Homelessness Bills Passing Through State Legislature – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel

Homeless individuals live in tents near the Los Angeles freeways. (Courtesy picture)

The COVID pandemic has intensified California’s housing affordability issue and forced the state to take urgent action to secure emergency shelter for its homeless population.

Even in the wake of the global health crisis, the state is still reeling, facing increasing housing instability and a persistent and increasingly complex homelessness crisis.

About 160,000 Californians are homeless because affordable housing for so many continues to be hard to come by.

This year, lawmakers introduced a number of bills to give homeless Californians a safe and stable place to live.

SB 1335

Senate Bill (SB) 1335, authored by State Sen. Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), would prohibit “housing discrimination” against individuals based on their credit history if they receive grants government housing.

SB 1335 includes people applying for rental housing where there is a federal, state, or local subsidy.

“People using housing subsidies enter the housing market with a credit history and its stereotype attached to their applications,” said Jacqueline Ramirez, policy associate at Housing California in a letter supporting the bill.

“However, credit scores are a useless tool due to the reliability of payment for the voucher program. As a result, although most of the rent is covered by the government, those applying for housing subsidies face denials based on credit history,” Ramirez continued.

On June 2, SB 1335 was referred to the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development. It is still under review.

About 160,000 Californians are homeless due to unaffordable housing. (Courtesy picture)

SB 1338

Senate Bill (SB) 1338, authored by State Sen. Tom Umberg (D-Orange County) and Eggman, establishes the Courts for Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE), a program that provides people with serious mental illness and going through the criminal trial process with court-ordered treatment instead of incarceration.

“The status quo on homelessness is not working. It’s time for a paradigm shift,” Umberg tweeted.

Disability Rights California (DRC), an advocacy organization, opposes the bill. DRC believes the bill does not go far enough to guarantee housing for people with mental illness who come through CARE Court.

“It doesn’t guarantee housing as a solution to address homelessness; Evidence shows that intensive voluntary outpatient treatment with adequate resources is more effective than court-ordered treatment; It will perpetuate institutional racism and worsen health disparities,” reads their letter of opposition.

According to the DRC, there are alternative solutions to this aspect of the housing crisis.

“CARE Court is not the appropriate tool to provide a pathway to wellness for Californians living with mental health issues who face homelessness, incarceration, hospitalization, guardianship and untimely death,” the letter reads. “Instead, California should invest in proven, evidence-based practices that will truly empower people living with mental disorders to recover and allow them to maintain full autonomy in their lives without the intrusion of a court.”

SB 1338 is currently under review by the Assembly Committees on Justice and Health.

SB 903

Senate Bill (SB) 903 would require the California Prison Oversight Board to review the efforts of the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to meet the housing needs of recently released individuals, including those identified as having severe needs in mental health.

“If we’re serious about getting more Californians off the streets, we can’t ignore the ‘jail-to-street’ pipeline any longer,” said state Senate Majority Leader Emeritus Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys ), author of SB 903.

“In California, getting out of incarceration is a ticket to homelessness and recidivism. As the prison population continues to decline due to the pandemic and recent reforms, we must do all we can as state to help those who come out to become productive, law-abiding members of society. Our justice system depends on it,” he continued.

According to a California Health Policy Strategies, LLC (CHPS) study, in 2019, 27% of incarcerated Californians said they had been homeless prior to arrest, and 70% of homeless people said they had ever been incarcerated.

About 28% said they had recently been released from a correctional facility.

SB 903 is under review by the Assembly Committee on Public Safety.

AB 411

Assembly Bill (AB) 411, authored by Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), involves the Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Act of 2022, which provides affordable rental and transitional housing to low-income and homeless veterans.

The bill would authorize the issuance of up to $600 million in bonds for additional program funding.

“First licensed in 2014, this successful program has developed nearly 6,000 units so far,” Irwin tweeted. “With approximately 11,000 homeless veterans living in California, we need to continue this work.”

Senate Committee on Government and Finance reviews AB 411.

SB 1336

Legislation introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill (SB) 1336 would allow religious institutions and nonprofit colleges to build affordable housing on their properties with less difficulty.

Housing advocates say the current process is unnecessarily complicated and costly.

“SB 1336 will open up a tremendous amount of land for affordable housing and help solve our housing crisis,” Wiener tweeted.

SB 1336 is under review by the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development.

In California and the United States, African Americans make up about 40% of the population respectively.

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