Right2Rest Legislation Update and 2015 R.I.P.

 

NOTES BY NORSE;  The Right2Rest Law has been laid to rest (for this year at least).   Perhaps pressing for action in a particular city would be a good focus for unhoused activists all over the state, instead encouraging the massed wealthy power all the bigoted city governments to shower legislators with lobbyists.

Contact Councilmember Micah (poo on “poopoo”) Posner, the man whose credo has been “one portapotty-but-let’s-not-disturb-the-staff-by-pressing-to-get-the-already-existing-bathrooms-open-at-night”.  He has scheduled an 11 AM meeting on Friday if anyone wants to come.  But you have to call him at 420-5028 beforehand to schedule it.

Meanwhile in Santa Cruz, crackdowns continue–individually and institutionally.  The Red Church (Calvary Episcopal) has not only withdrawn its lawns from 2-hours-a-week sanctuary to 0-hours-a-week as Pastor Joel Miller, reportedly under pressure from “there goes the neighborhood!” neighbors as well as ecclesiastical superior, called in the police night before last to remove “criminal sleepers” on the property.  Cops and security thugs steadily ignore the right to use public sidewalks around Cafe Pergolesi by giving “obstructing the sidewalk” tickets to at least two people who asked why they didn’t have the right to stand non-obstructively on the sidewalk.   Standing while homeless is apparently the crime involved.  Or questioning the inflated authority of guys in uniforms with badges and guns, perhaps.

Has the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center [HLOSC] okayed the collusion between Harvey West Businesses, the SCPD, and the Public Works Department to create the first-in-Santa-Cruz “no parking at any time without a permit” zone up and down Coral, Fern, and Limekiln streets?   Call them up at 420-5020 and ask them.  I can’t get through.   Or perhaps shoot an e-mail to longtime HLOSC-backer (and Mayor) Don Lane at dlane@cityofsantacruz.com  or 831-420-5022.

We’ll be out there gathering signatures, complaints, and concerns today at 2:30 pm at 115 Coral St. (See “Fighting the Homeless Parking Ban–Day 2” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/05/07/18772010.php ).  Hot coffee and heated discussions.  Join us, or contact HUFF at 423-4833 and/or rnorse3@hotmail.com to be alerted for future protests.

Proponents of the Right to Rest bill — including a busload of advocates of homeless people from San Francisco and Oakland — turned out in great numbers. Supporters outnumbered opposition lobbyists from business alliances and city governments by 6 to 1 during legislative hearings in Sacramento.

by TJ Johnston

The Right to Rest Act, California Senate Bill 608, which would decriminalize sleep, rest, the sharing of food and prayer, was pulled from committee without a vote. But the struggle for the bill in California will continue next year.

For now, SB 608 has been delayed after State Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada-Flintridge) asked the Transportation and Housing Committee to hold off a vote on April 7 when it appeared there weren’t enough votes to advance the legislation.
“Today wasn’t a defeat,” said Paul Boden, director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, one of the homeless advocacy organizations sponsoring the bill. “It was step one in a long process.”

SB 608, known as the Right to Rest Act, will still be active next year, he said. The state legislature still has up to two years to act on proposed legislation.

If passed by both the Senate and Assembly, the bill would ensure all Californians — regardless of housing status — the rights to rest, move freely in public, share food, pray, and sleep in a legally parked vehicle.

In effect, it would make local sit-lie and anti-panhandling ordinances that cities use against their homeless residents unenforceable throughout the state.

At the hearing, proponents of the bill — including a busload of advocates of homeless people from San Francisco and Oakland — turned out in great numbers. Supporters outnumbered opposition lobbyists from business alliances and city governments 6 to 1 during public comment.

Their refrain throughout the session was “stop criminalizing homelessness.” Several wore T-shirts with the words “Homeless Bill of Rights” and an image of a dove and a pair of hands breaking chains. This popular design comes from an image drawn by Ronnie Goodman, a homeless artist who has regularly lent his work to homeless people’s struggles.
Angel McClain, whom Liu invited before the panel, spoke in defense of SB 608. Now a senior advocate at St. Mary’s Center in Oakland, she spent 15 years on the streets, staying in tents, abandoned houses and by freeways — essentially, any place where she could find refuge.

