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Home | Newsroom | Housing | Letter to Assemblymember Josh Hoover in Opposition to AB 257

Letter to Assemblymember Josh Hoover in Opposition to AB 257

Assemblymember Josh Hoover
Capitol Annex
1021 O St Suite 4540
Sacramento, CA 95814
February 3, 2023

As organizations and individuals who work to end homelessness and protect the human and civil rights of all Californians, the undersigned join together to oppose AB 257 (Hoover), which seeks to further criminalize the very existence of our unhoused neighbors in public space. AB 257 would make it a crime to sit, lie, sleep, or store, use, maintain, or place personal property upon any street, sidewalk, or other public right-of-way within 500 feet of a school, daycare center, park, or library. The bill would also make it a crime to resist, delay, or obstruct a police officer or public employee attempting to enforce this measure. We are gravely concerned that AB 257 would further demonize, destabilize, criminalize, and violate the human rights of unhoused Californians while failing to address the underlying driver of homelessness: the lack of affordable and accessible housing to Californians with the lowest incomes. However, we would welcome a chance to work with you and other members of the legislature to advance solutions that address the urgent housing, economic, and health needs of Californians experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.

Given the ubiquity of schools, parks, libraries, and daycare centers, this policy would effectively make it a crime for any unhoused Californian to exist in public space, and put police officers at the frontlines of responding to our state’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis. By framing the bill as means to enhance public safety, this measure perpetuates false narratives that unhoused people are inherently dangerous. It also ignores that our unhoused neighbors include families and children who attend schools and visit parks and libraries. Further, given the fact that Black people and other people of color disproportionately live without housing or  shelter and are unjustly targeted by law enforcement, AB 257 also reinforces dangerous  racialized stereotypes that continue to reproduce systemic inequity in housing, health, employment, and legal outcomes.

Only housing ends homelessness, and at present, California is experiencing a housing affordability crisis decades in the making, with a statewide shortage of 1.2 million affordable homes. Without housing options, criminalizing basic activities of living cannot solve homelessness and may make it worse. As shown by recent research and reporting from across the state, sweeping encampments and criminalizing unhoused people with nowhere else to go is traumatic, destabilizing, and ineffective. People displaced by sweeps regularly lose access to important belongings, including identity documents, medication and healthcare resources, and irreplaceable belongings such as photographs or family heirlooms or have them seized and destroyed. Criminal penalties for sleeping create legal and financial barriers that may make it harder to access housing or services in the future. Sweeps can disrupt service provision and exacerbate well-founded mistrust of government workers and institutions. Under AB 257’s proposed enforcement zones, people would almost certainly be pushed to areas far away from critical services and resources. Finally, a police-based response to homelessness is extremely costly to local governments, diverting critical resources away from long-term solutions like affordable and supportive housing, mental health services, infrastructure, and other critical life-affirming resources.

Criminalizing unhoused people because they are homeless violates their constitutional and civil rights. Courts have found that, where people experiencing homelessness have no alternative housing or shelter, the state is prohibited from criminalizing acts such as sitting, lying, sleeping, or other life-sustaining activities. People cannot be restricted from public spaces by reason of their housing status, especially given that decades of underinvestment mean that services, shelters, and housing options do not exist in this state for everyone who needs them. The effect of such a blatantly discriminatory law will lead to further stigmatization and discrimination of people experiencing houselessness. This discrimination also compounds considering that people experiencing homelessness are also disproportionately comprised of other marginalized groups, including people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people.

AB 257 perpetuates a harmful trend of scapegoating our unhoused neighbors and wasting public resources on inequitable and ineffective enforcement-driven homelessness policy. If the legislation’s goal is, as its author states, to increase safety surrounding encampments, there are many ways to do so that do not require police or criminal penalties: ongoing sanitation services, regular trash pickup, housing navigation resources, and on-site support services at encampment sites while people wait to be connected to interim and permanent housing and services.

While we vehemently oppose AB 257, we reiterate our interest in working with the Legislature to secure additional state resources to deliver on our neighbors’ basic health and housing needs, including through budget investments in supportive and affordable housing, service provider outreach, community-based mental health and substance use treatment services to support our unhoused neighbors in connecting to the housing and care the want and need.

To discuss these concerns further, please reach out to Cynthia Castillo, [email protected].

The following organizations:
ACLU California Action
Housing California
Western Center on Law and Poverty
Active San Gabriel Valley
All Home
Bet Tzedek Legal Services
Black Women for Wellness
Break the Cycle Project
Brilliant Corners
Build Affordable Faster
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
California Housing Partnership
Californians for Safety and Justice
Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice
Centro Legal de la Raza
Climate Resolve
Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco
Community Works
Corporation for Supportive Housing
Disability Community Resource Center (DCRC)
Disability Rights California
Downtown Women’s Center
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
Elder Law & Disability Center
Ella Baker Center
Ensuring Opportunity Campaign to End Poverty in Contra Costa
First to Serve, Inc.
Friends Committee on Legislation of California
GRACE/End Child Poverty CA
Haven Hills, Inc.
Homeless Health Care Los Angeles
Housing Equity & Advocacy Resource Team (HEART LA)
Housing is a Human Right OC
HPP Cares (Home Preservation and Prevention Inc.)
Indivisible CA: StateStrong
Indivisible CA45
Indivisible Sacramento
Indivisible San Francisco
Indivisible Sonoma County
Initiate Justice
Inner City Law Center
LA Family Housing
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of The San Francisco Bay Area
Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability
Legal Aid of Marin
My Friend’s Place
National Alliance to End Homelessness
National Homelessness Law Center
National Housing Law Project
NoHo Home Alliance
Norwalk Unides
No CARE Court Coalition
PICO California
Project Amiga
Public Advocates
Residents United Network Los Angeles
Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee
Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness
Safe Place for Youth
San Bernardino Free Them All
Silicon Valley De-Bug
SLO Legal Assistance Foundation
South County Homelessness Task Force
Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE)
Streets for All
The Center in Hollywood
The Midnight Mission
The People Concern
The People’s Resource Center
The Public Interest Law Project
The RowLA – The Church Without Walls – Skid Row
The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office
Transitions Clinic Network
Union Station Homeless Services
United Way of Greater Los Angeles
University of Southern California
Venice Community Housing
Voices for Progress
Western Regional Advocacy Project
YIMBY Action
The following individual community members:
Paula Lomazzi
Casey Thompson
Shelly Williams
Sarah Whipple
Ben Baczkowski
Kevin Green
Christina Gonzalez
Zerita Jones
Haley Feng
Joyce E Roberts
Damian J. Hernandez
Irma Ramos
Kyle Robert Kitson
Sydney Smanpongse
Elizabeth Flores
Olivia Barber
Itzel Vasquez-Rodriguez
Ariège Besson
Rachael L Parker-Chavez
Nelowfar ahmadi
Gloria Magallanes
Isaac Bushnell
Andrea Martinez
Kiara Tarazon-Molina
Melissa Ceja
Jacqueline Olivares
Katayun Salehi
Abbi Samuels
Roya Pakzad
Amy Ithurburn
Rebekah Turnbaugh