North County lawmaker wants to ban homeless encampments near ‘sensitive' areas
The California Legislature's next session doesn't begin until December. But, on Friday, state Sen. Brian Jones, R-Escondido, announced what he would do on the first day.
He’s proposing a bill to prohibit homeless encampments near sensitive community areas. Those include schools, libraries, day care centers and public parks — such as Grape Day Park, where, flanked by community leaders, he made his announcement.
“This will help us protect our most vulnerable population — our children — who go to school at day care centers, play in the parks and read books at the libraries,” Jones said.
The bill also requires enforcement officers to provide information about sleeping alternatives, homeless and mental health services, and homeless shelters.
Though this year’s point-in-time count found a 10% increase in homelessness in San Diego County, Interfaith Community Services CEO Greg Anglea, whose organization serves homeless people in North County, said he could not support the bill as it currently stands. He doesn’t see it as a vehicle to compassionately clear encampments and connect homeless individuals to proper services.
“If we can't provide a safe place, a safe alternative for people who are unsheltered in our parks — if we can't provide them a safe place to go — then we can't move them out of here," Anglea said. "It's just inhumane. What a lot of people don't understand and don't realize is that there are not available shelter beds here in North County.”
“We need a short-term safe place for people to go," Anglea added. "Shelters, day centers — those do not exist in accessible ways here in North County. And then, long term, we simply need housing that people can afford. That's a very challenging issue we understand, but that's ultimately what is leading to an increase in homelessness.”
Jones said California’s homelessness crisis had turned into a public health and safety crisis.
He said his bill was modeled after a recent measure passed by the city of Los Angeles.
It would require a 72-hour warning before an encampment could be cleared.