HUFF members have asked Santa Cruz City Councilmember Micah Posner to sponsor a local Right to Rest law, which he’s asked for more info on. Meanwhile Parks and Recreation and SCPD continue to ticket at a merry pace around “illegal” sleeping (i.e. outside at night) and being in a park after dark. The only walk-in emergency shelter in Santa Cruz will close in mid-April. The Homeless (Lack of) Services Center [HLOSC] still fails to give each person that signs up on the Waiting List for the Pall Lee loft and/or the River St. mini-Shelter a copy of their accepted application, indicating they are on the list and so exempt from camping citations under MC 6.36.055. Reports of prison-like conditions at the HLOSC with the new “security fencing” and “ID card” systems are becoming more regular.
On the positive side, there has been no reports yet of “stay-away” orders being given by cops, after an infraction ticket, for more than a day. On the negative side, virtually all infractions given out to Parks and Rec in the last few months have been given to apparently homeless people for non-crime crimes (as mentioned above) and regular stay-away-for-a-day orders with each citation.
Some of the audio [very choppy because of broadcast problems] from last Tuesday’s “Big John” watch, involving discussion of First Alarm Security Guared harassment of homeless people around the Public Library was played last night on Free Radio Santa Cruz at http://radiolibre.org/brb/
HUFF will be meeting Wednesday–with items on the agenda including demands that police abandon selective enforcement of the “nuisance” ordinances against the homeless, suspend or eliminate all use of tasers, shoot-to-kill directives, choke holds, CS gas, and other abusive practices. Reliable reports that cops confronted two Food Not Bombs activists with drawn guns at a private home in what seemed another example of “normal” over-reaction by police. The SCPD may feel empowered by hubbub the SCPD and supporters continue to exploit around the now two-year old deaths of homeless-hostile cops Loren Butchie Baker and Elizabeth Butler. A complassant City Council which recently voted down an attempt to return the BEARCAT armored personnel carrier “rescue” vehicle. The City Council Public Safety Committee meeting has declined to hold hearings on the verified stats showing class profiling by police especially in the downtown and park areas as well as race profiling by Officer Bradly Barnett.
March 30, 2015
Honorable Jim Beall
Chair, Transportation & HousingCommittee California State Senate
State Capitol Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: Right to Rest Act of 2015, SB 608 (Liu) – Sponsor & Support
Dear Senator Jim Beall,
Wearewriting,asthesponsorsofthebill, insupportofSenateBill608,introducedby Senator CarolLiu,whichadvancestheprinciplethattheactsofresting,sharingfoodandpracticing religionarenotcriminalactsandthatneitherlibertynorpropertyshouldbetakenfromsomeone whoparticipatesintheseactivitiesinpublicprovidedthattheydonotviolateotherlawsof conduct.
Homelessness Is Extensive and Increasing
Homelessness is the most brutal and severe face of poverty, experienced daily by137,000 individuals in California.1 This represents 22% of the nation’s homeless population. Inrecentyears, there have been increases in the numbers people experiencing homelessness.
Homelessness not only has grave human consequences, it also creates challenges for local governments,bothruralandurban.Accordingtoa2011reportbytheU.S.ConferenceofMayors, mostcitiescontinuedtoseeincreasesinhomelessnessdespitetherecoveringeconomyandreport thatpeopleexperiencinghomelessnessweredifficulttoserve.2 Thereportfoundthat:
· Among households with and without children, unemployment led the list of causesofhomelessness cited by city officials. This was followed by lack of affordable housing.
· Because no beds are available for them, emergency shelters in two thirds of the survey citiesmust turn away homeless families.
Buthomelessnessisnotonlyaproblemthatexistsinurbancommunities.Thoughhomelessnessis more difficult to measure in rural communities, it does exist and the barriers to escaping
1 Link to HUD Press release regarding 2012 homeless population (based on PIT headcounts) released 12/10/12http://portal.hud.gov/
2 Hunger and Homelessness: A status report on hunger and homelessness in America’s Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, available at:
homelessness can be even more pronounced for rural residents.3 According to a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 41 percent of people who are homeless live in smaller towns or cities, including rural areas.4 Nationally, approximately 10% of homeless services clients live in rural areas, and 20% are in suburban areas.5 These data exclude people who did not or could not access targeted homeless assistance services because they live in rural areas. Homeless shelters are virtually nonexistent in rural communities and most health and socialservices accessible to indigent persons are located in areas with larger and denser populations.
