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Homeless encampment downtown Sacramento. (Photo: Katy Grimes for California Globe)

Sen. Jones’ Multi-Pronged Approach to Removing Homeless Encampments

California’s approach to homelessness is a failure

By Brian Jones, October 26, 2022 2:45 am

California’s approach to homelessness is a failure. Tent cities are everywhere; no community is immune. The problem is huge, but there are things we can do that will make a difference in the short-term while we work to solve the long-term.

On December 5th, the first day of the new legislative session, I will introduce a proposal to help communities clean up encampments from sensitive areas in a compassionate manner.  We must protect public safety and public health, particularly where our children are concerned.

My measure has a multi-pronged approach that is more than just sweeping the problem away. First, it prohibits encampments within 1,000 feet of areas deemed sensitive: schools, parks, libraries, day care centers. This will help protect children’s safe passage to the places they congregate.

Second, it mandates enforcement officials give a 72-hour warning before any encampment sweep could occur. This will give impacted homeless individuals three days to find alternative locations.

Third, when conducting a sweep, enforcement officers are required to provide information about sleeping alternatives, homeless and mental health services, and shelters in the area.  This will help connect homeless individuals to desperately needed services and more suitable places to stay.

This bill alone will not solve homelessness, but will provide local officials a tool to tackle a highly visible and often dangerous aspect of the homelessness crisis.  It strikes an appropriate balance between accountability and compassion while prioritizing public health and safety. 

Living on the streets is inhumane, unhealthy and often dangerous – for both the people living in the homeless encampments and those living around them.  Local officials are struggling with clearing encampments and need more tools to deal with the problem. Even the city of Los Angeles believes it is a good idea to set firm boundaries and recently passed a measure aimed at preventing homeless encampments near sensitive areas where children are often present or gather.  Similarly, the city of Sacramento recently proposed a ban on homeless encampments within 500 feet of sensitive areas. 

My bill would bring these protections for children’s safe passage to a statewide level. My bill will give municipalities statewide additional resources to tackle this humanitarian crisis on the local level.

 I welcome the strong support from a diverse group of community leaders, local law enforcement officials, local government elected officials, and local non-profits. Even former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has given my measure the green light. His support is significant, especially because he proactively sought to tackle the homelessness crisis when he once led San Diego.

The goal isn’t to criminalize homelessness but to protect the public while lifting homeless individuals off the street through a compassionate approach.  Every Californian deserves a path off the streets, and this bill is the first step.

A few facts underscoring the enormity of the problem.  While California’s 39 million people make up 10% of the nation’s population, our 161,000 homeless people make up 28% of the nation’s homeless population and almost 50% of its unsheltered homeless population.

The Public Policy Institute of California’s latest annual statewide survey found that 68% of Californians said homelessness is “a big problem in their part of the state,” and 61% said the “presence of the homeless has increased in their local community in the past year.”

As a long-time San Diego County resident, I assure you this is true. In the County’s latest Point-in-Time-Count, the Regional Task Force on Homelessness found the number of homeless in San Diego County shot up 10% in the last year alone, with over half of the estimated 8,427 homeless people living on the streets.

Homelessness is truly the tragedy of our time. Similar to how the root causes of homelessness can vary for each homeless individual, the solutions to lift them out of their situation will also vary. 

My bill strives to reach homeless people where they are, guide them into accepting shelter and services, while setting firm boundaries that until encampments are no longer an issue, at minimum, they must not endanger our children. I urge you to learn more about my bill and sign my petition to support it.

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29 thoughts on “Sen. Jones’ Multi-Pronged Approach to Removing Homeless Encampments

  1. Many cities already have such laws. But if the city does not enforce the law, the status quo remains. This is why L.A. is such a failure.

    If you don’t have enforcement measures, your plan will not work either.

  2. My city already does this!
    The problem is the lack of wrap around services once they are moved. They eventually come back to the same areas! They have taken over our industrial areas, open spaces that are neither claimed by the city or county, along the railway easements behind people’s homes. I would be very happy to give you a tour of my suburban city that is having a growing homeless population. The cities are so overwhelmed that your policy will not address the real issue, drug treatment and mental health issues. There is a disabled man that left the big encampment near my house set up behind a 7-11. He clearly has issues but is left there in his wheel chair day after day, right next to a church parking lot. How does your policy help that person? The police have become social workers and are trained to offer them services. We have task forces, a navigation center, home room key facilities, yet the problem has ballooned.

  3. I was the founder and president of a non-profit veterans homeless organization. It seems that nobody wants to fix the cause. Moving the homeless to other locations is a waste of time and money. We need to force people into receiving mental health care. Including drug and alcohol rehabilitation. It is ridiculous to expect people with mental health issues or addiction to make good logical decisions. We as a society need to be more proactive. We also need more affordable housing for those who can’t afford it. Otherwise nothing is going to change!!!!!!

