clearing their encampments. It also would make creating such an encampment a misdemeanor or infraction offense.”

Jones asserted the goal was not to criminalize homelessness, and Jones and Blakespear, according to the Bee, said SB 1011 “was inspired by an ordinance passed by the City of San Diego last year. The lawmakers said that it had led to fewer unhoused encampments in the downtown area.”

The Bee referenced that A report by CalMatters “found that while encampments were less common in high-traffic areas such as downtown, the city’s main park and around certain schools, encampments are still prevalent, perhaps even more so, near freeways and along the banks of the San Diego River.

“The city’s homeless shelters are full, often with no beds for people who want to avoid a citation. There’s no evidence the city’s overall homeless population has decreased in the eight months since enforcement started,” according to the CalMatters report.

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