Sacramento’s Mayor Darrell Steinberg has a big problem. The homeless population in his city is growing faster than bureaucrats can get people the help they need.
So Steinberg hit upon a novel scheme; Why not legally require his city to supply shelter to the homeless? He wants to force city politicians to do what they should be doing anyway: addressing the critical need for sheltering the homeless.
Of course, putting a gun to the city council’s head to force it to take money from other critical services to house every homeless person in Sacramento might seem a little draconian. After all, many homeless people refuse shelter. What happens to them?
Steinberg proposes a parallel “obligation” for the homeless to accept shelter if it is offered. However, one advocate, Eric Tars, the legal director of the National Homelessness Law Center in Washington, D.C., says that’s wrong: “The right to housing is based on the inherent dignity of the individual, so a straightforward obligation to accept whatever is offered undermines that.”
If passed by the City Council, the measure would be the first of its kind nationally, and would impose a legally enforceable municipal mandate to deal with a humanitarian crisis that has spread in California as the state’s median home value has soared and rents have exploded. It could also help the city comply with federal court rulings, such as those in Los Angeles and Boise, Idaho, that have made it increasingly difficult to enforce laws against homeless encampments if officials do not provide alternatives to sleeping outdoors.
A “right to housing” mandate has been long sought by progressives, who argue that public funding and compassion are wasted without the power of law to force cities to supply adequate housing. At the same time, state and local governments have been leery of the financial implications of singling out housing as a legal right.
A “right to housing” could mean many things and result in unintended consequences for the city government and the homeless. – READ MORE
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