For Immediate Release – Thursday, March 24th, 2016
SB 876 and The Fight for Poor People’s Civil Rights is Back with a New Hearing Scheduled in Sacramento
Paul Boden, Western Regional Advocacy Project, firstname.lastname@example.org. 415-430-7358
Lisa Marie Alatorre, SF Coalition on Homelessness, email@example.com. 510-982-9275
Eric Ares, Los Angeles Community Action Network, firstname.lastname@example.org. 213-458-3909
SACRAMENTO – Community organizers from the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), a coalition of 9 core organizations and over 175 allied organizations, move legislation written by and for poor and homeless people for the third year. SB 876 demands an end to discriminatory policing practices that criminalize homeless people for sitting, resting, sleeping, lying and eating in public when they have nowhere else to do so. On Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 SB 876 will have its first hearing in the Senate Housing and Transportation Committee.
According to Senator Liu, “this bill is intended to ensure equal rights for the homeless. It’s time to address poverty, mental health, and the plight of the homeless head-on as a social issue and not a criminal issue. Citing the homeless for simply resting in a public space creates a criminal record that can lead to rejection for jobs, education loans, and housing and further block their pathway out of poverty,” she added.
The Western Regional Advocacy Project has been gaining momentum over the past 3 years, running similar legislation in both Oregon and Colorado state legislatures. While the demands of decriminalizing rest are humble, if this legislation passes the effects for poor and homeless people would be monumental. However, with 73 cities, 3 counties and 3 towns declaring opposition to this legislation it is clear that local jurisdictions want to maintain their ability to harass criminalize and disappear poor and homeless people from public space. Despite the fact that on average 70% of these cities, counties and towns homeless populations are unsheltered meaning that they would need to engage their life-sustaining activities in public.
This hearing also comes at a time when federal governmental organizations like the Department of Justice (DOJ), Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.N. are beginning to look closely at the practice of criminalizing homelessness. The U.N. recently released a report which called criminalizing homelessness as “cruel and unusual punishment” mirrored by the DOJ’s claim that criminalization is “unconstitutional.”
“We know that when SB 876 passes that tens of thousands of homeless people’s lives will change exponentially. Without the barrier of fines, court dates, bench warrants, and jail time for engaging in life-sustaining activities, homeless people can actually search for opportunities to exit homelessness” said Lisa Marie Alatorre of SF Coalition on Homelessness. “This bill is also about more than just protecting homeless people from discriminatory policing, it is about demanding the right for poor and homeless people to exist”