I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you in support of Senator Carol Lui’s SB608, the Right to Rest Act. My name is Angel McClain and I am a Senior Advocate for Hope and Justice for St. Mary’s Center.
St. Mary’s Center is a senior service provider in West Oakland who helps me with food and processing housing applications.
I was homeless off and on for 15 years. I have lived in tents and in abandoned houses. One time, a North Richmond church allowed me to sleep in their parking lot for six months after finding me sleeping under their stairs.
I have slept in tarps and tents in a field down by the freeway by the San Rafael Bridge. I’ve also lived by railroad tracks and in parks.
The people that you see today under bridges, behind buildings, under freeways, I was one of them. I slept where I felt safe. And there were very few places to choose from.
It was very difficult finding a place to rest during the day. I experienced cruelty everywhere. If I messed around and fell asleep I was harassed and asked to move, if the police knew who I was, they would take me in for any minor infraction they could think of. Their favorite was loitering.
There were times when I walked around all night, because there was no place to sleep or rest…I walked until total exhaustion hit me and I just dropped.
I remember one time in a park, I woke up with a family who was playing soccer. I remember one of the babies coming up to me, he said, “Wow, you slept a long time.” That’s just how tired I was.
In Richmond I endured years of police harassment. I would stop to talk to other homeless people, the police would pull up, and start arresting people for loitering. I was caught up just for being there.
The police would harass me because they could…I was treated like dirt with no consideration, like a piece of garbage that you would discard. Irrelevant and unimportant. They had no sense of compassion.
I was arrested many times for little or no reason. Only because I was a known homeless person.
My cousin told me that the police had a schedule when to pick me up and put me back in jail. One time I was only out of jail for a week, and they picked me back up the following week telling me I had a warrant. I asked them if I had had a warrant, wouldn’t you have known that when I was in jail a week ago. I was incarcerated again.
By 2010 I was suffering from homelessness, diabetes, depression, asthma and hypertension. I desperately needed to get off the streets.
After I completed a substance abuse program and stayed in several transitional houses including the St. Mary’s Center winter shelter I started applying for housing. St. Mary’s helped me process applications for subsidized housing.

Finally, a real opportunity opened up for me at a brand new senior facility. My rent would have been %30 of my income. At the interview the housing representative showed me two items on my credit report.  He said, we can’t give you housing because of your police report and this PGE bill. I had no idea how I got a PGE bill since I’ve lived on the streets for the last 15 years. I might have been able to fight the denial if it wasn’t for the court costs that showed up from the years of police harassment.
I call myself indoor homeless now. Let me tell you why. The only housing I can get is a room in the Lakehurst motel where I pay $800 a month for rent. I only receive $889 per month. That leaves me $89 a month to survive on.
My story is proof that ticketing and incarcerating homeless people is not how you solve homelessness. It is actually making it much worse for people like me to get into housing that I can afford.
Even when I was out there, attempting to better my situation, trying to get things under control I was overwhelmingly challenged with police harassment and jail.
Everyone here is on the same page. We all want to end homelessness in California. Passing the Right to Rest Act is part of ending homelessness because when we incarcerate people because they are engaged in activities like sitting and sleeping we are exasperating their ability to get out the very situation we are here to solve. Homelessness.
Thank you for your time, and we appreciate you support in passing SB608.