In January, California State Senator Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) introduced a bill that aims to protect the right of California’s homeless to “rest” in public spaces.
Senate Bill 876 would de-criminalize homelessness by ultimately limiting local sanitation and law enforcement agencies’ ability to treat sleeping on the street as a criminal act, and remove and destroy homeless people’s belongings.
“The bill would have immeasurable impact,” said Eric Ares, a community organizer and communications coordinator for Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), an organizing group focused on defending human rights in downtown and south L.A.
In Los Angeles, “street sweeps” are carried out prominently under the auspices of the Bureau of Sanitation’s Operation Healthy Streets (OHS), which has been seen dismantling and disposing of encampments, according to LA CAN. Homeless advocates on Skid Row see SB 876 as a critical step to supporting the rights of the homeless population while the city and county begin to carry out the long process of implementing the recently approved Homeless Strategy, a roughly 240-page plan presenting possible solutions for the homeless crisis in Los Angeles. Opponents argue that SB 876 reduces the incentive for homeless individuals to look for housing, and restricts law enforcement’s efficacy in their neighborhoods.