Can California Force Homeless People Into Shelters? Civil Rights Groups Call Plan Legally Questionable.

By Chris Nichols 

Could California force homeless people to accept shelter space against their will? 

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who lead a state homlessness task force, recently proposed a way to do just that. Their “right to shelter” plan would first boost the supply of shelter space statewide — requiring cities and counties to build more beds — and then legally obligate homeless people to accept one if offered. 

No legislation has been proposed yet. But two civil rights groups say that such a law would be bad policy and potentially violate a person’s Constitutional rights. 

“You can’t compel individuals to be held in a place where they don’t want to be” unless they are a danger to themselves, said Curt Child, legislative director for the advocacy group Disability Rights of California.

Abré Conner, staff attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, agrees with Steinberg and Ridley-Thomas that “everyone deserves to have a safe place to sleep.” 

“But further criminalizing unhoused people who often find shelters inaccessible, dangerous, discriminatory, or worse is not the answer,” she wrote in a statement. 

Read the rest of the story on Capitol Public Radio


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