  4. You can’t do this without investing in the systems you claim to be referring them to. Those support networks either don’t exist or don’t have the resources to adequately serve the population they’re intended to serve. THAT is how you make a change. You don’t do it by hiding the problem out of sight of popular areas.

    1. 100% agree. The proposed bill is a waste of energy and resources akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Don’t bother. Focus on housing them so they can get back on their feet and contribute positively to the community. Not like the homeless want to stay homeless.

  5. My solution is to determine the homeless person’s next of kin and location. Provide funding to send them to their next of kin along with their personal belongings. The agreement is a homeless person will either accept the offer or be transported out of the state. Penalty for refusal with be jail.

  6. Roosevelt started the CCC many years ago, although not the most effective program, it would serve better than any program in effect at this time. People have a desire to be productive and although handouts or “services” as you would call them, are a short-term solution. These actually achieve nothing, as the past two individuals have stated. “They come back to the same areas. with this being said we need to rethink our goals and the unintended consequences of such actions. Once society has enabled an individual or group of individuals to be unproductive, the masses tend to lean in the same direction as you can see with our current workforce demanding shorter hours and higher pay for unskilled labor. If our tax dollars are to be utilized to “Help” the homeless we need to do just that and stop lying to ourselves that these programs are effective. The drug use, prostitution and violence in these encampments needs to be talked about and dealt with
    If anyone has a better idea bring it forward
    if there is a new way, I’ll be the first in line, but it better work this time!

  7. Rent for even the smallest apartment in the most “inexpensive” areas of our county is well beyond what many of our seniors receive in their social security checks. When are caps going to be placed on rent increases? How do you tell your great aunt who is 75 that she needs to get a job? There is a several year waiting list for low income housing. Many of these people don’t have family with extra money to supplement their income.
    Rent is a struggle for people of all ages and it keeps increasing at alarming rates. The elephant in the room is screaming but none of our politicians want to anger the corporations that fund their campaigns.

    1. Why do people with no resources get to command where they want to live?There is plenty of abandoned housingall over this country. Please do a Zillow search on Detroit for one classic example of perfectly good housing, now going to waste.

      Relocation to abandoned housing for those who can function on their own in housing; state care lock-down institutions for those who cannot.

    2. NY is the only city in the country that has a program through the Dept of Aging called SCRIE that permanently FREEZES the rent of those who are 62 and older whose income does not exceed $50,000. Landlord will still get their yearly increases but NOT from the renter. They get a reduction of property taxes and more.. It’s very successful and has been around for decades. So seniors CAN remain in their apartments without the fear being evicted for not being able to pay increases..

      Unfortunately, NO such program exists here in Los Angeles although I’ve tried to engage the Dept of Aging here and our City Council to no avail.. And getting on waiting list to get low income/affordable apts can take YEARS. NOT enough avail units for the thousands who need it. And NOT enough building for this population.

  8. Until the public’s rights override the individual’s rights nothing will improve. No one is willing to change the laws, no one is willing to draw the line. The laws on involuntary drug and mental illness intervention must change. The laws on public drug use, public intoxication, and general public safety must change. Let’s treat the public at large with dignity and respect, instead of worrying about hurting someone’s feelings by saying “You have no right to live on the street, you have no right to use drugs and alcohol on the streets, you have mental health issues and you cannot be safely left on the streets. You have no right to other people’s property!”

  9. i also think your bill will not solve the problem. i have lived in the San Diego area for 60 years and i can’t stand it any longer. I went to a Padre Playoff game and saw men and women sharing needles and shooting up on the street near the ballpark. I will watch games on TV and skip having my grand kids witness this.
    I think the homeless, especially the drug addicted, need to be moved to a certain area that is away from society in a fenced area that does not let them out. There should be drug treatment centers on the property along with mental health doctors that are wanting to help what can be helped.
    The location should have some kind of enclosed facility for the people so they can shower and sleep.. but away from the city or towns in the SD area. Build homeless centers for the addicts, mentally disturbed and one for those that are down on there luck and can get out of the homeless state with some training and job opportunities.
    it would have to be a mini city that could supply food and shelter for the cost of the persons Social Security money they receive from the Feds. No drugs or alcohol allowed into the city and all homeless MUST be transported there.
    Those that want to join the rest of the world can get out but those that don’t live there instead of on the streets.

