Senate Bill 914, authored by Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), would specifically have homeless services ensure that the needs of of those groups are incorporated into homeless planning and responses by January 1, 2023. Specifically, they would be included as ‘vulnerable populations” to receive specific system supports. SB 914, also known as the Homeless Equity for Left Behind Populations (HELP) Act, would also help develop better information systems to get better information about the needs of domestic survivor victims and other groups targeted by the bill due to current federal limits on entering database information about them because of confidentiality requirements. These new comparable systems would then be used to help better address homelessness in these populations.
The California Interagency Council on Homelessness would also set and measure progress toward goals to prevent and end homelessness among domestic violence survivors and their children and among unaccompanied women in California. These goals would be established by January 2025, with goals updated every two years as new information dictates.
Senator Rubio wrote the bill to help counter gender bias and disparities currently in state and county-level homeless programs and to focus on populations like domestic violence survivors due to current information gaps that don’t bring their needs into homelessness plans.
“Unsheltered women and unsheltered transgender individuals report shockingly high numbers of domestic violence,” the Senator said in a statement Thursday. “As our state and local governments continue to work toward ending the homeless crisis, we must make sure that we do not leave any part of the homeless population behind. Domestic violence services for individuals experiencing homelessness have been grossly underfunded, and the HELP Act is needed to help these vulnerable populations and focus on their unique needs.”
SB 914 has received a lot of support since being introduced in February, with many homeless groups and organizations around support for domestic violence victims coming out in support of the bill.
“We’re grateful to the Human Services Committee for recognizing the inextricable link between domestic violence and homelessness,” California Partnership to End Domestic Violence Public Policy Director Krista Colon said. “We are excited to see SB 914 move forward to its next hearing in Senate Housing. This important bill will ensure state and local governments will be one step closer to creating a gender-inclusive and intersectional homelessness system that will support survivors as they heal. This is one important element of the Partnership’s economic justice work.”
No major opposition has come out against the bill as of Thursday, as shown by previous Committee votes that have passed unanimously.
“It’s one of those bills that fix a problem that people don’t usually think we have,” said Los Angeles homeless shelter volunteer Matt Bunning to the Globe on Thursday. “For people escaping domestic violence situations, they don’t want any information about them to be out there. It’s not just a confidentiality thing, but a safety thing. If someone looking for them manages to get access to the system, they can find all sorts of things about them, including where they are now. But since we don’t get that information on them, as well as other groups like transgendered people because we really haven’t had their needs considered before, there are gaps right now in the current system.
“With this bill, we’ll help better serve everyone. Right now we’ve left people behind. This shouldn’t happen, especially for those needing help to avoid violence or experiencing homelessness in such a vulnerable way. This helps bridges the gaps.”
SB 914 is expected to move through the Senate in the coming weeks.