A new bill in California aims to ban homeless encampments near “sensitive community areas” statewide


California – This month, a new law proposed by senators from both parties, Senate Bill 1011, aims to stop people from using streets or sidewalks for sitting, lying down, sleeping, or keeping personal things if there’s a homeless shelter they can go to instead.

Penalties for those who break the law

The law would also make it illegal to camp close to schools, parks, or big transport hubs, within a distance of 500 feet. If someone breaks this law, they could get a small or serious penalty, but local leaders will decide on how to apply the serious penalties.

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Senators Brian Jones and Catherine Blakespear, a Republican and a Democrat, introduced the bill. They want to tackle the homeless problem in the state, which has the highest number of homeless people in the country.

“What we are trying to do is compassionately clearing encampments near areas that are sensitive to the public and the public needs to have safe access to,” Jones said in an interview with ABC News.

“It is not compassionate for us to have people dying on the streets in front of us and in our public spaces while we walk by them,” Blakespear said in a separate interview with ABC News.

Introduced on February 5, the bill would also make sure that police tell people about other places to sleep or get help for homelessness or mental health problems.

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Senate Bill 1011, aims to stop people from using streets or sidewalks for sitting, lying down, sleeping, or keeping personal things if there's a homeless shelter they can go to instead.

Local leaders to impose rules on how to handle people’s belongings

The bill expects local areas to have rules about what to do with people’s things when they have to move from a camp. Both senators acknowledged that some homeless shelters in California have faced criticism for bad conditions, like pests, dirty facilities, and mistreatment.

In 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union criticized some shelters in Orange County for being dirty and unsafe, and for mistreating people. The county responded, promising that shelters would be safe and complaints would be handled quickly. Each shelter has its way of dealing with complaints, they said.

Senators Blakespear and Jones discussed how the success of their proposed law could depend on the quality of shelters, referencing San Diego’s approach with its Unsafe Camping Ordinance as a model. San Diego set up safe camping areas where homeless people can stay in a controlled environment, complete with essential services like bathrooms, food, water, and access to social workers aimed at helping them rebuild their lives.

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Both senators are hopeful that cities across California will adopt similar measures to back the goals of their legislation, though the bill itself doesn’t specifically call for the creation of these safe camping sites.

Blakespear highlighted the challenges that traditional shelters face, including concerns over theft and a lack of privacy. She believes that a combination of safe camping, safe parking areas, permanent housing support, and a stronger focus on mental health and substance abuse treatment are key to addressing homelessness comprehensively.

Jones added that safe camping spots could help prevent harassment and violence that often occur in unsupervised camps, making it easier to enforce rules. He emphasized the importance of these stable locations for delivering social services effectively, as they allow for consistent interaction between service providers and the homeless population.

Nationwide, homelessness has been on the rise since 2016. Data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development shows that in January 2023, over 650,000 people were homeless on any given night, marking a 12% increase from the previous year.

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There are more than 181,399 homeless individuals in California

In the United States, California is home to about 28% of the country’s homeless population, which translates to 181,399 individuals, as reported by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Within this group, approximately 68% are living without shelter.

The legislation proposed by Senators Jones and Blakespear is part of a broader effort to address homelessness in California, but it’s not the only initiative on the table.

Another significant measure is Proposition 1, known as “Treatment Not Tents,” which is stirring discussions as Californians prepare for a vote in March. This proposition aims to provide supportive housing for those with severe mental illnesses to help them stabilize, expand community-based mental health services, bolster the mental health workforce, and focus on treatment rather than jail for individuals facing mental health issues.

However, there’s a debate over how funds will be allocated at the local level, with some concerned that it could reduce the budget for existing mental health programs, based on information from the Secretary of State Voter Guide.

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In addition, Governor Gavin Newsom announced in August 2023 a plan to transform several unused office buildings in Sacramento into affordable housing units. This move is intended to mitigate the state’s high housing costs and alleviate homelessness.

Medellin Pin
Medellin Pinhttps://latestusnewshub.com
As the Editor in Chief of US News Hub, Medellin oversees the editorial direction and ensures the quality of content across all sections. With her sharp editorial judgment and deep understanding of the news landscape, Medellin has been instrumental in shaping the outlet’s reputation for in-depth analysis and comprehensive coverage. Her expertise in political and economic reporting, coupled with a keen eye for compelling stories, makes her a pivotal figure in the newsroom.

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