Politics, government and public life for Southern California

California lawmaker proposes a 'Bill of Rights' to protect homeless from discrimination

A homeless person's belongings are seen blocking a pedestrian walkway in Downtown Los Angeles.
A homeless person's belongings are seen blocking a pedestrian walkway in Downtown Los Angeles. Central City East Association

A San Francisco lawmaker has presented a bill to the California legislature to protect the homeless from discrimination.

Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano says state law already protects residents from discrimination based on sex, race, religion and sexual orientation and he says homelessness should be added to the list.

The Sacramento Bee reports that Ammiano's "Homeless Bill of Rights" is aimed at communities that try to drive out homeless people who have nowhere to turn.

Sacramento, for instance, has battled homeless tent encampments for years. And San Francisco voters passed an ordinance banning sitting or lying on sidewalks. Los Angeles has also been struggling to address the issue for years.

Ammiano's proposal would give legal protection to people engaging in life-sustaining activities on public property. That includes sleeping, congregating, panhandling and urinating. 

The proposed measure, if approved, 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.

Local officials could not force the homeless into shelters or social service programs.

If the bill passes and is signed into law, courts would be left to sort out the extent to which communities could limit the legal rights it conveys – for example, whether local ordinances could close parks during late-night hours for public safety reasons.

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