Simply put: there are more people in California than there are homes. The average gross income for an individual or family to live comfortably in California is about $70,000. What happens if your income falls short of the average? What happens if it falls short enough that you end up not being one of the lucky few who can find housing in this state? As of all legislation in effect now: you are homeless. Even worse, you are not given a pamphlet on what to expect, on where you may find your next meal, or on how you are ever going to find housing again with a credit score reflecting an eviction. No. You are alone and on the streets. You are given a “badge of shame”, where others quickly assume your worth, your struggles with addiction, and your level of education. Many are quick to presume the reasons some are homeless, but very few have sought the truth as to why. Having more people than homes in California is simple, but it is not the truth. Recently passed Assembly Bill 101 showcases the truth.
(1) Assembly Bill 101 (AB101), proposed by San Francisco Assemblyman David Chui and passed on July 31, 2019, has already started to fund, revise, and restructure the already existing housing program: The Community-Based Transitional Housing Program (CBTHP).
(2) AB 101 enforces the housing developments for homeless shelters, transitional homes, and housing for low-income individuals by setting aside roughly $650 million annually for this program. Unlike current policies, it extends the auditing process on both city and county levels, while providing case managers to help individuals experiencing homelessness with income, benefits, health services, and other social needs.
(3) AB 101 requires that the Attorney General take action if the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) was to find that the city and/or county in violation of the state law and the new bill. This action will request for a court issue and require the city and/or county to be compliant within a specified time frame or be issued a fine.
(4) Instead of wasting resources re-inventing the wheel, AB 101 is now funding current programs to accelerate new housing production. Similarly, it provides additional rehabilitation funding for programs that are at least 15 years old. This bill is the first step in the right direction to help fight the ever-increasing homeless population in California.
Finally, this bill will act as a checks and balance system to the cities and counties that either use the funding to try and capitalize from it or the cities and counties who have a “not-in-my-backyard” mentality towards housing units and homelessness. With more housing opportunities, there is the hope that those affected by homelessness will be able to find a place to call home and eventually, with the help of case managers and social workers, be able to rise above the poverty line.
Those who still oppose this bill may say that providing temporary housing or low-income housing to individuals is not an answer but a “Band-Aid” solution in enabling the issue of homelessness and poverty in California. Those who still oppose this bill may even feel that the elevated regulations will chew up money and resources in long and arduous legal proceedings. And quite frankly, these opposing views are not wrong. Yes, housing is the answer. Yes, court proceedings will cost more money. And yes, AB 101 addresses each of these factors and translates them into actual change.
AB 101 creates change by actually funding the development of new units, so that way our courts can actually focus on our country’s priorities rather than lawsuits against major California cities who currently solve homelessness by dumping homeless people out in adjacent areas. AB 101 funds updates needed on current infrastructure, so that those staying can have better physical, mental and emotional health and less susceptibility to infections and diseases in underfunded programs. And AB 101 funds staffing measures, including many social workers and case managers, to ensure that this bill reaches its full potential.
Let’s be honest, this bill may not end homelessness in California. But it will allow for change to occur, because what this bill has passed is action. It passes a step in the right direction. Any direction. Barack Obama, our 44th President of the United States, once said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” He has a point, and so does AB 101.