Families with children have been one of the fastest growing groups of homelesspeople, representing over 40% of the nation’s homeless in 2009 according to the National Coalition for theHomeless. In California, child homelessness is high. The National Center on FamilyHomelessness has given California a rank of 49th worst in the number of homeless children and 48th worst in the percentageofchildrenwhoarehomeless.6 AccordingtodatacollectedbytheMcKinney-Vento Educational Programs more than 527,000 California children experience homelessness last year in California. Of the 2,200,000 children living in poverty in California, thirteen percent are homeless.7Itshouldcomeasnosurprisethathomelessnessisincreasingamongfamilieswithchildren,as poverty among families with children is also on the rise.According to the Public Policy Institute of California, afterreachinga low of about 16%in 2001, the child poverty ratein California has been trending upward with nearly 1 in 4 children living in poverty in California (23.2%) in 2010.8
Municipal Response to Homelessness Violates Rights and Entrenches Homelessness
In a report released by UC Berkeley School of Law, the large majority of homeless Californians resideincommunitieswhereitisnowillegaltorestinpublic.9 Withnoprivateplacetorest,these arelawswhichpeoplewhoarehomelesswillinevitablybreak.Restisanecessityoflifewhichno person,housedor unhoused,canavoid,andwhileit isnot acriminalact,agrowingnumber of municipal laws allow for a citation and imprisonment if someone is found to be resting. QualitativeresearchandtestimonycompiledbyWesternRegional Advocacy Project has found that people who are cited, fined and arrested for the “offense” of resting are less likely to be able to securehousing,andthereforemorelikelytoremainhomeless.UCLAlawprofessorGaryBlasihas demonstratedthatthesetypesofordinancesdonotreducecrime,andmayviolaterightsofthose targeted with the ordinances.10
3 Rural Homelessness NCH Fact Sheet #11Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, August 2007 available at:http://www.nationalhomeless.
4 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2013). The 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) toCongress.
5 Hard to Reach: Rural Homelessness & Health Care, National Health Care for the Homeless Clinicians’ Network Newsletter, October2001, available at: http://www.nhchc.org/wp-
6 America’s Outcast: State Report Card on Homelessness, National Center on family Homelessness, found at:
7 Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program, Title VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act as Amendedby the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Analysis of 2005–2006 Federal Data Collection and Three-Year Comparison, National Center forHomeless Education, June 2007. Number of children includes the estimated number of children ages 0–5 who are not yet enrolled inschool. American Community Survey. (2006).
8 Child Poverty: Just the Facts, Public Policy Institute of California, available at:http://www.ppic.org/main/
Homelessness Has Dire Human Consequences
The consequences of poverty for people who lack housing are significant. Homeless families are twiceaslikelyasmiddle-incomefamiliestoreportthattheirchildrenhavemoderateorsevere healthproblemssuchasasthma,dentalproblems,andemotionaldifficulties.11Manyofthese families and children have experienced trauma prior to becoming homeless, and homelessness can exacerbate the consequences of trauma or re-traumatize a child.12 Homeless children are sick four timesasoftenasmiddleclasschildrenandhavehighratesofacuteandchronicillnesses.In addition they suffer from emotional or behavioral problems that interfere with learning atalmost threetimestherateofotherchildren.Homelesschildrenbetween6and17yearsstrugglewith high rates of mental health problems with 47% experiencing anxiety, depression, or withdrawal, as compared to 18% of other school-age children. Homeless children get sick twice as often as other children.13
The health consequences of homelessness are not limited to children. On average, homeless adults have8to9concurrentmedicalillnesses,commonlysufferingfromskinconditions,respiratory infections, tooth decay, foot problems, vision disturbances, and trauma. Chronic diseases, suchas hypertension, diabetes, and asthma, are prevalent among people without homes and are more difficult to manage. Preventive tests are underutilized because of time and funding constraints and because patients tend to present with acute care needs that require immediate attention.
