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East County News Service

May 15, 2023 (Sacramento) – Senate Bill 31, a measure by  Senate Minority Leader Brian W. Jones (R-San Diego) which aimed to “compassionately clear homeless camps” according to Jones, has failed to win passage in the Senate Public Safety Committee.

“After weeks of negotiations, I’m disappointed to announce that the bipartisan SB 31 will not be moving forward this year,” Jones announced in late April.

SB 31 would have prohibited homeless encampments near the sensitive community areas of schools, daycare centers, parks, and libraries. Additionally, the bill requires enforcement officers to give a 72-hour notice before an encampment sweep, and requires enforcement officers to provide information about sleeping alternatives, homeless and mental health services, and homeless shelters. Over 2,000 Californians have signed the petition in support of SB 31.

Jones blamed Democrats, though the measure received only one vote in favor. SB 31 stalled in the Senate Public Safety Committee on a 1-1 party-line vote with Senator Ochoa Bogh voting in favor of the measure while Senator Aisha Wahab (D-Hayward) opposed the measure. Senators Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), and Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) did not vote. 

“Their failure to act on this critical issue is a shameful display of neglect for the safety and wellbeing of the most vulnerable in our communities—our children. Our current approach to homelessness is clearly failing and Californians are tired of it. It’s time for elected officials to prioritize compassion and safety over political gamesmanship,” said Jones. “We will not give up the fight to protect our children and compassionately clear encampments.”

The measure was opposed, however, by a coalition of dozens of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union,  civil rights and homeless advocacy organizations.  They issued a statement which reads in part:

“We are gravely concerned that SB 31 would further demonize, destabilize, criminalize, and violate the human rights of unhoused Californians while failing to address the underlying driver of homelessness: the lack of affordable and accessible housing to Californians with the lowest incomes. However, we would welcome a chance to work with the bill’s co-authors and other members of the legislature to advance solutions that address the urgent housing, economic, and health needs of Californians experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. “

Their statement continues,  “ Given the ubiquity of schools, parks, libraries, and daycare centers, this policy would effectively make it a crime for any unhoused Californian to exist in public space, and put police officers at the frontlines of responding to our state’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis…Only housing ends homelessness, and at present, California is experiencing a housing affordability crisis decades in the making, with a statewide shortage of 1.2 million affordable homes. Without housing options, criminalizing basic activities of living cannot solve homelessness and may make it worse. As shown by recent research and reporting from across the state, sweeping encampments and criminalizing unhoused people with nowhere else to go is traumatic, destabilizing, and ineffective. “

In March, a group of community leaders including Leader Jones, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Senate Minority Caucus Chair Janet Nguyen (R-Huntington Beach), Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa), Senator Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta), and homeless advocate Brett Boman held a press conference to promote the bipartisan SB 31. A video recording of the press conference can be found here.

Modeled after a recent measure passed by the City of Los Angeles, Leader Jones’s bipartisan bill would have helped clear encampments and connect homeless individuals to services they desperately need. SB 31 specifically protects sensitive community areas closest to our most vulnerable population—our children who go to schools and daycare centers, play in parks, and read books at libraries

Supporters of the bill include local political leaders and some homeless advocates.  Below are statements  from key supporters.

“A street should not be a home. Period. It’s commonsense and this bill will turn commonsense into California law. We cannot allow homeless encampments to overwhelm the cornerstones of our community, like parks, schools, and libraries. Homelessness is soaring in California, including in our hometown of San Diego. Senator Jones’s bill compliments the efforts I took as Mayor of San Diego.” – Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

“I want to commend Senator Jones for his leadership in addressing homelessness. It’s simply inhumane to allow people to live on the street. As a society – we can do better. Some may say it’s inhumane to force people off the streets and into treatment, but I think it’s more inhumane to keep people on the streets. I look forward to supporting Senator Jones and bringing these efforts to North County.” – Supervisor Jim Desmond

“El Cajon and the greater San Diego region continue to face challenges in addressing homelessness. As law enforcement, we are focused on protecting the public, but oftentimes, our hands are tied due to legal constraints. It’s time we take a different approach. I believe Senator Jones’s proposed legislation will give law enforcement more tools to help compassionately clear encampments and protect our communities’ most sensitive areas.” – El Cajon Police Department Chief Mike Moulton

“We see this bill as a bridge from a life surviving in chaos to a bridge over to a solution. We can work for a solution for change.” – Michael Branch, CEO of East County Transitional Living Center.

“Alpha Project strives not to manage homelessness, but rather to end it for its clients by offering jobs not handouts, respect not pity and empowerment not control. We believe Senator Brian Jones’s proposed legislation will help us carry out our organization’s mission by finding the appropriate balance between accountability and compassion as we lift individuals out of homelessness.” – Bob McElroy, Alpha Project CEO, a local non-profit.

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This Bill was a no brainer and should have passed. But then again the California Senate has NO BRAINS. This state is SO screwed. Time to start bussing the homeless who refuse to get off the streets here to San Fransisco and Sacramento.