A California bill aims to give homeless people the right to sleep in public areas without the threat of arrest. The measure, which passed a legislative committee Tuesday, would allow homeless people to panhandle and rest in public places.
The bill from state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, says every person, regardless of housing status, has a right to public spaces.
Called the Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights and Fairness Act, the bill passed with a 7-2 vote by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Democrats on the Assembly Judiciary Committee were all in favor of the bill, while many local governments and business groups opposed it.
"Citations, arrests and jail time do not solve homelessness," Ammiano told the Assembly Judiciary Committee. "They just route crucial public dollars that could be spent on housing to an already impacted court and corrections system."
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Ammiano says the bill, scaled down since he proposed it in 2012, provides “a few basic protections” that will keep California from criminalizing the homeless population.
If it becomes a law, it would supersede local laws like those in San Francisco which bans people from sitting or lying on sidewalks unless certain area requirements are met.
The law is in response to the increased rate of people living on the street and laws passed in municipalities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Palo Alto which ban sitting and lying down on streets and sidewalks.
The bill also requires the state government to provide “hygiene centers” with 24-hour showers and bathrooms.
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Local governments and business groups claim the bill will create lawsuits and costly mandates.
Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, who opposed the bill, once served at San Diego’s first commissioner on homelessness. He said counties need more flexibility when it comes to providing for the homeless population.
The bill is currently waiting approval by the Appropriations Committee in order to be voted on by the full Assembly.