She said that police officers targeted her for arrest simply because of her homeless status. “I was arrested for little or no reason because I was known as a homeless person,” she told the panel. “My cousin told me the police had a schedule to pick me up and put me back in jail.”

McClain also suffered dehumanizing treatment from the police. “I was treated like dirt, no consideration, like a piece of garbage that you discard,” she said.

Opposition to the Right to Rest bill came mainly from the League of California Cities, which argued that the bill would exempt homeless people from so-called “quality of life” laws that in theory apply to all people, but in fact are used almost exclusively against homeless people. The statewide association wrote a letter to Liu that the bill wouldn’t create or expand housing and social services.

But Boden said that is not the focus of the bill. It’s meant to remove legal barriers homeless people face because they have been arrested for the necessary acts of resting, sitting or lying in public.

“It’s not about ending homelessness, just decriminalizing it,” he said. “Everyone sleeps, eats and sits, but only some get tickets or go to jail for it. Criminalization only makes things worse for people living on the streets. And by not having to enforce crimes of status, law enforcement can focus on real public safety issues.”

However, senators on the committee and opponents of the bill said SB 608 would remove a tool from police in enforcing local ordinances (see sidebar).

Appearing before the panel, Matt Gray, a lobbyist for Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety and the California Small Business Association, painted a worst-case scenario of what would happen to communities if the bill passes.

“The answer is simply not to allow the rest of California to be like San Francisco,” he said.

Recently, the city of San Francisco was also used as a model of homeless criminalization in a report from the University of California at Berkeley law school. Of the 58 cities with anti-homeless ordinances it studied, San Francisco tied Los Angeles to lead all others in their overwhelming number of anti-homeless laws — 23 in San Francisco. Homeless people were given about 23,000 citations in a seven-year span for such nonviolent, poverty-related offenses as sitting, resting, camping and panhandling.

In the last five years, San Francisco further restricted homeless people’s activities with prohibitions on sitting and lying on sidewalks at certain times, staying in public parks overnight, and parking large vehicles on most city streets overnight.
Berkeley — which has 10 anti-homeless ordinances of its own — is considering adding many more, including setting one’s belonging by a tree, lying on planter walls, and panhandling within 10 feet of parking pay station.

On March 17, the City Council forwarded these recommendations to the City Manager for recommendation.

Homeless advocates demonstrate in Sacramento for the Right to Rest Bill which would end the enforcement of many anti-homeless laws.  Janny Castillo photoHomeless advocates demonstrate in Sacramento for the Right to Rest Bill which would end the enforcement of many anti-homeless laws. Janny Castillo photo

Osha Neumann, an attorney with the East Bay Community Law Center, said the proposal would make Berkeley’s tree-lined and metered streets off limits to homeless people if it is enacted.

“Taken together with existing laws, these ordinances would essentially make it illegal for people who are homeless to have a presence on our streets and sidewalks,” he said.

Right to Rest bills are moving through legislatures in Oregon and Colorado.

Two years ago, a more expansive version of the legislation called the Homeless Bill of Rights passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee, but died when the Appropriations Committee declined to bring it up for a vote.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Stupid Things California Lawmakers Say About Homelessness

by TJ Johnston

If there was any doubt that SB 608, the Right to Rest Act, would face any roadblocks in the legislative process, they were surely dispelled when State Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) weighed in. Before Galgiani’s remarks, a few of the California state senators on the Transportation and Housing committee had already voiced reservations that would lead to a prospective “No” if SB 608 author Carol Liu asked for a vote on the bill on April 7.

Some were concerned about provisions in the bill such as a $1,000 fine to communities upon violation of the act. Others wanted clarifications on how the bill would affect those sleeping on public versus private property. (Liu said it would not apply to private property.)

But Galgiani’s rambling explanation of why she wouldn’t support the bill left some incredulous. While asserting that uneven application of anti-homeless ordinances aren’t a problem in her district, she said cops still need them for other reasons — such as thwarting gang warfare.

“You and I and law enforcement cannot tell who is homeless from someone who belongs to a gang,” she said. “If I dress down, I can blend in as well.”

