A big focus of my 2018 legislative work is addressing the major challenges California faces around homelessness, mental health, and addiction on our streets. In addition to creating a lot more housing for all income levels, we need a multi-pronged approach to help homeless people transition off our streets and into housing, as well as prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. We also must invest in innovative mental health and addiction solutions.
I’m authoring several pieces of legislation to help:
The Homeless Youth Act of 2018
SB 918 gets the state much more focused on homeless youth, by centralizing our efforts and significantly increasing resources for the 15,000+ young people ages 14–24 who live on our streets. If we can get these kids into housing and services quickly, we have a much higher chance of getting them onto a positive path and avoiding chronic homelessness. Once these youth are on the streets for a lengthy period of time, it’s much harder to help them. The State doesn’t do enough, and 2/3 of counties don’t offer youth-specific homeless services. We need to do more.
Mental Health Early Intervention for Young People
SB 1004 prioritizes, in our mental health investments, early intervention and prevention for teenagers and college age students. Mental illness often manifests between ages 15 and 25, and if we can get these kids into treatment quickly, we have a much greater chance of stabilizing them and keeping them healthy and on track. This bipartisan bill ensures that funding from the Millionaire’s Tax (Prop 63) actually goes to evidence-based programs with a proven record of helping our young people who show early signs of mental illness.
Public Conservatorships: Helping Our Most Vulnerable Residents
SB 1045 expands public conservatorships for chronically homeless people with severe mental illness or drug addiction. Our current conservatorship system makes it extremely hard to help our sickest and most vulnerable homeless people by getting them into transitional housing and healthcare/addiction programs. Local communities need better tools to help these individuals and to address the serious health and safety issues that are playing out every day in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other communities.
Safe Injection Sites
AB 186 (with Assemblymember Susan Eggman) allows safe injection sites, so that people have a safe and clean place to consume without doing it on someone’s doorstep, in a park, or on a sidewalk. As the San Francisco Chronicle recently observed, San Francisco is currently “one big unsafe injection site.” By getting these folks into a safe, clean, and supervised setting, we increase the odds of getting them into services and decrease the risk of overdose and HIV, hepatitis, and other infections.
We have real challenges on our streets, and we need bold ideas to address them. This bill package will help.