Sacramento, CA–A measure joint authored by Assemblymembers Holly Mitchell (D-South Los Angeles) and Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego) to protect homeless youths from being ticketed and harassed for loitering passed the Assembly unanimously Tuesday, with bipartisan support.
Homeless youths are among the most vulnerable members of any community.
When cited for offenses such as loitering they are essentially being penalized for having nowhere else to go. Unable to pay the fine and likely to miss their day in court, these homeless youths receive additional fines and penalties, and even risk jail time if “caught” by law enforcement. AB 1111 aims to interrupt the cycle of poverty that occurs when already down-and-out youths are cited for loitering, truancy or curfew violation, thereby ratcheting up debt they cannot afford to pay down.
Eventually, courts institute wage garnishment collections for citations related to homelessness, just as they do for parking and other violations.
That record follows the perpetrator indefinitely. “When homeless youths find work we should be handing them a pat on the back, not a warrant to appear in court with an open wallet,” said Mitchell. “What message are we sending when we penalize young adults trying in earnest to get back on
AB 1111 provides that wage garnishment for certain homelessness-related citations be temporarily delayed for individuals who are under the age of 25 and meet a definition of homelessness consistent with current law.
Garnishing the wages of homeless youth, damaging their credit history, and erecting other barriers to their financial stability and independence only makes it harder for those trying to succeed.
“It makes no sense to penalize these kids for circumstances beyond their control,” said Ed Howard, Chief Counsel for the bill’s sponsor, The Children’s Advocacy Institute.
“Additionally, the likelihood of successful collection from this segment of the homeless is very low, so it’s difficult to justify the expense of collection.”
Based on national survey estimates and California’s youth population, it is likely that 200,000 youths under the age of 18, and thousands of 18-24 year olds, are homeless in California for some period of time over the course of a year. “As we cut services to this vulnerable population due to budget constraints, we should offer what relief there is in our power to provide” said Mitchell. “AB 1111 says that California doesn’t kick people when they’re down. It’s the right thing to do.”
AB 1111 was passed by the Assembly with a 73-0 vote. The measure will now be considered by the State Senate.