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Homeless Bill of Rights in California

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Do the homeless have a right to sleep on the street ? Some lawmakers in California say they do and it could become law soon. According to FOX News, the Homeless Bill of Rights is in response to some cities in California cracking down on the homeless.

Homeless people would be allowed to sit, sleep and panhandle in public under a bill that passed a legislative committee on Tuesday, even as some lawmakers cited concerns about its potential effect on local governments.

The measure from state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, says every person has a right to use public spaces, regardless of housing status.

The bill is partly a reaction to ordinances passed in recent years by several cities concerned about the number of people on the streets. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and Palo Alto are among the municipalities that have banned people from sitting and lying on streets and sidewalks.

Ammiano’s so-called “Homeless Bill of Rights” prohibits police from enforcing ordinances on resting in public places unless a county has provided sufficient support to homeless people. It also includes a right to an attorney during court proceedings that involve minor offenses.

“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.”

AB5 also would require state government to pay for creating local “hygiene centers” with restrooms and showers open 24 hours a day.

The bill has been revised several times since its introduction. A reference allowing people to urinate in public spaces was stricken, and it now says the rights listed apply in public spaces but not on private property.

Local governments and business groups oppose the legislation, saying it would lead to costly mandates and lawsuits. In particular, opponents said the provision limiting whether police could enforce ordinances was unfair to cities because it’s county governments that are responsible for managing public housing waiting lists and providing cash assistance.

This isn’t the dumbest thing to come out of California, but it’s pretty close. I wonder how long until Bloomberg in New York runs with this idea.

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