    1. I agree with your observations and would like to add on. These rehab centers you propose are probably the only true solution. Let’s face it, this problem is not going to be fixed without some kind of punitive approach. When did public drug use become legal anyway? Let’s step up drug law enforcement. Harsh prison sentence for drug use isn’t the answer but a secure rehab center with a required curriculum for release would go a long way to rehabilitating, at least the drug addicts, and of course mental illness treatment would be a part of it.

  10. In the city of Los Angles needs a Republican Mayor to take care of the homeless problem the Democrats are too lenient. That’s why everyone leaving California!

  11. How can we possibly say that we’re doing things the right way when there are so many homeless. And these are no longer just whinos or people that are mentally ill. There are entire families that are homeless. The answer is not to either criminalize them or take their children. It is to give them opportunities to make their way. And if they are having trouble with drugs or alcohol the way is to provide them services to get free of it.

  12. What a total waste of a bill. Just shifting them around solves nothing. We need mandatory confinement, mental health treatment and detox. Dry up the drug supply and the mental health problems will be greatly reduced. Take away the money. No panhandling and yes we should criminalize giving people money for drugs. Homelessness is an euphemism for drug addicted and mentally ill people which masks the real issue. We don’t need more housing we need to STOP the open drug markets that LAWLESS California encourages.

    Has the author actually talked to real experts on the homeless? Not woke leftists but the actual people out on the streets trying to help these people.

  13. where are they to go. many cities do not have a place for a homeless person to live while they get help with addiction and mental issues. they need a roof over there heads before they can even start to deal with the issues.

  14. My son has schizoaffective disorder, or possibly paranoid schizophrenia. His story is probably common, but it’s a big deal to me! So unfair and completely going against the solutions being worked on in the state, he had an SSI review while in jail for breaking my windows while off psych meds and on meth, and they took away his SSI! Cruel and creating another homeless story in our community. I’m sick about it! I can’t afford to support him, and at 34 years old he’s never been able to hold a job with his emotions like a ping pong ball and periodic episodes of paranoid delusions. He’s in contact with free legal, trying to get it back, but I can’t help much because he’s an adult. I’m furious that someone has taken away his money for group housing and, although he is temporarily in sober living , he will be homeless soon. His mental illness wasn’t cured, and there has been no evidence EVER that he is able to support himself. While you are trying to find a solution to homessness, someone else is working against you putting mentally ill out on the street! Can anyone explain why a young man with schizophrenia should lose his approximately $1000/mo to pay for group housing? His dad died of cancer, and I have cancer and am completely deformed now from kyphoscoliosis. I’m a retired teacher. How am I supposed to help him or support him? I can’t, and this mother’s heart is broken. The community will soon have one more delusional homeless man in the neighborhood. Unbelievable!

  15. Another useless bill that harvests out only the high-functioning “homeless”. Leaving the hardcore on the streets – the addicts, the mentally impaired and the con-artist grifters which continue to devastate our urban core.

    Those need one form of lock-down institutions or another (1) : state care institutions for the addicts and the mentally impaired; (2) jail for the con-artists and grifters who refuse to change their lifestyle choices and abuse all public nuisance health and safety ordinances at tax payer expense.

    Anyone or any program that refuses to triage the “homeless” issue into three major subcategories needs to be rejected out of hand. They are doing this for vanity points, wasting more time and money and do nothing but encourage more of the same.

  16. Another useless bill that harvests out only the high-functioning “homeless”. Leaving the hardcore on the streets – the addicts, the mentally impaired and the con-artist grifters which continue to devastate our urban core.

    Those need one form of lock-down institutions or another (1) : state care institutions for the addicts and the mentally impaired; (2) jail for the con-artists and grifters who refuse to change their lifestyle choices and abuse all public nuisance health and safety ordinances at tax payer expense.

    Anyone or any program that refuses to triage the “homeless” issue into three major subcategories needs to be rejected out of hand. They are doing this for vanity points, wasting more time and money and do nothing but encourage more of the same.

  17. Sheri, I’m really sorry that your son’s life has been made so much harder by SS. I’m shocked and surprised that such a decision was made. I hope that is remedied soon.

    I appreciate Senator Jones’ efforts to improve the situation around homelessness and safety. However, as long as we have powerful politicians who are working to legalise all drugs, to make laws that reduce the cost for antisocial criminal behaviour, and to give homeless people free phones and regular money then nothing will change. Homeless people come to California from other states because of the weather and perks. Why would they ever leave?

    California needs to reinstate treatment centers for mental health where people can receive medical help for their mental illnesses. That means beds and medical/psychological help. We need well funded rehabilitation centers for drug addicts that provide support to overcome addictions and connections to jobs and housing. The reality is that people who live with mental illness or are addicted to substances often relapse and need further support. So, establishing a community surrounding treatment centers (including low cost housing) could be a stabilising transitional space where relationships can be built and support can be easily accessed. I wish you would focus your energies and knowledge on ways to address these central issues instead of another version of what’s been tried many times before.

