A “Homeless Bill of Rights” has been introduced by California lawmakers. The bill, AB5, extends rights to California’s homeless population including the right to sit on the sidewalk.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco introduced the bill, stating that every California resident has the right to enjoy public space. The bill is in stark contrast to several local ordinances, which ban residents from sitting or laying on sidewalks.
As reported by Fox News, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, and San Francisco have faced criticism for the bans. Speaking to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, Assemblyman Ammiano pointed out that “citations, arrests, and jail time do not solve homelessness.”
Paul Boden, of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, contends that jailing the homeless would cost California counties millions.
In addition to allowing residents to sit, or lie, on the sidewalk, the bill would grant them permission to panhandle. AB5 would further provide centers where the homeless could shower and use the restroom.
A provision allowing public urination was stricken before the Assembly Judiciary Committee vote.
As reported by the San Francisco Examiner, the Homeless Bill of Rights would prevent the arrest of hundreds of homeless residents under current “sit-lie” ordinances. However, AB5 does have an exclusion.
The “sit-lie” ordinances would remain enforceable in cities that have available public housing, reasonable financial assistance, and have not been identified as “an area of concentrated unemployment.” If those criteria are met, the cities will still have the power to arrest people who sit and sleep on the street.
Critics of the bill point out that while it provides the homeless with rights, it fails to address underlying issues. There are no provisions for help finding employment or housing.
AB5 was approved by California’s Assembly Committee yesterday, in a vote of 7-2.
Assemblyman Donald Wagner, who voted against the bill, states that “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.”
Approval by the Assembly is only the first of several steps needed to implement the Homeless Bill of Rights in California.
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