Benjamin Arsenault: City’s Criminalization of Homelessness UninformedContributor August 29, 2018 0 COMMENTS
In July, the Santa Clarita City Council decided to take the next steps it felt were necessary to combat homelessness. While supposedly only updating language for clarity, these new restrictions would impose up to $500 fines for sleeping in vehicles or possessing materials such as sleeping bags in public places. The faulty logic behind these new restrictions, according to the city council, was to deter people from being homeless.
Beyond the new difficulties imposed in finding a job after being arrested, another major error is that this decision hinges on the belief that impoverished people aren’t reaching out. After hearing testimonies of homeless college students working while taking classes to better themselves, workers holding multiple part-time jobs who were still unable to pay rent and other similar struggles, city councilmember and real estate agent Bob Kellar demonstrated his lack of knowledge on the subject by inferring that people who cannot afford housing just aren’t trying.
These claims clearly highlight the council’s decision to ignore its own hired consultant. When the city was granted Measure H funds to address the issue, it initiated several decent approaches including aiding the construction of the city’s first year-round shelter and the drafting of the Community Plan to Address Homelessness.
Nowhere does this document suggest increased policing of our homeless population, but our council members can’t be expected to know. Less than half of them showed up to the presentation and none stayed for the whole meeting they had funded. Otherwise, they would be aware of the opportunities for positive change such as setting aside further affordable housing or creating channels to ease deliberation between organizations who are trying to tackle the problem. While this is a challenging topic, the city only needs to refer to its own reports to begin these changes.
Benjamin Arsenault is a former College of the Canyons student.