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Where to put the homeless? Not by schools, more California cities are deciding

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(The Center Square) – The city of San Jose’s growing homeless population has city officials discussing ways to restrict where the unhoused are staying.

The City Council had a debate at its Jan. 30 meeting over restrictions on the homeless from being near day care facilities and schools and restricting where people living in oversized vehicles could park.

It’s a debate going on throughout California, where nearly 3 in 10 homeless people in the U.S. resided in 2023. The state had 181,399 homeless people last year.

Senate Bill 1011 was introduced in the California state legislature Feb. 5. If approved, it would prohibit homeless encampments near schools, open spaces and major transit stops.

“Californians should not have to tolerate the encampments that now fill our open spaces with trash, needles, and human waste,” State Sen. Brian Jones, a Republican who represents San Diego County, said in a media release.

Senate Bill 1011 is based on the city of San Diego’s encampment ordinance.

The city San Diego approved an “Unsafe Camping Ordinance” in June 2023. The ordinance bans, among other things, anyone from camping on public property within two blocks of a K-12 school.

Voters in the city of Sacramento approved Measure O in November of 2022 which prohibits homeless encampments on public and private property. The exception is whether a residential owner gives consent. The Sacramento City Council had passed an ordinance that banned encampments near schools a year before Measure O was passed.

The city of Los Angeles passed an ordinance in July 2021 that restricts encampments within any property designated as “sensitive use,” and then listed those properties as a school, daycare, public park or public library.

Besides encampments, the city of San Jose is facing a problem with homeless people living in parked RVs.

San Jose Deputy City Manager Omar Passons said at the Jan. 30 meeting the businesses were complaining that the people living in oversized vehicles were disposing human waste near their businesses. The business owners also said it was driving customers away and making it difficult to get insurance renewed.

City officials said that homeless living in oversized vehicles was often a “last resort for shelter” but was disrupting school operations and access to schools. The city estimated it had 850 vehicles within the city limits being used as residences by 1,496 people.

The city of San Jose debated at its Jan. 30 meeting drafting an ordinance prohibiting encampments within at least 150 feet of K-12 schools.

San Jose Deputy City Manager Omar Passons said at the Jan. 30 meeting the businesses were complaining that the people living in oversized vehicles were disposing human waste near their businesses. The business owners also said it was driving customers away and making it difficult to get insurance renewed.

City officials said that homeless living in oversized vehicles was often a “last resort for shelter” but was disrupting school operations and access to schools. The city estimated it had 850 vehicles within the city limits being used as residences by 1,496 people.

Heather Hoshii, San Jose’s deputy director of transportation, said at the Jan. 30 meeting the problem was the California vehicle code does not provide a mechanism for cities to regulate activities within or around the vehicle including living in the vehicle or disposing of human waste. Hoshii said the state vehicle code also gave cities very limited authority to tow a vehicle.

The city recommendations included designated spaces within the city oversized vehicles could park. The city is considering creating such a spot with room for 85 oversized lived-in vehicles. And the city could designate certain streets where the homeless could parker their lived-in vehicles.