She then recounted a recent incident that happened in her district.

“This last month,” she said, “we’ve had a drive-by shooting at a market just blocks away from where I used to live a few years ago, where three people were killed. Now it’s a known place where people loiter. How do you define ‘loiter?’ You can’t define it just by looking at someone or seeing that someone is spending time at a place for too long. That’s why we must rely on law enforcement for the judgments on behavior taking place. Law enforcement needs that tool to address the behavior.”

What Galgiani failed to mention is that the U.S. Supreme Court found anti-loitering laws to be unconstitutional in 1999 primarily because of their vagueness.

Galgiani also related another recent tale of an altercation among three motorcycle gangs near a strip club where gunfire was exchanged.

“These are the problems in my district,” she said. “Law enforcement in my district, they’re not bothering people who are homeless. I respect that is occurring throughout the state.” She added that the state should “do a broad blanket for everyone to abide by” if SB 608 becomes law.

Another addition for the file under “you can’t make this up” came from Matt Gray, who lobbied against the bill on behalf of two business organizations.

While he encouraged creating affordable housing and improving social and health services — at the same time, referring to homeless people as “transients, homeless or whatever you want to call them” — he ultimately said the overarching solution wasn’t “allowing the rest of California to be like San Francisco.” No city in California has more anti-homeless laws than San Francisco.

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Bigoted Band Blasts Rights for the Poor in Sacramento & Update on Right to Rest Law

 

California Cities Band Together To Preserve Their Right To Treat Homeless People As Criminals

by Alan Pyke Posted on April 7, 2015 at 3:43 pm Updated: April 8,

FOLLOW AND POST MORE COMMENTS AT:
http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2015/04/07/3644019/homeless-california-league-of-extraordinarily-strained-logic/

A group of California towns is fighting for their right to criminalize homelessness as state lawmakers weigh new protections for the destitute on Tuesday.
The League of California Cities (LCC) is opposing a new statewide “Right to Rest” bill protecting homeless people’s right to sleep and eat in public. The bill would pre-empt local ordinances that impose fines and jail terms for homeless people over their use of public spaces for non-criminal activity. Such local efforts to make homelessness illegal have cropped up all around the country in recent years, even as homelessness advocates have piled up evidence that it is far cheaper to provide permanent housing to the homeless than it is to lock them up.
The “Right to Rest” law, which gets its first hearing before a Senate committee on Tuesday afternoon, is inspired by a rapid uptick in law enforcement targeting of the unsheltered and a new understanding of how many California towns have laws that criminalize homeless people’s day-to-day activities. Law students from Berkeley found more than 500 separate anti-homeless laws in a review of just 58 cities’ codes, and concluded that California cities are twice as likely as other American towns to ban homeless people from sleeping in their cars.

Their report found that arrests for vagrancy offenses have surged as arrests for disorderly conduct slipped, “suggesting that homeless people are being punished for their status, not their behavior.” That attitude was on full display in San Rafael, CA, earlier this year when Mayor Gary Phillips closed a city park favored by the homeless because “I want to break the cycle so this is not a place for them to hang out.”
     The bill up for a hearing Tuesday is broadly written, but intended to “end the criminalization of the non-criminal activities of life exercised by homeless people” in public spaces. Its author notes federal findings that laws like the ones LCC is working to defend are ineffective at protecting the public interest and even exacerbate homelessness by adding criminal records and institutionalization to an already long list of challenges. The LCC’s legislative letter against the bill argues that it would undermine the basic definition of property rights that “are the foundation of our social order,” and grant special rights to anyone defined as homeless. The group has asked member towns to send letters of opposition to the senator sponsoring the bill.
“Right to Rest” is just one piece of homelessness legislation facing the state this session, and looking at it in connection with the others makes the LCC’s position harder to understand. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D) has proposed a sweeping overhaul of the state’s financing system for affordable housing that would inject hundreds of millions of dollars into construction and upkeep of buildings that could keep the working poor off the streets.
The LCC supports those Atkins bills, and claims that its opposition to “Right to Rest” is consistent with that affordable housing stance. LCC spokeswoman Eva Spiegel told ThinkProgress that the group supports Atkins’ ideas because they correspond with a national consensus “that the key to helping the homeless get back on their feet is through a combination of housing and supportive services.”
But the criminalization law “creates another excuse for not making the commitment to house and serve the homeless,” Spiegel said. Spiegel declined to clarify exactly how decriminalizing homelessness would distract from the holistic efforts that LCC supports.
It isn’t an obvious connection. Criminalizing homeless people’s sleeping habits, minimal property holdings, and access to fresh food doesn’t do anything to facilitate their getting into permanent supportive housing. Cities that have committed to the criminalization path have sometimes found themselves on the wrong end of the courts, as in the case of Fort Lauderdale, FL and Dallas, TX.
If the goal is to devote more resources to housing and counseling solutions that are proven to be effective, criminalizing people’s behavior when they don’t have access to a house may actively get in the way. One study has found that it costs over $30,000 per year in law enforcement and health care expenses to leave a homeless person on the street and criminalize her behavior, but barely $10,000 a year to put him into a permanent housing unit.

