California’s Solution to Homelessness? Get Them Out of Sight 

fritz16 /
fritz16 /

It may have been a modern-day miracle in San Fransisco. Streets were cleaned, homeless people were hidden away as encampments were cleared, and the Chinese President Xi Jinping walked pristine streets unaware of the true nature of San Fransisco during his November 2023 visit. 

The clean-up efforts drew the attention of the nation, especially in California, which is facing staggering homeless populations across the state. Possibly taking lessons in San Fransisco’s temporary but stunning transformation, California has decided to ban homeless encampments.  

Senate Bill 1011 would establish restrictions like prohibiting homeless encampments within 500 feet of public or private schools, transit stops, and open spaces. Additionally, the bill would forbid homeless individuals from sitting, sleeping, lying, and storing personal property on sidewalks or streets or sidewalks if there is an accessible homeless shelter they could use instead.  

The proposed bill references existing laws that address obstruction of movement in public places. Anyone who “willfully and maliciously obstructs the free movement of any person on any street, sidewalk, or other public place” is already considered guilty of a misdemeanor. SB 1011 goes further by outlining more severe penalties for repeat offenders. 

While there is strong support for the bill, its chances of passing largely depend on a critical U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding whether cities have the legal authority to ban or restrict people from sleeping on public streets or in other open spaces. The case at the center of this legal battle is Grants Pass v. Johnson, which revolves around an Oregon city ordinance prohibiting individuals from “sleeping on public sidewalks, streets, or alleyways at any time.” 

An appeals court previously deemed this ordinance unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court will make the final decision later this year.  

Texas, Florida, Georgia, and New Hampshire have passed similar laws. If passed, Senate Bill 1011 would be the latest legislation aimed not at ending the homeless problem but rather at hiding the homeless from tourists and disgusted residents.