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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Central Valley | San Francisco | Government & Elections | Health, Housing, and Public Services
California Homeless Bill Of Rights Supercharges Incredible Hulkamania
Angry Chamber of Commerce Man transmogrifies into Corporate Hulk roaring across the Web,“The Unhoused are rejecting attempts to disappear them and are claiming equal rights!”
On Google's page 8, I stopped counting hundreds of articles covering California's 'Homeless Person's Bill of Rights and Fairness Act' that cleared the State Assembly Judiciary Committee 7 to 2 on Apr. 23, 2013.
A West Coast consortium – Western Regional Advocacy Project, Western Center on Law and Poverty, East Bay Community Law Center, and JERICHO: A Voice For Justice --- co-sponsored AB 5 and worked with the Bill's author, Assembly person Tom Ammiano who revised and updated California civil rights bills to protect the poor and unhoused from discrimination by economic status.
On Mon/ April 22, San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness activists bussed to Sacramento. They joined California and Oregon advocacy groups marching through Streets stirring up buzz about AB 5, then rallied on Capitol steps.
One formerly homeless marcher, Mike, confessed, “I feel like I want a house.”
He wanted to eat, too. “Do you think I can get both?” he asked, tongue satirically in cheek.
That's asking way too much! [I played along.] Eating, too?!!
“Wait!” said Mike. “I lost my socks the other night!
Can't you walk barefoot?
“I'm F*cked, huh?” he asked.
How do you feel about your human rights being violated?
Said Mike, “I feel like this is a story that keeps getting retold and retold, and nobody's listening. I'm about ready to have them listen.”
I agreed. I've written about homelessness for 12 years, and it seemed we were going backward. But, AB 5 changed that. Mike would get his wish.
News coverage matched vitriolic reactions. The Bill's call for homeless Californians' equal rights finally got people to listen.
FuckFrance.com's NaturalizedTexan snarked: “The bill was introduced by Tom Ammiano (D - duh!) of San Francisco (of course). “Referring to the proliferation of local ordinances cracking down on...sleeping on the sidewalk and crapping in flowerbeds, Ammiano lashed out at what he called 'the criminalization of poor people.'
Homelessness forces the formerly and newly impoverished to accomplish in public spaces the private acts of eating, sitting, and lying down --- seen as 'unsightly' by uneasy housed eyes. Western Regional Advocacy Project [WRAP] Exec. Dir., Paul Boden stated AB 5 encourages Californians to view these essential activities of daily living, when performed by citizens without housing, as equally necessary and lawful as those same life-sustaining acts they take for granted within four walls.
As the growing economic crisis with its foreclosures and job losses plunges Americans into ever-deepening poverty --- exacerbated by the progressive defunding of affordable housing since 1983 --- middle class Americans join unhoused neighbors on the streets. This may account for the growing demand for homeless equal rights. Said, Fago from Occupy Sacramento, “I'm getting tired of the criminalization of people that are just like everybody else. These are everyday people who have hit a hard spot in their life.”
Ibrahim Mubarak of 'Right 2 Survive, Right 2 Dream Too' in Portland asserted, “Evictions and foreclosures can cause anybody to be homeless. It's not what they're doing to themselves. It's what the government is doing?”
In June 2012, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed into law S-2052, the first Homeless Bill of Rights. Vermont, Connecticut and Missouri are following suit. Courtney from Portland's Sisters Of The Road reported, “WRAP is helping us write our homeless Bill of Rights which we are hoping to submit next year.” Boden hopes for a nationwide effort.
A main thrust of the Bill, says Boden, is to prohibit the use of “local ordinances to make people disappear,” as if trying to put homeless people out of sight will put them out of the civic mind.
Indeed, legislation in California jurisdictions like San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Palo Alto and Los Angeles criminalizes public panhandling and sitting, lying or sleeping. Business Improvement Districts – BIDs – hire private security to move sleepers out of doorways and force 'indigents' off commercial sidewalks. Because in some areas, feeding homeless people is illegal, AB 5 “forbids law enforcement from enforcing laws that prohibit public serving of food.”
Breitbart News [Thought he was dead] complained that California Assembly person Tom Ammiano offended delicate public sensibility by “guaranteeing [homeless people] the right to 'access public property, possess personal property, access public restrooms, clean water...health care, confidentiality of medical records, assistance of legal counsel,,,, and restitution, under specified circumstances.'” Imagine that!
Breitbart The Undead bellyaches that the Bill prevents police arresting “vagrants.”
Mike in the gray baggy Eddie Bauer sweatshirt told the Sacramento assemblage he'd been homeless eight years in Fresno, San Francisco and Los Angeles. “The hardest part of being homeless is you have to do without the necessities of food, clothing, shelter, and water. Can you imagine getting up every day, not knowing where you're going to eat, get water, get a shower?' Do you know how hard it is to live outside in the cold, in the rain.” San Francisco cops woke him at 4:00 a.m. threatening tickets. Could Undead Breitbart's clone survive without three squares, shower, and bed?
The bill gives homeless people the right, to “move freely” and “rest and sleep in public spaces without harassment or discrimination by police or BID agents. Mary told the crowd, “I was battered on the street by a person who was not homeless.” Under AB 5, she could have enjoyed law enforcement protection.
Another key focus is “to stop criminalization cost time --- jail time, court time, police time,” said Boden.
Local laws require police to fritter hours ticketing and jailing the unhoused. Costly Court time is wasted issuing bench warrants.
Boden's sure the Bill will save money. It “will free up staff time for police departments to 'protect and serve' [as] they're supposed to.” “We won't be spending all this time on petty stuff” like 'that Dude that spent 30 days in jail recently for sitting on the sidewalk in [San Francisco's] Tenderloin.”
One big expense will be creating 24-hour neighborhood hygiene centers with bathrooms and showers where people can stay clean, rested and healthy. San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness organizer Lisa Marie Alatorre asserts these centers “are just one tiny step that moves us towards improving public health by setting a standard of care” for the whole community.
Another cost will be the mandate to law enforcement agencies to report data annually to the Attorney General on their enforcement of local ordinances against homeless persons to guard against discriminatory implementation.
On May 8, AB 5 comes before the Appropriations Committee. Then, the full Assembly will vote. Alatorre speculates the Bill may be in 'Suspense' for a year while the Finance Committee analyzes costs, and negotiations are conducted with law enforcement and commercial-corporate opposition whose internet shills shriek on the web.
As AB 5 advances, Boden sees intensifying resistance. Writes Breitbart, “The California Chamber of Commerce, (you know, people that actually work for a living) immediately labeled the bill a 'job killer.'” The Apartment Association of California joins 49 opposing entities along with The League of California Cities like Bellflower, Cypress, and Signal Hill.
Ninety organizations actively support the Bill.
Declared Ibrahim Mubarak, “This is not a City or statewide thing. This is nationwide. Every homeless person is tired of being harassed! They're tired of getting woke up. They're tired of getting criminalized! They need to step up for their rights --- Now!”