Bill to provide families with right to housing dies in CA State Assembly

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AB 22, a bill concerning familial rights to housing in California, died in the state Assembly on Thursday.

The bill was introduced by California Assemblymembers Autumn Burke and David Chiu and states that every child and family in California has the right to “safe, decent, and affordable housing.” According to Anthony Carrasco, who serves on Berkeley’s Homeless Services Panel of Experts, Burke cares deeply about child poverty. He added that she has run a campaign since 2016 to end childhood poverty in California.

Carrasco said AB 22 was directed at providing resources to end childhood poverty, and specifically childhood homelessness.

“It is specifically saying that children and families have a right to housing,” Carrasco said. “They have a right to shelter, they have a right to housing, that is an obligation from the state to them.”

About 6,000 families and 12,000 children in California were homeless in 2019, according to the California Legislature’s point-in-time estimates in the bill. The bill also stated that the state legislature found California had the highest rate of unsheltered homeless individuals at 71% — or more than 100,000 people.

The state policy, as listed in AB 22, would prevent children and families from entering homelessness through payment of rent and utility debts, legal support for families being evicted and connection to services that would address factors that could lead to homelessness.

Carrasco said though homelessness can be a controversial issue, it is difficult for people to rationalize children being homeless.

“Across ideology, it is difficult for someone to … justify a 6-year-old child living outside and growing up outside and not being able to go to school,” Carrasco said.

Children and families earning the right to housing is an “important step” to expanding general rights to housing, according to Carrasco.

AB 22 states that the intent of the legislature was to minimize the trauma homelessness creates and treat families and children experiencing homelessness with dignity and respect.

“Children are extremely vulnerable,” Carrasco said. “A child experiencing three years of homelessness accumulates as much trauma as a 10-year war veteran.”

Carrasco added that the largest predictor of adult homelessness is childhood homelessness.

According to Carrasco, AB 22 was killed under allegations that it was “inappropriately” changed from its original proposal to its latest state. The action of “gutting and amending” a bill — proposing a general bill and then adding a specific policy provision — is a common practice in Sacramento, Carrasco said.

Carrasco said it would likely take Burke another year to draft the bill from scratch and move it through California legislation.

“This is a housing crisis,” Carrasco said. “We don’t have another year … a bill that we needed is no longer here.”

Contact Sebastian Cahill at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @SebastianCahil1.