California cities fight homeless rights bill

League of California Cities opposition to Right to Rest Act latest in long history of classist edicts, rights groups say

April 7, 20155:00AM ET
An influential league of California cities is opposing a bill that would allow people to rest in public areas — a position that homeless activists argue is consistent with the group’s history of supporting abuses against marginalized groups.
The Right to Rest bill, which moves to a state Senate hearing on April 7, would allow homeless individuals to sit, stand, eat or rest without it being a criminal offense.
Municipal laws in California targeting these behaviors have skyrocketed in past years, a recent report showed, with researchers identifying over 500 restrictions in California municipalities — nearly nine laws per city, on average.
The League of California Cities, an association of California city officials that work to influence policy decisions, drafted a petition last week against the bill, arguing that it doesn’t provide a solution to homelessness and would “undermine the ability of all others to access clean and non-threatening public spaces.”
For rights advocates, that’s tantamount to calling the homeless dirty and threatening.
The League “hides or puts a veil over the race and class issues that are really behind this … but it always seeps through,” said Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP).
“Bottom line,” Boden said, the League is saying, “‘We don’t want to see these people, and we want to preserve our authority to pass and enforce these laws, so if too many come around to make us uncomfortable, we can use these laws to get rid of them.’”
The homeless are not the first marginalized group targeted by the League in its over 100-year history, according to documents provided by the Western Center on Law and Poverty (WCLP), an organization that works on the behalf of low-income Californians.
Past League targets for the removal from public space or even entire municipalities include Chinese, Japanese and African Americans, as well as “any person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object,” according to the documents.
To counteract the League of California Cities’ opposition to the bill, WRAP, WCLP and other social justice groups sent a letter to Jim Beall, chairman of the California Transportation and Housing Committee, who will oversee this week’s hearing on the bill. In it, the advocacy groups placed the group’s resistance to the Right to Rest bill into a long history of antipathy toward the downtrodden.
“The League of California Cities has an unfortunate history of being on the wrong side of civil and human rights history in some critical times in our past and their opposition to SB 608 continues this historical pattern,” the letter said.
The League has supported sundown towns, Jim Crow laws, Chinese exclusion and Japanese internment, the letter added.
Opposition to the bill by the League “falls on the same kinds of scare tactics used throughout the last century to ban certain ‘undesirables’ who were deemed to be an ‘economic blight’ or danger on the street,” the letter said.
The League rejected allegations that its opposition to the bill was based on an effort to discriminate against a certain group of people. Its communications director, Eva Spiegel, emailed Al Jazeera that the League has a “longstanding commitment to human rights and inclusivity,” that is reflected in its racially and politically diverse board.
“We reject any effort to falsely characterize the league’s opposition to SB 608 as reflective of an organizational philosophy to discriminate against certain groups,” Spiegel said. “This is completely inaccurate and fails to appropriately reflect the comments in our letter.”
Spiegel said the League opposes the bill because it “does nothing to help the homeless get off the streets” and that the solution is to provide affordable housing. She cited California’s 2011 removal of over $1 billion per year in affordable housing. She said that has “had a devastating and well-documented effect of the ability of cities, non-profits, and others to build this much needed housing.”
Homeless advocates agree that cuts to funding for affordable housing are largely to blame for the modern crisis of homelessness, but they disagree that the bill would accomplish “nothing” in getting people of the streets.
Even if there was affordable housing available, having a criminal record makes it more difficult for homeless individuals to find employment and housing. And aggressive policing pushes the homeless out of city centers, farther from the services intended to help them.
Advocates told Al Jazeera that the League’s position on the bill is based on a desire to remove the homeless from public space in the interest of promoting business.
The League’s petition said that a law asserting the rights of people to rest and carry out life-sustaining behaviors in public areas without criminalization would “create social disorder,” adding that the bill “creates a special set of exemptions and privileges for one group of people.”
Advocates said the bill asserts the rights of every Californian to rest, sleep, share food and pray in public.
Boden said that those who argue the bills would create a special exemption for the homeless overlook the discriminatory manner in which those laws are policed.
“This bill says … if you’re forced to sleep outside that doesn’t mean you’re committing a crime — it means we’re having a housing crisis,” Boden added.
As part of the movement for homeless rights that has brought together over 170 social justice groups, similar bills aimed at protecting the right to sit, stand, eat or rest in public have been introduced in state legislatures in Colorado, Oregon and Hawaii.
All of the bills are facing similar opposition by municipalities and business district improvement groups, Boden said.

