Defend those without homes! campaign page [link]
Santa Cruz is attacking houseless people [link]
2013-04-09 "Statement of Solidarity from Santa Cruz Homeless United for Friends & Freedom (HUFF)"
[http://sinbarras.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/statement-of-solidarity-from-santa-cruz-homeless-united-for-friends-freedom-huff/], sent to community members, and SC County Sheriffs [email@example.com]:
Becky Johnson, one of the Santa Cruz 11 and an organizing member of HUFF, gave a wonderful speech at our Speakout + Rally on April 6th on local homeless issues and conditions in Santa Cruz County Jail.
Becky Johnson's blog can be found at [http://beckyjohnsononewomantalking.blogspot.com/].
Below is the transcript for the Speech by Becky Johnson at Santa Cruz County Jail (audio and video are coming soon):
When President Dwight D. Eisenhower left office in 1961, he warned “Beware the Military-Industrial Complex.” Today, it’s “Beware the Prison-Industrial Complex.” For prisons today have become big business in a country where manufacturing generally is suffering & unemployment rates are high.
Santa Cruz County is no exception.
For a jail to be profitable, it must be full. Nevermind that it’s paid for with taxpayer dollars. Our electives & appointees don’t care. For them, it is a job security program for police, judges, bailiffs, deputies, file clerks, probation officers and attorneys.
I myself have been fodder for this system with my “criminal” career: I am a convicted sidewalk hopscotch chalker, criminal songster, & in the case of the Santa Cruz Eleven, a suspected sign-holder & blogger. But what I want to talk about to you today is the criminalization of homelessness.
Currently in liberal, progressive Santa Cruz it is illegal to sit on a sidewalk less than 14 feet from a building. It’s illegal to sit on a park bench with your feet up. The Sleeping Ban, MC 6.36.010 section a, outlaws the act of sleeping anywhere out of doors or in a vehicle between the hours of 11PM & 8:30AM within the City Limits.
A separate provision outlaws the use of a blanket between 11PM – 8:30AM out of doors. Hacky-sacking, hop-scotching, and tossing your car keys to your husband are illegal acts on Pacific Ave., the shopping-Mecca where all the City Council members friends have stores.
Let me tell you about Gary Johnson, a homeless man, and an activist. Gary was arrested 4 times within 3 days for BEING on the County property in front of the Court House after 7PM. He was charged with trespassing. When he pointed out that he had a sign which said “A legacy of Cruelty MC 6.36.010 a, PC 647 ( e )”
and that the trespassing code has an exception for “traditional public forums,” the DA turned around and charged him with misdemeanor illegal lodging. He was sentenced to 2 years in jail for these 4 acts of sleeping. Recently he lost his appeal of the sentence before Judges Symons & Burdick.
What homeless person can pay a fine of $162 for sleeping in a cardboard box? None of them. And the authorities know this. But, they can bill you and me for the salary of the police officer who cited or arrested them. They bill for the time the officer spends in court. They bill for any public defender, but with most infraction crimes, the person charged has no right to one.
This jail is full of homeless people! And many who were marginally housed when they were arrested, will be homeless upon their release.
The Drug War fuels many of these arrests. So do mandatory minimums and the 3-Strikes law. But we could cut down on a HUGE amount of local incarceration if we repealed a whole-host of laws which frankly are selectively enforced against the poor and homeless.
When I spent the night here in “G” Dorm in County Jail, I met women there who should NOT have been there. There was one woman, so mentally-challenged that the other inmates had to tell her to put her underwear on. One mother of four with chronic intractable pain from a car accident, was jailed for the crime of supplementing her inadequate pain relief with heroin.
In jail, despite a known diagnosis of chronic intractable pain due to past injury, for which she had been treated with addictive pain medications, she was forced to quit “Cold Turkey”. Her only relief were hot showers. One day, in serious pain, she was pulled from an “unauthorized” shower dripping wet & thrown into an icy holding cell. While in there, she watched as deputies watched “prison porn” on their monitors where women prisoners were tormented & sexually abused.
