The proposed bill prohibits homeless people from visiting schools and parks

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Assemblyman Josh Hoover, R-Folsom, has introduced legislation that would ban homeless shelters within 500 feet of schools, daycares, parks and libraries.

Assembly Bill 257 is one of the first measures proposed by Hoover, who was elected last November in a tight race against then-Assemblyman Ken Cooley.

“This bill is about keeping our public places safe for the most vulnerable people in our community, which are our children,” Hoover said Tuesday. “It is very important that all our children feel safe when they go to school.”

Hoover said he found needles and other drug paraphernalia near his Folsom home where his three children were playing.

“The purpose of this bill is to make sure our public spaces are safe and usable. It’s just part of a bigger problem,” he said.

The bill would become statewide law, building on what several California cities have already proposed. In October last year, Art The Sacramento City Council voted unanimously add schools to its list of “critical infrastructure,” making it illegal for homeless communities to camp or use “camp paraphernalia” within 500 feet of school property.

State Sen. Angelique Ashby (D-Sacramento), then a council member, proposed the change after a homeless man arrested near Sutter Middle School in East Sacramento for yelling obscenities and making sexual gestures at students. The Los Angeles City Council the same restriction was adopted last August.

At the federal level”critical infrastructure” is a label usually reserved for sensitive locations such as sewage treatment plants, power plants, dams, dams, or other structures deemed vital to national or economic security. Homeless advocates say politicians have expanded the meaning of “critical infrastructure” as a means of keeping homeless people from as many public spaces as possible.

Hoover’s district includes Folsom, Citrus Heights and Rancho Cordova, as well as the suburban unincorporated communities of Carmichael, Fair Oaks, Foothill Farms, Gold River, Mather, McClellan Park, North Highlands, Orangevale and Rosemont. AB 257 is co-sponsored by Rep. Heath Flora (R-Modesto).

“Our constituents are asking us to do something about it,” said Flora, whose District 9 includes parts of the San Joaquin Valley south of Sacramento.

“Most of the homeless have mental, drug and alcohol problems. Leaving them outside is not a good place for them. As parents, we are called to protect our children and have [homeless people] next to schools is not suitable for them either.’

The bill has received widespread support among Republicans, while such bans have inspired a serious democratic struggle. When Ashby proposed the change last fall, progressive City Councilwoman Cathy Valenzuela questioned whether such a ban would be effective; the homeless man in question was not staying at the encampment near Sutter High School at the time of his arrest.

“People in crisis don’t really want to follow invisible boundaries,” Valenzuela said.

But “Democrats need to find new solutions because what we’re doing isn’t working,” said Sacramento Democratic strategist Robin Swenson, who endorsed Ashby’s proposal last fall and took the ire of progressives for it.

“Children’s ability to safely go on a school field trip should not be a Democrat or Republican issue. If we have sidewalks littered with trash, we’re doing it wrong,” she said. The homelessness crisis is “really eating away at the revitalization of Sacramento… Millions of dollars have already been spent on homelessness, and my kid can’t walk down the sidewalk on a field trip without needles, drugs, trash, human waste, excrement.” There’s nothing wrong with that.”

According to Bob Erlenbush, executive director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness, the bill is “evil.”

In print and social networks, Hoover’s office refers to AB 257 as a proposal to “ban homeless encampments,” conjuring images of tent cities or larger communities. However, the bill specifically states that it: “prohibits a person from sitting, lying down, sleeping or storing, using, handling or placing personal property on any street, sidewalk or other public property within 500 feet of a school, daycare center. center, park or library.”

Hoover said Tuesday that the bill “is not about banning individuals … what we are restricting and prohibiting in this bill is camping in these areas.”

But as written in its first draft, the bill appears to be a way to prevent the homeless from accessing thousands of public spaces, Erlenbusch said.

“You say that homeless people are forbidden to sit on a bench in a park or at a bus stop. And homeless people use libraries all the time to access services, check their email and get the news.”

Erlenbush counted the number of schools, daycare centers, libraries and public parks in the state of California: Hoover’s bill, as written, would prohibit the homeless from being within 500 feet of about 47,000 places.

“It basically bans the homeless in the state,” he said.

Hoover argued that the bill is not an attempt to deny homeless people access to such services or prevent homeless people from using public spaces.

“It’s important to work out the right definitions, and that’s why we need a legislative process,” he said.

Hoover and Flora said they want to see compassionate, long-term solutions for people experiencing homelessness.

“Certainly our intentions are not to just move people around and not be compassionate. This is not the perspective of our assembly at all,” Flora said. “What we’re seeing, though, is that there’s a lot of lip service … and no measurable success.”

With his new seat on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Hoover says he’s also proposing an audit of government spending on homelessness to see what approaches have been most effective, and that he’s open to working with “anyone and anyone” soon. . with a solution.

“This is a multifaceted problem. [AB 257] it’s not the solution to homelessness, I’m not saying that,” he said. “But in the short term, making sure these public spaces are safe for our children is critical.”

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Genavive Hatch is a political reporter for The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Bureau. She is a graduate of the UC Davis Creative Writing MFA program and previously worked as a political reporter for HuffPost.

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