DECLARE A "SHELTER CRISIS" IN LOS ANGELES (CA. GOV. CODE § 8698-8698.2)
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California Homeless Crisis Grows As State Is Reluctant To Use Powerful Law (CA. GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 8698-8698.2)
Homeless spike in rural California linked to Silicon Valley: "California’s Central Valley is best known for supplying nearly 25% of the country’s food, including 40% of the fruit and nuts consumed each year. Yet today, backcountry places such as Patterson, population 22,000, are experiencing an increase in homelessness that can be traced, in part, to an unlikely sounding source: Silicon Valley.
The million-dollar home prices about 85 miles west, in San Francisco and San Jose, have pushed aspiring homeowners to look inland. Patterson’s population has doubled since the 2000 census. Average monthly rents have climbed from about $900 in 2014 to nearly $1,600 in recent months, according to the apartment database Rent Jungle, compounding the hardships of the foreclosure crisis, the shuttering of several local agricultural businesses and surging substance abuse rates." https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/13/california-homelessness-silicon-valley-tech-commuters
Shelters across California have only enough beds for a small fraction of homeless people turning away hundreds each night for this reason leaving them to fend for themselves.
But one of the state's most powerful tools to assist this vulnerable population is hardly being used. Buried within California's legal codes is a 25-year-old statute that allows counties and municipalities to declare a state of emergency when a "significant number" of homeless people exist in a community, allowing them to convert public facilities into shelters and even to change zoning codes to site shelters in most neighborhoods.
Yet since the law was passed in 1987 -- and as the homeless population increased -- few communities have invoked the statute, and when they do, it is almost always just to set up temporary winter shelters. As a result of a lack of political will, neighborhood resistance and budget constraints, this law has rarely been tapped to ease the suffering of the dispossessed."
"It is almost unparalleled in its potential," National Coalition for the Homeless executive director Neil Donovan said about the statute. "But it's a challenge [for California] because of the financial crisis that they're in. Other communities use similar statutes far more effectively. I'm thinking of Boston, which opens up its armories when overcrowding happens."
The reluctance to take action frustrates advocates for homeless people.
"It's a very powerful statute in the sense that once a shelter crisis has been declared -- it could be done on a statewide level by the governor or on a county level -- there are just about no restrictions to housing the homeless anywhere," said civil liberties lawyer Mark Merin. "But there are very few instances where it has been invoked. Any mayor or board of supervisors which has not declared a shelter crisis should be asked - Why not?"
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