Thumbnail image for California eyes Right to Rest Act to stem criminalization of homeless

California eyes Right to Rest Act to stem criminalization of homeless

State becomes the fourth to consider legislation enshrining right to basic acts of survival in public places

Thumbnail image for Homeless America: ‘Everyone should be able to pee for free with dignity’

Homeless America: ‘Everyone should be able to pee for free with dignity’

UN says 2.5 billion lack toilets globally, and activists say many homeless in the US struggle to find restrooms

Thumbnail image for Calif. laws increasingly target homeless, sparking calls for Right to Rest

Calif. laws increasingly target homeless, sparking calls for Right to Rest

Study finds 77 percent jump in arrests for vagrancy offenses since 2000; campaigners face deadline to find bill sponsor

Thumbnail image for Critics slam Indianapolis mayor for veto of Homeless Bill of Rights

Critics slam Indianapolis mayor for veto of Homeless Bill of Rights

The proposal would do ‘nothing,’ said the mayor, but others say the homeless need protection from police discrimination

Thumbnail image for Opinion: The growing criminalization of homelessness

Opinion: The growing criminalization of homelessness

How developers and politicians create urban ‘social hygiene’ campaigns

 

 

UPDATE ON RIGHT TO REST LAW

 
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2015 13:18:10 -0700
Subject: Right To Rest Hearing update
From: pboden@wraphome.org
To: pboden@wraphome.org

Hey All
Great turnout, powerful speaking truth to power and 75 or so of some of the best people you’ll ever want to meet!!!
While our bill did not pass out of committee it is definitely not dead.. No vote was taken, so SB 608 will either move by the end of this month or be put on hold till next years session.
Campaign organizers are working with Sen Liu’s office on next steps and we will report back with more clarity as soon as we have all the information we need
In the meantime you can check out the hearing through the links below: Starts at about 13 minutes in and ends at 1:46
For those who weren’t there and/or those who would like to re-live our awesome testimony yesterday, here is the link to the streaming archive:
 
You can also download audio here:
Peace
paul

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Getting HUFFy again at 11 AM 703 PACIFIC April 8 at the Sub Rosa

HUFF toddles on looking over the latest attack on Medical Marijuana and its impact on low-income folks here,  surveys the Right 2 Rest scene in Sacramento after today’s protest and Senate Housing and Transportation Committee vote, scopes out a Thursday Back-to-the-Library Cafe HUFF at 9:30 AM 4-9,  considers Armory closing on or around the 15th, and considers new strategies for an independent campaign against police militarization re: the homeless.  Report on the Monterey sit-lie protests, Berkeley’s Ambassador-Host homeless beating, and more!   All with coffee and crunchables.