The human experience of homelessness is profound.Whether a child, adult or elder, the lack of privacy and social isolation experienced by people with no home can lead to significant bouts of depression and have long-lasting impacts on self-worth and emotional wellbeing. Theprevalence ofhomelessnessinthe21stcenturyisaresultofaninexcusablefailureofoureconomicand politicalsystemthathasnotonlyledtoviolationsofinternationallyrecognizedhumanrights14, but also impacted the public health of entire communities.15
United Nations Finds California’s Approach to Homelessness in Violation of Human Rights Law In recent outreach conducted by the Western Regional Advocacy Project of over 850 homeless people in 13 cities, 82 percent said they were harassed, cited or arrested for sleeping, and 77 percent for loitering. Thisincreasing penalcode aggression towardshomeless people mirrorsa steadydeclineinhousingstockandfundingforaffordablehousing.Ina2011visitfromaUnited Nations Special Rapporteurthe cruel and degrading conditions faced by homeless persons withoutaccesstoadequatesanitationwerecitedandaletterwassenttoSacramentoMayorKevin Johnsonwhichwarnedthatthecityisviolatingthehumanrightsofhomelesspersons.16
Of her visit, she said “I was especially shocked by what I saw in Sacramento, California, where the citydecidedtoshutdownortorestricttheopeninghoursofpublicrestrooms,forcinghomeless people to improvise other types of solutions to be able to exercise the right to sanitation.Open
11 National Survey of Children’s Health available at:http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/
12 Facts on Trauma and Homeless Children, National Traumatic Stress Network Homeless and Extreme Poverty Workgroup, availableat: http://www.nctsnet.org/nctsn_
14 A letter from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights to Mayor Kevin Johnson, availableat:http://www.scribd.com/doc/
15 Public Health Impacts of Homelessness: A Podcast, Centers for Disease Control, available athttp://www2c.cdc.gov/podcasts/
defecation, open urinationhave been criminalized [sic]. So what happens is that someone can be criminalized just because he/she does not have a place to do his physiological needs.”
Number One Cause of Homelessness – Lack of Affordable Housing
The following facts documenting the decline in affordable housing stock that hasdirectly correlated with the increase in homelessness, included in the Western Regional Advocacy Project report Without Housing:17
· Between 1978 and 1983, HUD budget authority shrank from $83 billion to little more than $18billion in 2004 constant dollars, and since then has never been more than $32 billion except forin 2009 and 2010 because of Recovery Actfunding.
· HUD Funding for new public housing units has been zero since 1996. Meanwhile, since 1995,360,000 housing units have been lost. HUD estimates that approximately 100,000 units are soldor destroyed each year.
· Since 1995, 360,000 project-based units of Section 8 housing have been lost and another 900,000 of these units have contract set to expire before 2014, accounting for the long waitlists for housing assistance. As a result, current funding for the voucher program meets the needs of only one-quarter of homelessfamilies.
· From 1976-1985, a yearly average of almost 31,000 new Section 515 rural affordablehousingunits were built, from 1986-2005, the average yearly production was 8170, a 74 percent reduction and in 2011 only 763 units were built.
Ontopofthelossofpublichousing,affordablehousingconstruction and Section 8 vouchers, rental markets have the lowest vacancy rates in a decade causing rental costs to remain high throughout the recession’s slow recovery.18
Perhapsmostdistressingabout,andverymuchrelatedto,theincreaseinhomelessnessand dramatic decrease in federal funding for affordable housing and support for low-income renters caughtinthistightrentalmarketisthatthefederalgovernmentisspendingmoreonhousing subsidies today than it ever has, but these subsidies overwhelmingly benefit wealthyhome owners. Federal expenditures on home ownership mortgage deductions in 2012 were $131 billion, whiletotalfundinginfederallow-income housingassistanceprograms wasunder$50billion.19The biggest tax benefits go to high-income homeowners who’ve taken out big mortgagesforexpensive homes.
Simplyput,weknowthesolutiontohomelessnessanditisnotcitationsorjailtime.Acitationfor sleeping or standing on the street, instead, creates a criminal record and outstanding fees that contribute to a person’s inability to establish financial solvency and good credit necessary to secure
17 Without Housing, Western Regional Advocacy Project, available at:http://www.wraphome.org/
18 Can the Recession Bring an Age of Improving Expectations for Affordable Housing? Metro Trends Urban Institute, available at:http://www.metrotrends.org/
19 Who Gets the Biggest Housing Subsidies? Metro Trends Urban Institute, available at:http://blog.metrotrends.org/
arentalagreement.Itisnotthesolutiontohomelessness,itistheopposite.Homelessnessisa consequenceofpovertyandinabilitytoaffordhousingandcanonlybecurtailedbyshiftingour priorities to address these root causes.
