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Western Center Roundup – February 2022

Western Center’s Legislative Agenda and Celebrating Blackness This Month and Every Month!


Our 2022 Legislative Agenda 

The bills are in, and Western Center’s policy advocates are hard at work in Sacramento to pass this year’s slate of bills to make California better for everyone. Here is our full 2022 Legislative Agenda, and here are a few of the highlights:

AB 1816 (Bryan): Reentry Housing and Workforce Development Program (co-sponsored with Housing California, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Californians for Safety and Justice, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), and Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership) — This bill will establish a funding source for permanent affordable housing and workforce development for formerly incarcerated people at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness. This bill is necessary to support people reentering society after incarceration to reduce recidivism and homelessness — 70 percent of people experiencing homelessness in California have a history of incarceration.

AB 1995 (Arambula): Eliminating Med-Cal Premiums (co-sponsored with Children Now) — Medi-Cal premium requirements place an undue economic burden on families living on very limited incomes, and create barriers in access to care and unnecessary breaks in coverage for eligible individuals. This bill will ensure pregnant people, children, and people with disabilities can access the health care services they need to stay healthy by eliminating their monthly Medi-Cal premiums.

SB 972 (Gonzalez): Street Vendors (co-sponsored with Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Community Power Collective, Inclusive Action for the City, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, Public Counsel) — Street vendors are a part of California’s culture and have been for decades. In recent years, street vendors became part of the formal economy with the decriminalization of street vending in 2018. However, many street vendors who sell food are unable to obtain health permits from their local county health departments, so this bill will modernize the California Retail Food Code to reduce barriers for street vendors to obtain local health permits. Creating this pathway will allow street vendors to further enter the formal economy and put an end to fines issued to these entrepreneurs with limited incomes. Additionally, as the Los Angeles Food Policy Council points out, street vendors also “provide communities with delicious foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. In food desert communities – and particularly in the absence of healthy food retail development – fruit and vegetable sidewalk vendors can help to fill a void by providing fresh food to the local community that may struggle to access them otherwise.”


Black History All Day Every Day

As we come to the end of Black History Month, we want to reiterate that the celebration of Blackness does not end with February! We are here to celebrate, honor, and uplift Black people at all times, in all of our work. This country and state would not be here without the contributions of Black people, and as we head into March, we want to leave you with some Black excellence and history to explore!

  • First, in a historic moment for this country, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been nominated by President Biden for placement on the Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman ever nominated.
  • In a huge step for racial justice in California, Bruce’s Beach, which was once a Black beach resort owned by Willa and Charles Bruce but was seized by the Manhattan Beach city council a century ago, will finally be returned to the Bruce family.
  • The Sacramento Bee published its ‘Top 25 Black Change Makers’ roster as part of its Equity Lab project, in partnership with the Nehemiah Emerging Leaders Program. “These individuals stand out as innovative problem-solvers. They find solutions for critical issues in our communities through their respective lines of work. They are dynamic leaders who infuse history and culture in the work they do.”
  • Visit California shared ‘Black History in California You Don’t Know About,’ where you can learn about “lesser-known California tours, businesses, and stories that have played a momentous role in U.S. history and Black culture.”
  • The California Health Care Foundation recently released a report, “In Their Own Words: Black Californians on Racism and Health Care,” which is the result of phase one of its three-phase Listening to Black Californians study designed to better understand the health and health care experiences of Black Californians. The research was designed, conducted, and analyzed by EVITARUS, a Black-owned public opinion research firm in Los Angeles. Along with our community partners Dr. David Carlisle of Charles Drew University, Dr. Noha Aboelata of Roots Community Clinic and others, Western Center’s Executive Director, Crystal D. Crawford, is a member of the advisory group for this powerful study.

