WRAP Press Release #R2R

Contact: Northern California Paul Boden 415.430.7358
Southern California Eric Ares 213.458.3909

Right to Rest Coalition Looks to Build Support over Next Year for Legislation Protecting the Civil Rights of Homeless Individuals

California Homeless , anti-poverty, and civil rights advocacy groups will keep working throughout the rest of the 2015-2016 legislative session to pass a bill aimed at stopping the growing criminalization of people who are homeless.

SB 608, also known as the Right to Rest Act, was held in the State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee when it became apparent that more education and conversation was needed to secure the passage of the bill out of that committee. As a result, it did not meet the April 30 legislative deadline for bills to be voted out of their policy committees. Nevertheless, the bill author, Senator Carol Liu (D-Pasadena), has announced that she will continue to work toward passage of the bill in the second year of the two-year session.

At an April 7 Transportation and Housing Committee hearing, dozens of supporters filled the hearing room to voice their support for an end to laws that make it illegal for homeless individuals to exist in public space. While many senators agreed that criminalization is not the answer, they also voiced their support for more long-term solutions to homelessness. SB 608 supporters agree.

Passing the Right to Rest Act is part of ending homelessness because when we incarcerate people because they are engaged in activities like sitting and sleeping we are exasperating their ability to get out the very situation we are here to solve. Homelessness, said Angel, who has experienced homelessness and being arrested for resting and now is unable to qualify for housing because of the bad credit report she has as a result of the fines linked to those arrests. Angels entire testimony can be viewed at http://bit.do/Right2Rest.

Of course we know that the solutions to homelessness are housing and services, said Paul Boden of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, which coordinates the coalition of 140 organizations across the state that is supporting the Right to Rest Act. But until that happens, we cant continue to punish people simply for being poor and houseless so well continue our fight for the Right to Rest Act. However, there are also a number of bills we are supporting right now that aim to reduce homelessness and build more affordable housing.

So while the Right to Rest Act didnt get passed out of its policy committee this year, supporters are putting their energy behind a number of other bills that they see as complementary to their overall goal: creating housing, ending homelessness and protecting the civil rights of everyone. AB 718 (Chu) aims to stop the enforcement of laws that make it illegal for people to sleep in legally parked vehicles. A package of bills introduced by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins includes bills that would increase the California Low Income Housing Tax Credit by $300 million, which would provide much-needed funding for affordable housing development, create an ongoing source of funding for affordable-home development and job-creation by increasing the fee on real estate-related document recordings, and use a portion of the Proposition 47 funds to reduce recidivism through investment in rapid rehousing and housing supports for formerly incarcerated Californians.

Homelessness is the graphic representation of our societys unsolved issues: poverty, affordable housing, health care, and mental health. It is time to address the plight of the homeless head-on as a social issuenot a criminal issue, said Senator Liu. Citing homeless people for resting in public space can lead to their rejection for jobs, education loans, and housing, further denying them a pathway out of poverty.
I remain committed to working with all stakeholders on SB 608 to address this increasingly urgent issue.

More information about The Right to Rest Act can be found at:http://bit.do/CARight2RestAct.

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Right to Rest Act Update

The Right to Rest Act, SB608, was heard in California Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee on April 7. The vote was postponed. Before the vote comes up again next session we have a lot to do, sucP1040783h as growing our coalition, growing the number of supporters, and educating legislators and opposition how and why this bill is so important to homeless people and people of good conscience.

April 7 brought coalition members and supporters from Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Merced, Sacramento and others to rally together and testify at the hearing (a line going out the door).

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Right to Rest Rally & Hearing!

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Right to Rest

The Right to Rest Act, SB608, was introduced into California’s State Legislature by Senator Carol Liu this past February. This bill includes the following protections: 1. Right to move freely, rest, sleep, pray and shocHBRRight2Rest-top banner2be protected in public space without discrimination.;  2. Right to rest in public spaces and protect oneself from the elements in a nonobstructive manner.; 3. Right to occupy a legally parked vehicle.; 4. Right to share food and eat in public. Full bill language

The first hearing will be April 7 in the Senate Transportation & Housing Committee. More details will be forthcoming. Currently, the same bill is in Oregon and Colorado’s legislature. More information from WRAP

IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED! March 30 deadline for Organizations and Businesses to send a letter of support to Senator Liu to become a listed supporter of the bill. Here’s a sample letter. Cut and paste onto your letterhead, sign the letter, and email pdf to Senator Liu, emailing to the listed contacts.

Please send a support letter by March 30 – On your letter head
Sample Support Letter – Right to Rest Act of 2015, SB 608 (Liu)
Send by Email to:  Pboden@wraphome.org, Jbartholow@wclp.org and Joyce.Roys-Aguilera@sen.ca.gov
(You may fax the signed letter to Senator Liu’s office: 916.651.4925)

Date  _____ 

Honorable Carol Liu
California State Senate
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: Right to Rest Act of 2015, SB 608 (Liu) – Support

Dear Senator Liu,

[Name of Your Organization] supports your bill, SB 608, which will end the criminalization of rest and accompanying violations of basic human and civil rights for all people, regardless of their housing status.  In doing so, SB 608 would encourage the diversion of expenditures on citing and jailing people for resting in public spaces on efforts to prevent homelessness.

California, with only 12 percent of the country’s overall population but 22 percent of its homeless population and 25 percent of its homeless veteran population, is at the epicenter of the criminalization of homelessness. According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, California cities are substantially more likely than cities in other states to ban rest. While only 33 percent of non-California cities restrict this activity, 74 percent of California cities ban the practice.

Researchers from the Policy Advocacy Clinic at the University of California at Berkeley Law School analyzed the prevalence of these types of municipal codes restricting rest and sharing of food in 58 California cities for its report “California’s New Vagrancy Laws: The Growing Enactment and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State.”  Researchers identified over 500 municipal laws criminalizing standing, sitting, resting, sleeping and sharing of food in public places as well as laws making it illegal to ask for money, nearly nine laws per city, on average. The study also found that the number of ordinances targeting those behaviors rose along with the rise in homelessness following the sharp decline of federal funding for affordable housing that was cut in the early 1980s and again with the Great Recession in 2008.

Criminalizing practices which are not criminal not only worsens the condition of people without homes, but also narrows their opportunities to escape homelessness. By acknowledging the failure of municipal laws that criminalize poverty and homelessness, we hope that passage of this legislation will improve the focus on more humane and effective responses to homelessness.

The Right to Rest Act of 2015 will end the practice of citing and imprisoning Californians for resting, sharing food or practicing religion in public.  Optional: Include 2 sentences about why your organization cares.

[Name of Your Organization] supports SB 608 and thanks you for introducing this important legislation.

Sincerely,

Your Name and Title

cc:  Paul Boden, Western Regional Advocacy Project (Co-Sponsor)
Jessica Bartholow, Western Center on Law and Poverty (Co-Sponsor)

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