Another woman was serving 3 months of a 6-month sentence for assault when she herself was assaulted by three women in Jade Street Park after hours. The women beat her over the head with a frying pan (she showed me the scar on the top of her head). They stole her laptop computer. As they fled the park, she called 911 on her cellphone. Police and an ambulance arrived while the three women were still in the area. Terry, the only injured person, was sent to the hospital.
She was arrested in the emergency ward. The three women had convinced the police that Terry had attacked THEM! When by pure chance, her brother’s roommate was able to buy her laptop back (the smoking gun) the DA ignored it.
Since she was still charged with felony assault, Terry was forced to plea “no contest” to a misdemeanor. Judge Adrianne Symons ok’ed that one.
Another form of abuse is the arbitrary nature of what charges are filed and what the how much bail is set. When Gabriella Ripley-Phipps was arrested in December of 2011 for basically protesting the destruction of the Occupy Santa Cruz encampment, she was charged with “obstructing an officer” and bail was set at $25,000. When shooting suspect, Jeremy Goulet was arrested for breaking into his female co-workers home and sexually assaulting her in her own bed, his bail was set at $250.
In the case of Kenneth Massei, the man who was falsely arrested for stealing flowers from the memorial for the 2 slain police officers, bail was set at $5000. He was forced to spend 18 days in jail here until his attorney showed the receipt for the flowers that he had in his possession when he was first jailed.
Isaac Collins, the only person arrested last year at the UCSC 420 event, was jailed here for 82 grams of chocolate & butterscotch brownies that tested positive for marijuana. Collins is black. The deputy that arrested him said he picked Collins out of the large crowd of pretty much all-day law-breaking because “he was wearing a very colorful shirt.”
So in conclusion, we need to End the Drug War! End the war on the poor! End mandatory minimums! End 3-Strikes! Repeal the Sleeping Ban, Blanket Ban, and laws which were written and are enforced specifically to be used against homeless people. Justice demands that we don’t stop until this work is done. Thank you.
"A Santa Cruz Activist Looks at City Council's Latest Anti-Homeless Propaganda" message from Becky Johnson was republished by Robert Norse to the IndyBay newswire with the following introduction:
2013-04-30 "An Activist's First Thoughts on the Latest Propaganda from City Council Staff"
by Becky Johnson (posted by Norse) [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/04/29/18736055.php?show_comments=1#18736111]:
There will be a hot pot of soup served at 6:45 PM at City Hall today--with a chance to speak out on the issue, compliments of India Joze.
Long-time homeless activist Becky Johnson posted the following set of comments on the HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) e-mail list (also accessible through the HUFF blog at http://huffsantacruz.org/wordpress). A few brief Notes by Norse follows Becky's extensive comments. For easier reading, I've also broken up Becky's long article into sub-headings. The capitalized caustic headings are mine not Becky's.
These comments were prepared at short notice by unpaid activist to counter official propaganda tailored to confirm an anti-homeless agenda being pushed by Councilmembers Robinson and Comstock. Also to justify existing city policy, no matter how abusive and inadequate.
The community, through the Sentinel,Good Times, and Weekly as well as the tv stations and KSCO, is being snowed with phony "Public Safety" hysteria which is being mobilized to support a mythology of a non-existent "crime wave" somehow to be blamed on Santa Cruz's (mythical) tolerance of homeless people.
This is a long-time goal of the Take Back Santa Cruz NIMBYs (Not-In-My-BackYard) who have acquired political clout and power and are dressing up a dangerous and bigoted agenda in "mainstream" garb.
The City Council is largely a useless defense against this new know-nothing movement, because it has already over the years accepted the anti-homeless premises of TBSC. What's needed is more documentation of the absurd costs and violent consequences of this policy in empowering police brutality, creating homeless misery, and bearing down on taxpayers with inflated police budgets (while ignoring the obvious like bathrooms, campgrounds, housing, rent control, anti-profiteering laws, etc.).
So get our your cell phones and start documenting everything you see. Take time even as you head to work to video--before you lose your jobs and end up where much of the middle-class is headed--on the street. Then post the videos.