And In Case You Missed It…    

We love leaving you with a good Western Center read to round out the month, and today is no exception. In case you missed our latest blog post by Kathryn Evans, Western Center’s Associate Director of Individual Giving, check it out! Kathryn wrote the piece for World Day of Social Justice on February 20th, reflecting on the need for Californians to look close to home and explore the many ways to fight for justice and equality here in our own state.


Western Center Roundup – January 2022

Welcome to Western Center’s first newsletter of 2022! The new year also brings a fresh look for our monthly newsletter. Welcome to the roundup!


From North to South, Two Suits Settled 

Two lawsuits settled since our last newsletter: Warren v. City of Chico and Banda v. County of San Bernardino. 
Legal Services of Northern California and Western Center brought the case in Warren v. City of Chico last year to challenge ordinances criminalizing homelessness in Chico. Now under the settlement, the city must build individual pallet shelters for people experiencing homelessness, and is prohibited from issuing citations and arrests for people who live outside when shelter is unavailable. Read more about the case and settlement here.

In December, Western Center, Inland Counties Legal Services, and Public Interest Law Project settled our case against the County of San Bernardino, resulting in several changes to the county’s General Relief program to help more people in extreme poverty access vital financial assistance. General Relief is the program administered by California counties that provides cash assistance to adults who don’t have enough resources or income to meet their basic needs. Our case prompted the county to make substantial changes to its General Relief process, making General Relief easier to access and maintain moving forward. The biggest change is the dollar increase in assistance. Read more about the case and settlement here.


Let the Budget Process Begin

Governor Newsom released his 2022-23 California budget proposal in mid-January – revealing yet another dramatic surplus for the State of California due to rapidly increasing wealth among the state’s top earners. Western Center’s analysis of the governor’s budget proposal outlines its potential impact on Californians — from the positive, like the proposal to expand Medi-Cal eligibility to those currently excluded due to immigration status, to challenges, like the need for more state-funded rental assistance than was included in the governor’s proposal. Read our analysis here.

Despite the large surplus and number of proposed initiatives, the proposal shows reluctance to invest in the state’s ongoing needs. Leading up to the budget’s May Revision, Western Center will advocate for the legislature to review the governor’s proposal with more of an eye toward meeting the short- and long-term needs of all Californians. To learn more about Western Center’s 2022-23 budget priorities and advocacy, you can view the recording of this month’s Meet the Advocate conversation with our Director of Policy Advocacy, Mike Herald.


February Reads    

If you’re looking for an informative read or three heading into February, our blog has you covered!

  • Western Center’s Executive Director Crystal D. Crawford and Manal J. Aboelata, Deputy Executive Director at Prevention Institute and author of a new book, Healing Neighborhoods, reflect on the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and what it could mean for ensuring all Americans the right to live in a healthy neighborhood. Read here.
  • Abraham Zavala, Western Center’s Outreach and Advocacy Associate, wrote an eye-opening post about the struggles facing long-term tenants at City Center Motel in Long Beach, and how the untimely death of one tenant spurred others to mobilize and organize. Read here.
  • Western Center’s senior policy advocate Jen Flory and senior attorney Helen Tran co-wrote a post outlining new patient protections for hospital billing available this year. Read here.

Settlement ends lawsuit against City of Chico

“In April, eight unhoused plaintiffs, represented by Legal Services of Northern California and later the Western Center on Law & Poverty as well, filed suit against the City of Chico and Chico Police Department, alleging they had “unlawfully enforced a citywide web of local laws that imposed criminal penalties” on the homeless.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Settlement in Warren v. Chico – City to build individual shelters, unhoused residents won’t be arrested or cited for sleeping outside when shelter is unavailable

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Chico, CA) Today, Judge Morrison England of the District Court in Sacramento approved the settlement reached between Plaintiffs, eight unhoused Chico residents, and the City of Chico in Warren, et al. v. City of Chico, et al.