Back and Forth Battle in Sacramento on Right to Rest Law

 

NOTE BY NORSE:  HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) has endorsed the Right to Rest law currently up for a vote tomorrow in the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.  The Bill can be viewed at http://wraphome.org/work/civil-rights-campaign  along with info on campaigns in Colorado and Oregon.  Protesters will be lobbying the Senate committee tomorrow in Sacramento.
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/brb150405.mp3 [2 hours and 20 minutes into the audio file].  I hope to rebroadcast and repost a more audible and coherent version in the near future.   Tomorrow’s planned follow-up action in front of the main Public Library in Santa Cruz at 9:30 AM may be cancelled for rain.
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.
Rebuttal to League of California Cities – Lies!!!
Hi All
Just to give everyone an idea of what the kind of bullshit we can expect tomorrow – Letter from League of Cities and our response

 

                                                                                             

 

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/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2012/HUDNo.12-191

Hunger and Homelessness: A status report on hunger and homelessness in America’s Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, available at:

http://usmayors.org/pressreleases/uploads/2011-hhreport.pdf

 

www.wclp.org


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.org/factsheets/Rural.pdf

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-content/uploads/2012/02/October2001HealingHands.pdf

6  America’s Outcast: State Report Card on Homelessness, National Center on family Homelessness, found at:

http://www.homelesschildrenamerica.org/pdf/report_cards/long/ca_long.pdf

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 20052006 Federal Data Collection and Three-Year Comparison, National Center forHomeless Education, June 2007. Number of children includes the estimated number of children ages 05 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/publication_show.asp?i=721

9        http://wraphome.org/?p=4042&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=119

10 Has the Safer Cities Initiative in Skid Row Reduced Serious Crime? By Gary Blasi (of Counsel at WCLP) and Forrest Stuarthttp://wraphome.org/downloads/safer_cities.pdf


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/slaits.htm

12 Facts on Trauma and Homeless Children, National Traumatic Stress Network Homeless and Extreme Poverty Workgroup, availableat:      http://www.nctsnet.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/promising_practices/Facts_on_Trauma_and_Homeless_Children.pdf

13 Ibid.

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/80310395/Letter-to-Mayor-Johnson-from-UN

15 Public Health Impacts of Homelessness: A Podcast, Centers for Disease Control, available athttp://www2c.cdc.gov/podcasts/player.asp?f=2844357

16         http://www.scribd.com/doc/80310395/Letter-to-Mayor-Johnson-from-UN


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/downloads/without_housing.pdf

18 Can the Recession Bring an Age of Improving Expectations for Affordable Housing? Metro Trends Urban Institute, available at:http://www.metrotrends.org/Commentary/nlihc2011.cfm

19 Who Gets the Biggest Housing Subsidies? Metro Trends Urban Institute, available at:http://blog.metrotrends.org/2011/07/biggest-housing-subsidies/


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/15-16/bill/sen/sb_0601-0650/sb_608_bill_20150227_introduced.pdf)

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/datastore/opinions/2012/09/05/11-56253.pdf

23 The Lewin Group, Costs of Serving Homeless Individuals in Nine Cities: Chartbook, November 19, 2004, available athttp://www.rwjf.org/files/newsroom/cshLewinPdf.pdf; U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness at 18, availableathttp://www.usich.gov/PDF/OpeningDoors_2010_FSPPreventEndHomeless.pdf.

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.

 

Sincerely,

                                                               

JessicaBartholow                                                     Paul Boden

Western Center on Law & Poverty                         Western Regional Advocacy Project

 

Judith Larson                                                              Elisa Della-Piana

JERICHO                                                                     Neighborhood  Justice  Clinic EBCLC

Members of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing Honorable Kevin de León, President pro Tempore of the State Senate

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The Speeches That Never Were

 

HUFF speech prepared by Raven Davis

The following speech was intended to be given at the Association of Faith Communities – Santa Cruz County Conference on Friday, September 5, 2014. Unfortunately, the community discussion was canceled and the AFC never got to hear HUFF’s suggestion.

 

First and foremost, we thank you for all of the work you’re already doing to help homeless people and for holding this conference today, dedicating yourselves to addressing the issues of poverty and homelessness in Santa Cruz County. We understand that trying to solve such a complicated and widespread issue is quite a daunting task. With that said, we’d like to offer you a simpler way to look at the matter.

