Committee kills bipartisan measure that seeks to compassionately clear homeless encampments

Senate Minority Leader Brian W. Jones issued the following statement regarding his bipartisan Senate Bill 31, which aims to compassionately clear homeless encampments:

“After weeks of negotiations, I’m disappointed to announce that the bipartisan SB 31 will not be moving forward this year,” said Leader Jones. “The Democrat-led Senate ‘Public Safety’ Committee refused to reach an agreement that would allow the bill to advance. 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. We will not give up the fight to protect our children and compassionately clear encampments.”

Last month, a group of community leaders including Leader Jones, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Senate Minority Caucus Chair Janet Nguyen), Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, Senator Kelly Seyarto  and homeless advocate Brett Boman held a press conference to promote the bipartisan SB 31.

SB 31 prohibits 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. More than 2,000 Californians have signed the petition in support of SB 31.

Modeled after a recent measure passed by the city of Los Angeles, Jones’s bipartisan bill would have helped compassionately 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.

SB 31 was stalled last month 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 opposed the measure. Senators Steven Bradford, Nancy Skinner and Scott Weiner did not vote.

What they’re saying about SB 31
“A street should not be a home. Period,” said Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “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.”

“My time on the street has given me some insight into the lives of many homeless and the reasons why they are homeless vary,” said Brett Boman, a homeless advocate. “I support Senator Jones’s measure as it provides hope for many who find themselves at times feeling “hopeless” in their situation. We need to ensure our sensitive areas in communities such as parks or daycare centers are not inhibited by encampments, but also that those who need it get access to the services they desperately need. SB 31 balances both of those approaches and our legislators should support this measure.”

“I want to commend Senator Jones for his leadership in addressing homelessness,” said supervisor Jim Desmond. “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.”

“El Cajon and the greater San Diego region continue to face challenges in addressing homelessness,” said El Cajon Police Department Chief Mike Moulton. “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.”

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

“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,” said Bob McElroy, Alpha Project CEO, a local non-profit. “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.”