California could soon become one big toilet.
That’s the goal, any way, of Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.
Actually that’s not how the San Francisco Democrat describes his latest legislation. He’s dubbed his measure the “Homeless Persons’ Bill of Rights.” Ammiano is aiming his legislation at communities that make it tough for homeless to stick around. Essentially if it passes a whole list of local ordinances aimed at controlling what communities deem inappropriate behavior, whether one is homeless or not, would be stricken from the books. Actually, that’s not true. The homeless would become a protected class while the rest of us couldn’t do the things that Ammiano wants protection to allow homeless to do wherever they want in California.
Ammiano wants to protect what he calls “life-sustaining activities,” such as urinating and collecting recycling trash. It means that the homeless would be able to urinate wherever they wish on public property, whether it is the street sidewalks, parks, or presumably the gallery of the California Assembly.
Does anyone recall what downtown Manteca was like seven years ago before Manteca Police took a no tolerance approach to those who were urinating and defecating overnight at store entrances and in the alleys? Under the Assembly Bill 5 proposal they can urinate and defecate all they want and police officers couldn’t do anything about it.
They’d be allowed to sleep in public places such as sidewalks and parks. No curfew for the homeless who want to use city parks. But the rest of us had better stay out. It would also make sleeping and urinating on the Manteca Library roof legal — providing you’re homeless.
Panhandling would be legal.
Manteca — as well as all other cities such as Ripon and Lathrop — would have to provide 24/7 access to public bathrooms as well as making showers, water and clean syringes available.
Car camping would have to be allowed on all city streets with no restrictions. That means the homeless don’t have to sleep in cars off the beaten track. They can do it on Yosemite Avenue, Main Street or in front of your home.
And should the police and city crews “roust” homeless from encampments on public property or elsewhere Manteca would have to reimburse the homeless for their possessions that were seized.
City laws designed to discourage dumpster diving for recyclables will be null and void. That’s providing, of course, the person taking the trash to turn into cash via recycling is homeless.
Now you’re probably thinking that the homeless are just trying to survive. So perhaps the community should step up and create homeless shelters where such people can go to sleep at night, use bathrooms and showers, and not pile their worldly possessions in a park. Don’t worry. Ammiano has that covered, too. Under his proposed law, the homeless have the right to refuse the offer of a homeless shelter.
In other words, the homeless would have more absolute rights than you and I.
If Ammiano was really worried about the homeless being driven out of communities and being forced into sub-human existence, perhaps he should pursue legislation requiring communities to provide the bare minimum for human needs. The state could provide funds to build a mini-storage type of building where the homeless who don’t want to be told what to do can go whenever they need to sleep or get out of the elements. They’d be nothing but stalls with roll down doors, portable potties and running water.
That way they don’t have to follow any rules that a regular shelter would require. At the same time they wouldn’t have special rights to turn neighborhoods and downtowns into de facto toilets.
It also addressees two major roadblocks when it comes to trying to solve the homeless problem.
It takes the wind out of the argument the homeless have nowhere to go in most communities. And in doing so, the homeless who refuse to access such quasi-shelters where the homeless could congregate without any supervision or rules can’t use the crutch that they have no other choice but to sleep and urinate in public.
And before we make the homeless a protected class, perhaps our esteemed legislators might want to find out why there aren’t more homeless. This state has had bruising double digit unemployment for years. Perhaps why homeless numbers aren’t higher has something to do with the fact people are given choices. They can follow rules and stay off the streets whether they are being helped by individuals or organizations or they can fend for themselves.
Giving homeless carte blanche solves nothing.
If anything it creates serious public health and safety issues.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.