Legislation proposed by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco could protect California’s homeless population from discrimination. The Assembly Bill 5, better known as the “Homeless Bill of Rights” would give legal protection to homeless people who engage in life-sustaining activities on public property.
California has struggled with laws relating to its homeless population in the past: Sacramento’s “tent cities” have been a frequent point of contention, and both Los Angeles and San Francisco top the list of U.S. cities with laws criminalizing homelessness. Ammiano’s proposed bill would decriminalize behavior such as sleeping in public places, congregating, urinating, and panhandling. The bill would also give the homeless right to legal counsel in the event of citation, and to receive funds through public welfare programs. If Assembly Bill 5 passes, California communities would still have some say in the extent to which the law would apply in their area – communities could close parks and other public spaces at night for safety reasons.
Should homeless populations be protected under the law? Should life-sustaining activities in public places be criminalized? Is there an alternative to legalizing these activities in public spaces that could better serve all Californians – homeless or not?
Paul Boden, Director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project; Co-Sponsor of Homeless Person's Bill of Rights introduced by California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco)
Estela Lopez, Executive Director of the City Central East Association, the principal advocate for property owners, businesses, employees and residents in the eastern half of Downtown Los Angeles.