We often make houselessness into a complex issue by focusing on its toughest aspects. We speak of highly vulnerable populations, such as people with disabilities or untreated mental illnesses who live on the streets; people we don’t know how to support properly. We talk about drug addicts and people who have criminal records sleeping in parks and hiding in bushes; so called “threats” to our community. We make pleas on behalf of single mothers and children without roofs over their heads; as we see our own mothers and children reflected in their eyes. We talk about the Recession and the many people forced to leave their homes in the wake of layoffs and the slow recovery of the economy.

But the truth is, all of these kinds of people exist outside of homelessness. You have members of your congregations with learning disabilities and physical handicaps. You have neighbors who have criminal records or who struggle with addiction. There are single mothers living in houses all over the city. And there are plenty of people stuck at home everyday typing up resumes and trying to find work. The only thing that makes homeless people any different from the general population is that they have no space of their own to return to at night.

Taking this into consideration, we at HUFF believe the best course of action to address homelessness in Santa Cruz is to create simple housing. Simple housing is exactly what it sounds like: a roof over your head, something to sleep on, a 24 hour restroom, and a place to shower. We would love to see the faith community come together to create and support an initiative to make 1,000 simple housing units in Santa Cruz County. Given that the 2013 Homeless Census found over 3,000 homeless people in the county, we believe that it is reasonable for us to try to serve at least a third of that population. Once again, all these people need are the basic things most of us take for granted: a roof over our heads, something to sleep on, 24 hour restroom access, and a place to shower.

We ask you for your help as we cannot do this alone. Poverty and homelessness are community issues. It will take the love and care of all of the community to resolve them. As some of the most loving, caring, and knowledgeable folks in town, we turn to you for allyship and support. If you would like to join us in these efforts and continue this dialogue, please come see me after the community talk-back is over. Once again, thank you for providing this opportunity to discuss these matters as a community. My name is Raven Davis and I’ll be here later if you’d like to talk more about HUFF’s proposal for simple housing. Thank you.

HUFF Flyer Distributed at the Event Intended Also as A Speech

Acts Beyond Words Will Create Simple Housing

Speech to the Association of Faith Communities 9-5-14 by Robert Norse

I’m also a member of HUFF. We’re mostly about restoring rights to homeless folks—rapidly disappearing rights. Rights stolen from the poor outside are ultimately stolen from all of us. We are in the midst of a historical period where one right after another, one sanctuary after another, one bench after another, is being removed in a campaign to target homeless people.

 

Simple housing is the most immediate need. It’s elementary, obvious, and indisputable. Homeless people need simple housing—a place with a roof over the heads a place to sleep, a place to go to the bathroom, and a place to shower. Every night people are harassed and ticketed for falling asleep outside. Their possessions are vulnerable. Their safety, health, and sanity are at risk.

Simple housing isn’t expensive. Not having it is. The City and County give away millions to homeless dispersal programs, for “security” gates and fences, for consultants and developers, for police equipment. Simple housing is what we need. And not tomorrow, but today.

We are living in a time when fear, bigotry, and greed. A time of special privilege. It hides under the labels of “public safety” and “smart solutions”. Those being offered a small amount of temporary housing while billed as “the most vulnerable” are often those who are simply the most visible and the most annoying. The ones who cost the most to businesses seeking tourist dollars. Owners angling for higher property values. Residents anxious for a view unobstructed by a poor family who park their home on a nearby street for a night. Or wait there for a church to open.

The faith community itself and those who seek the small amount of shelter that they are able to provide are under attack Attack from the more privileged and the more fearful. Some in the faith community are reeling under these attacks. The bigots would “end homelessness” by driving homeless people away. A new move to ban nighttime parking around the Circles Church is the latest such attack. When police profile folks near church programs, we sadly see church workers urging the victims not to make waves, not to bring “undue attention” to the churches.

Let’s agree we need immediately 1,000 simple housing units in Santa Cruz County. We obviously need more, but instead of “baby steps” let’s take some real steps. Without unified and determined action, things will only grow worse. Upcoming elections provide gloomy prospects. The real solution—simple housing—is something we must work and fight for. Not just talk about.

