California bill seeks to bar criminalization of the homeless

California is aiming to be the latest state to bar criminalization of the homeless.

Al Jazeera America reports the Right to Rest Act was introduced in the state senate there on Friday.

“It’s time to address poverty, mental health and the plight of the homeless head-on as a social issue and not a criminal issue,” State Sen. Carol Liu, the Democrat sponsoring the measure, said in a release. “Citing homeless people for resting in a public space can lead to their rejection for jobs, education loans and housing, further denying them a pathway out of poverty.”

The bill, a sort of homeless bill of rights, would give such people the right to rest, protect oneself from the elements, eat in public and occupy a legally parked car. In Californiz and other states, reports show that arrests are up among homeless people for simply sitting or standing in public.

“Whether it is our Right To Rest Act or other versions that achieve the same goal of decriminalizing poor and homeless community members existence in public spaces, doesn’t matter,” Paul Boden, director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, told Al Jazeera.

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