Under the settlement, the City agrees to increase shelter options for homeless Chico residents by building the City’s first non-congregate shelter site at the former BMX location at 2352 Dr Martin Luther King Jr Pkwy. There will be 177 individual Pallet Shelters, each of which will have a locking door, electricity, heat, and air conditioning. The City will provide meals, showers, laundry, and other services at the shelter site. The City will also implement a number of other important changes in how it enforces its sleeping and camping ordinances to safeguard the constitutional rights of unhoused community members.

“As a woman living outside since losing my home over three years ago in the Camp Fire, I have not been able to sleep at night because I feared for my safety and because of the cold,” said Plaintiff Tona Peterson. “I and many others living outside will now have a private space with a locking door and heat. I’ll be able to get more things done each day and work with the on-site services. We all will.”

Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit on April 8, 2021 and Judge England enjoined the City from enforcing its sleeping and camping ordinances in the time since April 11, 2021. Judge England’s settlement order dissolves the preliminary injunction, but prevents any enforcement of the ordinances until the new shelter opens.

“This settlement includes common sense solutions that many unhoused and housed Chico community members have pushed for as the City’s affordable housing crisis has worsened, pushing more and more people outside” said Sarah Steinheimer with Legal Services of Northern California’s Sacramento office and lead counsel for Plaintiffs.

Once the shelter opens, the City may enforce its sleeping and camping ordinances but only when there is sufficient shelter for everyone sleeping on the designated public property where it plans to enforce its ordinances.

“Today’s settlement and order reaffirms the rights and dignity of Chico’s unhoused community members who are often targeted for just trying to survive outside, even though there is not sufficient available housing or even temporary shelter,” said Cory Turner of Legal Services of Northern California’s Chico office and counsel for the Plaintiffs.

The order signed by Judge England puts an end to the lawsuit, but the Court retains jurisdiction to enforce the settlement for five years.

Robert Newman with the Western Center on Law & Poverty and co-counsel for the Plaintiffs additionally observes, “Governor Newsom’s new budget proposes billions of additional dollars for people experiencing homelessness. The City of Chico should take advantage of that opportunity to provide desperately needed housing for its residents.”

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Following lawsuit, SB County makes it easier for those in extreme poverty to access cash aid

“The dollar increase is significant for people who rely on this program, as is the increased ease of access,” said Richard Rothschild, director of litigation at the Western Center on Law & Poverty. “$500 can make a big difference for someone experiencing homelessness. It’s a stepping stone for finding housing, getting a job and becoming an integrated member of the community.”

https://iecn.com/following-lawsuit-sb-county-makes-it-easier-for-those-in-extreme-poverty-to-access-cash-aid/

Moms 4 Housing property owner agrees to $3.5 million settlement

“Madeline Howard, senior attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said communities of color have often been the target of corporate real estate investors, leading to gentrification and displacement. Since most tenants do not have lawyers, Howard said, “It’s particularly important to enforce tenant protections when the property owner is a corporation.”

The pandemic has sharpened the need for enforcement, she said. “There’s such a direct connection between tenants rights and homelessness.”

Moms 4 Housing property owner agrees to $3.5 million settlement

Billions in Public Money Aimed at Curing Homelessness and Caring for ‘Whole Body’ Politic

“This will leave a lot of people behind,” said Linda Nguy, a policy advocate at the Western Center on Law & Poverty.

“We haven’t seen health plans excel in even providing basic preventative services to healthy people,” she said. “I mean, do your basic job first. How can they be expected to successfully take on these additional responsibilities for people with very high health needs?”

Billions in Public Money Aimed at Curing Homelessness and Caring for ‘Whole Body’ Politic

The environmental justice logic behind Cori Bush’s fight for the eviction moratorium

“Courtney McKinney, director of communications at the nonprofit Western Center on Law and Poverty, says the U.S. should create a system that permanently limits the prevalence of evictions. The center is working on building state-based legal assistance funds, dubbed “homelessness prevention funds.” Across the country, just 10 percent of renters who go through an eviction process have legal representation, compared to 90 percent of landlords. ”

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