Homeless bill would hamstring law enforcement
The California Apartment Association has serious concerns with Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's Homeless Person's Bill of Rights and Fairness Act and has taken an oppose position.
Assembly Bill 5, now awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, would broaden the definition of homelessness while giving those who qualify an unreasonable slate of new rights.
AB 5 would hamstring law enforcement's ability to maintain order on the streets, in parks -- and public spaces around apartments.
For starters, AB 5 would add "housing status" to the list of protected categories of individuals under California's fair housing and employment laws. AB 5 implies that "income level" is protected under the Constitution.
The bill also would broaden the definition of "homeless" to include individuals or families who:
- Lack a regular adequate residence or someone who lives in substandard apartments or dwellings.
- Double up temporarily with friends or families.
- Stay in transitional-housing programs or residential hotels without tenancy rights.
It would prohibit cities and counties -- and specifically law enforcement -- from maintaining any rational level of order among those who are truly homeless -- and those who would join their ranks under AB 5's broader definition.
For homeless people, virtually everywhere would qualify as home, from bus stops to shopping centers to foyers of office buildings.
As the Sacramento Bee editorialized, this bill by Ammiano, D-San Francisco, would create a "nightmare scenario," leaving business owners powerless to remove homeless people from impeding their daily activities.
When police, private security or property managers take any action to "intimidate or otherwise persuade (a homeless) individual to alter his or her behavior, whether or not otherwise lawful," AB 5 would chalk it up to harassment.
The bill would give homeless people free rein in all public spaces: It'd be fine to walk, rest, eat, store property and even urinate. Unless the person is maliciously or substantially blocking a passageway, the homeless person would be in the right.
Panhandling would be OK, too, although in AB 5, the preferred phrase is "soliciting donations."
AB 5 has solicited criticism and deservedly so.
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