A bill to create outreach teams comprised of law enforcement officers, mental and medical health professionals, and county welfare workers to help clear homeless Californians and homeless encampments passed the Senate Public Safety Committee in a bipartisan vote 3-0 on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 1006, authored by Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee), would have the Department of Justice administer a new grant program for local law enforcement agencies to create homeless outreach teams. The teams, also known as “wrap-around” teams, would be comprised of at least one law enforcement officer, a mental health professional, a medical services professional, and a representative of the county welfare department. Under SB 1006, mental and medical health members can be non-profit volunteers or graduate students in those fields.
Jones wrote the bill to help solve the homeless issue in California by employing compassionate strategies favored by traditional law enforcement, and proven effective in removing homeless encampments in the past. According to the press release, the SB 1006 approach “has the potential to help law enforcement compassionately clear the homeless encampments out of our communities, assess the particular medical needs of those living on the street, and link them with appropriate health and housing agencies so they don’t wind up right back where they were.”
“This measure is a good first step in helping solve homelessness in California,” said Senator Jones on Tuesday. “We need to clear homeless encampments off our streets, out of our parks, and off other public property in a humane and compassionate way. This is a comprehensive team approach to provide on-the-spot assessments of the needs of homeless individuals along with immediate placements in necessary health programs and appropriate housing facilities.”
Bipartisan support for SB 1006
Others with homeless encampment clearing backgrounds praised the bill being moved up on Tuesday.
“SB 1006 is one of those compromise bills that you wouldn’t think are possible nowadays so much, especially on an issue as divisive as homelessness, but they have found a way,” noted Carla Fernandez, a Los Angeles-area volunteer who has helped lead several homeless encampment cleanup efforts, to the Globe on Tuesday. “In the last 5, 10 years there has been this divide on just bringing in the cops or sending out homeless welfare people. Cops are effective in removing sites, but the end result can get messy with people hurt or arrest. The big sweep last year at Echo Park proves that it can be done, but yikes, there is damage along the way.”
“On the other side is just sending welfare or health people out there, and while they do offer better options, sweeps we’ve seen with them help maybe a handful off the streets but the rest usually stay as they just refuse all help. You can’t clear an area with just them.”
“SB 1006 is a good mix. You have the police officer there to be a bit more forceful and to show the seriousness of the situation and to intervene if things get violent. A medical and mental health worker is there to evaluate them and help them as needed and help determine if they need more than housing, while the county worker is there for good general work like housing placement. All four then make sure they are off the street then.”
“It’s not as fast moving as a police sweep or as option giving as more compassionate methods, but it’s an effective mix there. The homeless are off the street, they get care they need, have basic needs met, and help give them another shot at building back their life. It’s never this simple when it comes to practice, but generally that’s what it looks like it can do. And that’s why conservatives and liberals like this. It’s compassionate conservatism and DINO liberal thought finding a way.”
As of Tuesday, no formal opposition has come out against SB 1006. However, some Democratic Senators abstained from committee votes showing a possible bloc against the bill in later votes. During the Committee vote on Tuesday, Senators Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa), and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) all voted for the bill with Senators Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) and Nancy Skinner (D- Berkeley) choosing not to vote.
SB 1006 is expected tp be heard in future Senate Committees in the coming months.
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