Sacramento, CA – On Monday March 19, 2018, BOSS staff members Gwen Austin and Sonja Fitz, along with UC Berkeley intern Kira Shea and BOSS participant (Casa Maria resident) Tenille Spruell, loaded into a van and headed for the state capitol in Sacramento to be part of Affordable Housing Lobby Day 2018.
Organized by Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), Lobby Day brings together people who are concerned about the state of homelessness to press legislators for their support of some important current bills and budget items that would help counties and cities address the homelessness pandemic. This year’s Lobby Day participants came from Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Sacramento areas.
Upon arriving at the capitol, participants met in a hearing room set aside for CSH and separated into groups of 5-6 team members to discuss our individual legislators visits and meet the others on our teams. BOSS team members were grouped with individuals from CSH, Californians for Safety and Justice, Episcopal Community Services, Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, and other organizations. Teams included individuals with expertise in the legislation process and the status of each bill, as well as advocates who could share the extent of need they see in their communities and individuals experiencing homelessness who shared their personal stories.
Armed with materials about the specific pieces of legislation we would discuss and our schedule for the day, groups dispersed throughout the capitol. Groups each had a different slate of appointments, meeting mainly with Aides but occasionally with the Senator or Assembly Member themselves, and met in the basement cafeteria for a buffet lunch of sandwiches, salad and cookies at different times depending on our schedules.
Teams were united in the message that communities need more resources to fight homelessness, that homelessness is at epic proportions, and that solutions must include both long-term measures to increase housing and improve systems plus immediate measures to relieve suffering. Some of the bills we discussed with legislators included:
Homeless Youth Act (SB 918): To create an Office of Homeless Youth (using the marijuana tax) in a coordinating role plus provide grants for serving homeless youth.
Supportive Housing Streamlining (AB 2162): To expedite the housing review process to hasten the creation of more housing by removing barriers to approval.
Reentry Bill (SB 1010): A pilot program for homeless parolees, to reduce recidivism among homeless mentally ill parolees through increased mental health, rental assistance, and housing services. [UPDATE: This bill just passed its third committee review and is headed for Appropriations!]
Budget Ask: Much of our visits focused on the urgency of increasing funding homeless services and permanent supportive housing.
Many of the legislators visited were supportive to most or all of these bills – and while they are accustomed to lobby visits from advocates armed with facts and figures, they were most moved by the individuals who shared their personal stories of homelessness and being unable to find housing despite months or years of trying. These are the stories they may share on the senate floor as they strive to move their fellow legislators to support these bills – underlining the importance of sharing personal experience and speaking truth!
To learn more about statewide legislation and solutions to housing, visit CSH.
To learn more about the BOSS Social Justice Collective, which conducts year-round advocacy/organizing on housing/homelessness, poverty, criminal justice reform and reentry issues, visit here.