Poverty and homelessness are controversial issues that necessarily create tension in the community. We must not flee from that tension or seek to conceal it. Nor beg crumbs from those who condition their funding on denying homeless people basic rights. We need to act.

We must move swiftly to create simple housing: a roof , a bed, a bathroom, & a shower. Make sense? Raise this issue repeatedly with your bodies as well as your voices. Support those who speak up for it and take action to promote it. HUFF meets weekly on Wednesdays 11 to 1 at the Sub Rosa Cafe at 703 Pacific. Or give us a call at 831-423-4833.

This speech is the opinion of Robert Norse and does not necessarily represent that of HUFF.

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Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights Nearly Law

Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless sent to the governor’s office

The Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless (Senate Bill 1210) is headed to Gov. Pat Quinn for final approval, after securing a final legislative vote May 28. CCH Policy Specialist Jennifer Cushman worked with legislative Continue reading

California Homeless Bill of Rights: Action Updates!

Finally, A Bill of Rights for the Homeless!

By Rita McKeon, Member of the BOSS Community Organizing Team (COT), a project of Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency
Thursday April 04, 2013 – 08:35:00 PM
Authored by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, the California Homeless Bill of Rights, AB5, had its first hearing in Sacramento on April 1st, 2013.

In recent years several cities have enacted or attempted to enact “broken window” lawslaws designed to criminalize homeless people and remove them from public view. The California Homeless Bill of Rights and Fairness Act is a first step to de-criminalize homelessness and grant equal rights protection to ALL: housed and un-housed.

This legislation would be a major public statement recognizing the basic human and civil rights of people without homes. It will help shift our discussions from the characterization of homeless people as vagrants or service-resistant to the reality in our society that there are not enough homes that are affordable on very low incomes, not enough jobs for people with low skills, not enough care for people with serious physical and mental health needs. Our discussions can then shift from blaming the victims to solving the problems: this is what AB5 will do—publicly validate the dignity of people without homes so we can direct our attention and resources to fixing the problems they face.
Inhumane laws do not solve poverty, they only increase the misery of being poor. In many major US cities there are ordinances that make it punishable by law to feed homeless people and laws that make it illegal to “camp” in a public space, ultimately making it illegal to sleep, a basic human need. Some laws even make it illegal to sleep in your car. Hundreds maybe thousands of people end up with citations they cannot afford to pay, some facing jail time because they were caught sitting or sleeping.
This is both a waste of tax payer dollars and a civil rights abuse. In February 2013, in the San Francisco Tenderloin District, a homeless man spent 30 days in jail because on two occasions a police officer found him sleeping on a milk crate. He was charged with public nuisance, unauthorized lodging and obstructing a sidewalk. The first two violations are listed as misdemeanors which can carry a year of jail time each – again, for sleeping on a milk carton.
Whose quality of life is being improved by broken window laws? City officials say the goal of these ordinances is to preserve quality of life and keep down public nuances. Yet, citing homeless people and inflicting them with costly violations and jail time does not address their quality of life—rather, these laws are designed to serve big business and developers who want clear streets and storefronts. The fact is, people do have the right to sit, stand, and gather peacefully in public areas. And for behaviors that are less than peaceful or that damage property, there are already laws in place.
Everyone is deserving of equal rights and protection. The California Homeless Bill of Rights and Fairness Act will assure the protection of homeless people’s property rights, access to public space, right to safety, right to sufficient health and hygiene centers, right to engage in life sustaining activities, right to privacy and confidentiality, right to counsel, right for homeless school children to stay at the same school they attended before they became homeless, and more. You can find the full Bill text on assembly.ca.gov.
It’s about respect and dignity! When AB5 is passed it will help ensure that homeless people are treated as human beings: with respect and dignity. Send a letter of support to your district Assembly Member. Visit www.wraphome.org to learn more about the efforts to pass AB-5.


AB-5 is authored by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D, San Francisco) and co-sponsored by Western Regional Advocacy Project, Western Center on Law and Poverty, JERICHO: A Voice for Justice, and the East Bay Community Law Center. See a full list of Bill supporters at http://wraphome.org/images/stories/ab5documents/AB5EndorsersMarch132013.pdf.