Mayor Steinberg, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas call for California to adopt right to shelter, obligation to accept it
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas Wednesday said they would jointly push for California to establish a legal “right to shelter” for homeless people in the state, coupled with a legal obligation that people accept such shelter when it is offered.
Mayor Steinberg detailed their argument today in an oped in the Los Angeles Times. He noted that in New York City, which has a court-ordered right to shelter, approximately 95 percent of the 79,000 homeless people sleep indoors. In California, by contrast, 68 percent of the state’s 130,000 homeless sleep outdoors in the elements.
“We must acknowledge that it is infinitesimally harder to help sick and forgotten people while they are living outside instead of indoors,” Mayor Steinberg said. “We must treat homelessness and its victims no different than the way we rightfully rush to shelter and house people who are victims of earthquakes and wildfires.
Mayor Steinberg authored California’s Mental Health Services Act in 2004 and sponsored its housing offshoot, No Place Like Home, in 2016. No Place Like Home provides $2 billion to build permanent housing for the mentally ill homeless.
While the emphasis on permanent housing remains important, Mayor Steinberg Wednesday noted that such units take years to build, often cost more than $400,000 and don’t meet everyone’s needs.
“The state desperately needs an infusion of short-term shelter and housing options to serve as a bridge for those currently living on the streets,” he said.
Without sufficient shelter to house the homeless, California cities and counties are also prevented from responding to valid frustration from residents and businesses, because the courts have made it clear that camping ordinances can’t be enforced if there are not enough beds for the people sleeping outdoors.
Mayor Steinberg and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas were appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in May as co-chairs of the governor’s newly created Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force.
“We are facing an emergency on the streets of California - an emergency that requires bold and immediate action,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.
“As co-chairs of the Governor’s Statewide Task Force on Homelessness, Mayor Steinberg and I will leave no stone unturned and no policy unexamined so that both the public and private sectors can step up to meet this challenge,” the supervisor continued. “It won’t be easy and it will require substantial investments in shelter, new housing options and tenant protections to counter the overwhelming force of economic and housing insecurity. But we will absolutely remain steadfast.”