The Senate Human Services Committee today approved Senate Bill 232 by Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) to help move families out of poverty through a holistic approach that addresses the root problems of their individual circumstances.
“I am encouraged by the committee’s approval of my bill to help anti-poverty organizations that want to make their clients self-sufficient,” said Bates, a former social worker. “My bill ensures needed accountability for people seeking to make their lives better for themselves and their families. In many instances, sobriety is the key factor in order to reunify families and begin their path to success. There is no reason why the state should not fund programs that ask their clients to strive towards sobriety.”
SB 232 would require the California Department of Social Services, in consultation with the County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA), to design and implement a five-year pilot project to provide grants to private organizations that assist individuals receiving CalWORKs benefits to achieve economic independence, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the grant-funded programs. It would allocate $50 million from the state’s General Fund over five years. Bates’ bill is supported by organizations including the CWDA and the National Association of Social Workers – California Chapter.
The bill would fund successful programs similar to Esplanade House in Chico and Saint John’s Program for Real Change in Sacramento. These programs require commitment to clean and sober living in exchange for housing, as opposed to “Housing First” programs that provide housing without conditions, such as sobriety, addiction treatment or service participation.
In its supplemental poverty measure report for 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau reported California’s poverty rate to be more than 20 percent – the nation’s highest. Bates believes that the state needs to try something different to make real life long change in people’s lives.
SB 232 is similar to Bates’ SB 659 last year, which failed to pass out of the Senate Human Services Committee. The editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee called SB 659 “one of the more interesting bills” on homelessness in a 2015 article. In a 2016 editorial, the Bee’s editorial board wrote:
“Democrats would do well to listen to Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel. Bates sees a need – as does The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board – to spend some money on housing that caters to formerly homeless people who seek drug- and alcohol-free housing.”
In support of SB 232, participants from Sacramento’s Saint John’s Program for Real Change testified today about how that program helped them to stay sober and get back on track. They said that alcohol and drug testing were integral to their recovery as it helped to keep them accountable and able to provide for their children.
SB 232 will head next to the Senate Appropriations Committee for its consideration.