California homeless bill of rights proposed
January 5, 2013
A California lawmaker is pushing to add another category to the list of those protected from discrimination: homelessness. [SacramentoBee]
The legislation titled the “Homeless Bill of Rights” by Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco is meant to keep communities from rousting people who have nowhere to else to go.
The measure is sure to be controversial in San Luis Obispo, which has battled for the legal right to have the police rouse and harass the homeless who sleep in their vehicles, sit on benches, panhandle and walk the streets.
Assembly Bill 5 would give legal protection to people engaging in life-sustaining activities on public property. The bill specifically mentions sleeping, congregating, panhandling, urinating and “collecting and possessing goods for recycling, even if those goods contain alcoholic residue.”
Ammiano measure also would give homeless residents the right to sleep in cars that are legally parked, to receive funds through public welfare programs, to receive legal counsel when cited – even for infractions – and to possess personal property on public lands.
San Luis Obispo officials would be prohibited from attempting to force homeless residents into parking and shelter programs run by Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County, as they have been doing.
Paul Boden, a spokesperson for one of the bill’s sponsors, says that existing laws to sweep the homeless from public view are similar to Jim Crow laws of decades ago in the segregated South, and to “anti-Okie” laws of the 1930s that prohibited bringing extremely poor people into California.
One opponent of the bill, former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness, now a Sacramento radio host, said government exists partly to maintain sanitation, discourage the spread of disease, and ensure public safety.
“Do you want to see people living like that?” McGinness said. “I don’t.”