SB 608 Makes Room for More Humane & Successful Conversation About Homelessness
SB 608 establishes that a person shall not be cited, arrested or harassed for resting in a public space that is open to the public, regardless of their housing status.20 SB 608 defines rest as, “the state of not moving, holding certain postures that include, but are not limited to, sitting, standing,leaning, kneeling, squatting, sleeping, or lying.” SB 608 also establishes that a person without a home shall have an equal right to move freely, eat, have personal property, solicit donations, be legally self- employed, practice religion, share food, or occupy a vehicle that is legally parked in a public place without citation, arrest or harassment.
We know that criminal sanctions for resting do not work, for businesses or for homelesspeople.21Thereareexamplesoflocalitiesusingeffectivesolutions,likeAlamedaCountyemployeeswho had a number of homeless people living outside the County building, and made a targeted effort to get those people housing subsidies, moving them safely off the streets. We need this conversationatthestatewidelevel,somoreofthesuccessfulstrategiescanbeshared,andthe counterproductive ones avoided.
SB 608’s Protections for Homeless People Will Create Significant Savings
Thecurrentcostofenforcinglocallawsthatresultinthecitationandarrestofpeoplewhoare resting in public spaces in California costs these municipal governmentshundreds of millions of dollars. It includes the cost of law enforcement, jail, and court costs, 22 as well as the human cost of homelesspeoplebeingdeprivedoflibertyandpunishedfornothavinghomesinwhichtorest. The cost of housing homeless people is less than the cost of jailing them, 23 so there are opportunity costs as well: Rather than housing people, enforcement of resting laws creates criminal records that can bar homeless people from housing, jobs, and treatment.24 The savings wouldbe significant. California spends $849,396.44 per night on jailing homeless people, or $310,029,700 annually.25 Of the 1,388 respondents in a recent survey of people who are homeless, 78% had been cited for sitting or lying down,26 so the scope of enforcement is not small. SB 608 would stop cities from counterproductively enforcing laws against resting in public.
20 SB 608 defines homelessness as those individuals or members of families who lack a fixed, regular & adequate nighttimeresidence (Page 4 of the following site: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/
21 Several studies have found that sit/lie laws do not help businesses and make it harder for homeless people to get housing and jobs: City Hall Fellows, Implementation, Enforcement and Impact: San Francisco’s Sit/Lie Ordinance One Year Later (2012); Berkeley Law Policy Advocacy Clinic,Does Sit-Lie Work: Will Berkeley’s “Measure S” Increase Economic Activity and Improve Services to Homeless People?(2012).
22 In September 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that the Fourth Amendment’s protection ofpossessions and the 14th Amendment’s due-process prohibit confiscation of personal property by government, regardless of thehomelessness of the owner. http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/
23 The Lewin Group, Costs of Serving Homeless Individuals in Nine Cities: Chartbook, November 19, 2004, available athttp://www.rwjf.org/files/
24 National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Criminalizing Crisis: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities 32(2010).
25 Memo to Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski from UC Berkeley Law Policy Advocacy Clinic, April 16, 2013 (attached). 26 Western Regional Advocacy Project, California Results, NATIONAL HOMELESS PEOPLE’S CIVIL RIGHTS CAMPAIGNSURVEY (April 2013).
SB 608 Deserves Your Support
The human indignity of homelessness impacts over hundreds of thousands of Californians and their communities, but it doesn’t have to. SB 608 will not reduce the number of people whoare homeless,butitwillprotectpeoplelivingonthestreetfromthecitationsandimprisonmentthat willonlyworsentheirconditionandopportunitiestoescapehomelessness.SB608invitesusallto seekreal,lastingandhumaneresponsestohomelessness.27Thecostsforpreventingtheviolation ofpeople’sbasichumanrightsmustbeweighedagainstthecosts,bothfiscalandqualitative,of notdoingso. Wearegratefulforyourconsiderationandurge your ‘Aye’ vote forSB608.
Western Center on Law & Poverty
Members of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing Honorable Kevin de León, President pro Tempore of the State Senate