Union Square Cares

These are some of the laws that touch homelessness around San Francisco

Sit-Lie Ordinance

A San Francisco Sit-Lie Ordinance was approved by voters on the November 2, 2010 as Proposition L. The measure is also known by its supporters as the Civil Sidewalks proposition. Proposition L restricts sitting or lying on sidewalks citywide from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and requires the City to maintain a neighborhood outreach plan to provide access to social services for those who need it. Police officers must give a warning before they can give a citation and the ordinance cannot be used to restrict the people's rights to free speech and peaceful assembly (if they have bought city permits). A single offense will result in a $100 ticket, while subsequent offenses may result in 30 days in jail. Seattle (Washington), Berkeley, Portland, Santa Cruz, and Palo Alto have ordinances in place that are similar to the Sit-Lie Ordinance.

Panhandling Ordinance

In 2003, San Francisco voters passed Proposition M banning panhandling near ATMs, on median strips, near check cashing outlets, on public transit and in parking lots. Prop M bans “aggressive” panhandling in all other public spaces. Police are required to issue a warning before issuing a citation, which would then require the recipient to either pay a fine or attend mental health and substance abuse screening and assessment. Both the banning of certain types of panhandling and the creation of a program to divert offenders into the public health system are new. As a tool, this law encourages homeless individuals to seek emergency shelters, services and counseling programs rather than panhandle. 

Laura's Law

San Francisco recently became the fifth county in California to implement Laura’s Law, the state measure that allows courts to compel people with mental illness who have previously resisted care to get assisted outpatient treatment. Before going to the courts, the Assisted Outpatient Treatment program works with patients and their families to get the client into care and an oversight CARE team responsible for the clinical evaluation who guide individuals to first accept voluntary treatment. The city’s public health officials have estimated as few as 100 people a year will qualify, applying only to individuals who already have a mental health diagnosis, were previously in treatment but lapsed, or who have been incarcerated or involuntarily hospitalized within the past three years and now resist care. In addition to a robust network of care, Laura’s Law won’t solve the city’s homeless crisis and other social problems that accompany mental illness, but provides another tool to help those in need of care.