California Has an Opportunity to Help the Homeless: Let's Work Together on this Very Basic Human Need

Posted on 18 May 2007

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By Gil Cedillo
California State Senator

The "Fair Share Zoning Bill", SB 2 was heard on the Senate floor yesterday and passed by a vote of 27 to 11. The bill will be referred to an Assembly policy committee sometime in June or July.

I have been working with agencies, municipalities and stakeholders from around the state building consensus on this bill which calls for cities and counties to address housing and services for the homeless in their general planning process.

Supporters of SB 2 include the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies, the California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, the San Diego Housing Federation, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The Los Angeles City Council is moving a resolution in support of SB 2 through the council and the San Francisco City Council has passed a resolution which Mayor Gavin Newsom will sign. Also, the California Democratic Party adopted a resolution calling for “housing as a basic human right” as part of their policy agenda for the 2008 election cycle.

The Schwarzenegger administration has released its own ten-year plan to address homelessness in the state which shares many common principles, key among them strengthening the law to require that local jurisdictions incorporate chronically homeless-related needs and strategies. SB 2 is an ideal legislative vehicle for accomplishing these priorities and my office has been in discussions with the Department of Housing and Community Development on the administration’s plan. That plan is being circulating for comment with an update expected to be released sometime this month.

At the same time, graduate students at the USC School of Social Work are conducting research into specific demographics of the homeless population statewide including veterans, emancipated youth, and recent parolees. Many elected and municipal officials falsely believe their communities have no homeless. The research conducted at USC is intended to increase awareness of the pre- and potential homeless populations, and we hope will provide compelling statistics on these vulnerable populations.

Homelessness is an issue that impacts the entire community, and every community is affected in some way. While local officials may not feel homelessness is an issue in their communities, the interrelated issues that cause homelessness – mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, adequate housing and health care – are everywhere.

We are very pleased to be making headway in our collaborations and remain optimistic on bringing about positive, historic policy change on this issue.

Senator Gil Cedillo is a California State Senator and has represented the 22nd Senate District since 2002. He is a member of the Senate standing committees on Judiciary, Public Safety, Rules, Transportation and Housing. Senator Cedillo grew up in Boyle Heights, attended local schools, and graduated from UCLA in 1977.