    My nephew has chosen to be homeless for years. He has a drug addiction that has worsened over time. He steals to pay for his habit, so has ended up in jail twice – once for a couple of years. Judges have ordered him to rehab (a positive result of being arrested). He has gone to rehab many times and ended up leaving most times. He never takes any responsibility for himself or his situation. He can only blame others or outside circumstances. This entrenched mindset has trapped him in homelessness, addiction and crime. State laws enable him to stay trapped. He left the state to kick the drugs and try to work where his brother lived, but he didn’t like being told what to do. He quit his job and tried to get state support. But that state didn’t hand out money and phones to homeless addicts, so he came back to good old Cali, his great enabler. This isn’t a compassionate solution; it’s a limousine ride to death. Real, innovative change needs to happen.

    1. At some point, public safety must take precedence over more individual enabling. At some point, we should honor the choices some people make, and let them reach their full consequences. If they want to basically kill themselves, at what point do we stop acting like God and keep interfering with this choice?

      Choice is the most enabling power of the human condition. And it works both ways – good choices and bad choices. We have mixed feelings about our roles when people continue to make bad choices. That is what we need to rethink ,because we don’t intervene when people make good choices. Who are we to tell others they are making bad choices?

  18. It solves NOTHING.
    No attacking drugs or mental illness issues.
    No accountability for either the homeless or agencies that ‘help’.
    Just move along… and here is 72 hours warning to make it someone else’s problem.

  19. instead of the gov’t spending all this money on the illegals coming across our borders…how about taking care of our OWN citizens. Placing the mentally ill and drug addicted in locked facilites where they can get medical help and learn to be productive in society. give them a hand up not a hand out. most of them have made the choice to burn their brains out with drugs, which is a tradegy. Years ago during the depression when many people were affected with homelessness….. gov’t facilities were put up for housing . To be able to stay at one of these places, the homeless person was expected to help grow food to feed the people in the facility and help out with cooking, laundry, and general house keeping. Participation was required …..they weren’t able to lay around, do nothing and expect the gov’t to give them freebies. Even the Bible says ” you don’t work….you don’t eat.”

  20. Einstein said “You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.” This plan is not going to work. A well thought out plan can only be created by people who are forward thinkers. You have to watch the ripple in the pond once you throw the rock in there.
    Designating areas that are “sensitive” won’t be any safer for children or anyone else. Banning homeless and their encampments from these areas doesn’t solve the problem at all. Just because you force the homeless out of an area doesn’t make them disappear, they go somewhere else and enforcing these kinds of laws are just an excuse that our lawmakers use to placate us that they are doing something about the problem when they really aren’t doing anything to solve it. The real problem in San Diego is lack of affordable housing and meaningful gainful employment. The homeless who have the ability to work, need free housing first. Give them a timeframe to find employment. Then they can pay rent. It needs to be something that is very reasonable. Like section 8. Those who are not suitable for employment due to addiction or mental illness need to be placed in a rehab or mental health facility until they are ready to be placed in free housing and find employment.
    Stability is the key factor for all homeless. We can do a better job than we have been doing. There are billions of taxpayer dollars that can be thrown at this problem. There is no easy answer, but hand outs and freebies shouldn’t be the norm. We as a state are better than simply being enablers for the drug addicted and mentally ill to continue down that horrible spiral to the bottom. These are all human beings who have a right to have their basic needs met. Money creates scarcity, if you have it, great! But if you don’t, you will be cold and hungry and homeless. Being homeless itself causes a lot of the mental illness you see in the homeless population. Being hypervigilant every minute of every day trying to sleep with one eye open just to feel safe takes it’s toll on the souls who struggle every single night just trying to find suitable shelter. There are answers to these problems, and each demographic has to be addressed thoughtfully and forward so we know what the possible outcomes will be. Other countries have great models for these problems in their society and they work. Let’s really do something that will work starting with our politics first. Change can only come when we embrace and commit to solving this utter hopeless problem we call homelessness. But for the grace of “God” go I…..it could happen to any one of us. Being judgmental about it solves nothing. The homeless are our children, and our responsibility. If I had a backyard, it wouldn’t bother me if they needed to use it, as long as the solution is clear and doable.

  21. Until new laws regarding conservatorship are enacted this problem will not go away. Many of what is being described as homeless are not. They are mentally ill and drug addicts. I believe from what I see this is the bulk of what our politicians continue to characterize as homeless. The real issues have to be addressed

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