California Has $12 Billion Plan to Address Homelessness

By: Georgia | Published: Mar 05, 2024

In response to the growing homelessness crisis, California legislators have introduced Senate Bill 1011, a bipartisan effort to address the issue by prohibiting homeless encampments in sensitive areas.

The bill proposes clear restrictions on where homeless individuals can set up encampments, specifically targeting areas near schools, parks, and transit stops to maintain community safety and cleanliness.

Specific Prohibitions Under SB 1011

Senate Bill 1011 outlines specific prohibitions against homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools, open spaces, and major transit stops.

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A makeshift shelter constructed with tarps and blankets is set up on a city street corner, beside a traffic signal and road signs indicating a bike lane and one-way street

Source: Wikimedia Commons

ABC News reports that the bill also restricts activities such as sitting, lying, sleeping, or placing personal property in public spaces when a homeless shelter is available, aiming to encourage the use of designated shelter facilities.

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Bipartisan Support for the Encampment Ban

The bill has garnered support from both sides of the political aisle.

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Sen. Brian Jones in a suit with a red tie stands in front of the American flag and the California state flag, which features a bear

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones emphasized the necessity of the bill, stating, “Californians should not have to tolerate the encampments that now fill our open spaces with trash, needles, and human waste.”

Lawmakers' Perspectives on Homelessness Solutions

Supporters of SB 1011, including State Sen. Catherine Blakespear, argue that the bill is a step towards ensuring public spaces are used as intended and not as living spaces.

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An image capturing a tent encampment on an overcast day, with multiple colorful tents scattered across a grassy area next to a sidewalk

Source: Wikimedia Commons

They highlight the bill’s aim to provide compassionate solutions for the homeless while protecting the rights and safety of the general public.

Enforcement and Legal Implications

The bill proposes misdemeanor charges for violations but leaves enforcement discretion to local prosecutors.

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Two law enforcement officers in uniform stand observing a homeless encampment, where individuals in hazmat suits are cleaning up. Tents and an assortment of belongings are scattered in the foreground, with a garbage truck parked in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

It aims to strengthen existing laws against obstructing public spaces, with Senator Jones citing the need for political will to clear encampments and create a safer environment for everyone.

Addressing Shelter Availability and Conditions

While SB 1011 encourages the use of shelters, it raises questions about shelter availability and conditions.

A large accumulation of various items and refuse, including cardboard boxes, plastic containers, and personal belongings, piled up on a city sidewalk next to parked vehicles

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The bill mandates that enforcement can only occur if alternative sleeping locations and services are provided, emphasizing a need for comprehensive support systems for the homeless population.

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Concerns Over Shelter Conditions

Recent years have seen California’s homeless shelters scrutinized for subpar conditions.

A photo showing pedestrians waiting outside and around a corner of a historic brick building with large windows and decorative details

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Civil rights groups have highlighted issues like pest infestations and unclean facilities, raising serious questions about the well-being of shelter residents.

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ACLU's Findings on Orange County Shelters

ABC News reports that in 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union targeted Orange County shelters, accusing them of exposing residents to “unsafe and unsanitary living conditions.”

A group of people queueing at a food service line inside a community shelter, receiving meals from a server wearing gloves

Source: Wikimedia Commons

These allegations of discrimination and rights deprivation have prompted calls for systemic changes to protect the fundamental rights of individuals relying on these emergency shelters.

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Supreme Court Case Impact on SB 1011

The future of SB 1011 may be influenced by a pending Supreme Court case, Grants Pass v. Johnson, which will determine the legality of similar encampment bans.

A series of tents of various colors are set up on the grass beside a city street, in front of a large stone building with bare trees around it

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The outcome of this case could set a precedent affecting the enforceability of California’s proposed legislation.

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Governor Newsom's Stance on Homelessness

Governor Gavin Newsom has shown support for measures to address homelessness, filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case to advocate for the ability to regulate encampments.

Gavin Newsom speaking passionately into a microphone against a dark background with a spotlight overhead

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Newsom said, “The courts have tied the hands of state and local governments that seek to use common sense approaches to clean our streets and provide help for unhoused Californians living in inhumane conditions.”

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Broader Initiatives to Combat Homelessness

In addition to SB 1011, California is exploring other avenues to tackle homelessness, such as Proposition 1, which focuses on mental health support and housing solutions.

A street view displaying a line of various colored tents pitched along the sidewalk in an urban area. The tents are set up adjacent to a yellow building on one side and a plain wall on the other, with the city skyline visible in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Governor Newsom’s proposed ballot measure aims to revolutionize California’s mental health services by creating over 10,000 new treatment beds. If voters approve this initiative, the state could invest up to $14 billion in this comprehensive overhaul.

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The Scale of Homelessness in California

California faces a significant challenge with the largest homeless population in the U.S.

Underneath a gray overpass, a makeshift shelter area is strewn with belongings and a large, bright blue tarp featuring a festive "Tis the Season" banner with a Santa Claus image and presents. The area is littered with various items

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The state’s efforts, including SB 1011, are part of a broader strategy to provide support and improve living conditions for homeless individuals while ensuring public spaces remain accessible and safe for all residents.

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