One video, like that of Officer Vasquez sending Richard Hardy to the hospital (http://santacruz.patch.com/articles/use-of-force-or-abuse-of-force#youtube_video-14127462), has produced more public outrage and defensive SCPD activity than any other activity in recent years.
2013-04-29 "A Santa Cruz Activist Looks at City Council's Latest Anti-Homeless Propaganda"
message from Becky Johnson of "Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom - Santa Cruz" [http://www.huffsantacruz.org]:
In preparation for its Study Session on Homelessness, a series of documents were generated.
City Council's staff report for today's "Study Session" on Homelessness can be found on-line. Go to [http://sire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=495&doctype=AGENDA] and then click on the Homelessness Study Session (CM) link. It's the first of the six documents in the box to the right. The other documents will also be under consideration at Council Plus public testimony.
The First document is the Agenda Report. Here are selected quotes or sections and my comments regarding them.
Notes from the "City Council study session on Homelessness April 30th 7 PM ---YOUR Guide" report:
LOCAL, STATE, AND NATIONAL STATS ON HOMELESSNESS: $ FOR STUDIES NOT SOLUTIONS -
(HUD) "Two-thirds of homeless people (390,155) were sheltered in emergency shelter or transitional housing with the remaining one-third (243,627) unsheltered. The percentage of homeless people who are unsheltered did not change from 2011 to 2012."
BECKY: In Santa Cruz, we shelter between 6% - 10% of our homeless population.Or perhaps other localities are less vigorous in counting homeless people who are outside of existing shelters.
"Of the five states that comprise almost half of the nation’s homeless population, California accounts for the largest, at 20.7%."
BECKY: This demonstrates that the POLICIES & PRACTICES in Calif. cities fail to stem homelessness more than in other cities in our nation. Pricing housing beyond the means of average workers, students, elders and criminalizing homeless people for sleeping, using blankets, sitting on a sidewalk, being in a park after hours, etc. has created the worst instances of homelessness in our nation
(HUD) "California has the second-highest rate of unsheltered people at 64.9%."
"The San Jose/Santa Clara City & County CoC had the 7th largest number of homeless people among Major City CoCs (7,053)."
"The Watsonville/Santa Cruz City & County CoC was 6thout of the Smaller Cities, Counties and Regional CoCs with the largest numbers of chronically homeless individuals (967). The Santa Rosa CoC was 4th with 1,014 and the Salinas/Monterey CoC was 7th (794)."
BECKY: So not only do we have a larger percentage of people experiencing homelessness, a larger percentage who are unsheltered, we are the 6th out of small cities in number of chronically homeless individuals. Clearly, Santa Cruz is an epic fail when it comes to helping homeless people.
"2002 pledge by the Bush Administration to end homelessness by 2012"...
NOW: "2010 report “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness” produced by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and signed by President Obama. The plan aims to end chronic homelessness and veteran homelessness in five years and end homelessness for
families, youth and children within the next 10 years."
BECKY: Oh, goody! ANOTHER "10-year plan" to end homelessness.
"HHS and HUD, with the overall trend of moving away from predominantly supplying emergency housing to more comprehensive solutions such as permanent supportive housing, particularly as a solution to chronic homelessness."
BECKY: This is the HUFF position as well. Homeless ppl need more than a mat on a church floor. they need a room with a door they can lock. Hence housing subsidies & motel vouchers which the City of Santa Cruz has a glut of in winter months.
Totals and Shelter Status -
• 2,771 homeless individuals were counted, which represents a 22% increase from 2009 (2,265), and a 0.6% reduction from 2007 (2,789)
• The number of unsheltered people increased by 38% since 2009
• 77% were unsheltered (2,125) and 23% were sheltered(646), which exceeds the national average of two-thirds unsheltered. Since 2007, the relative proportion of unsheltered to sheltered individuals has been fairly constant.
BECKY: Actually the nation average is 2/3 SHELTERED. So SCC is WAY behind Natl. averages. (see HUD report quoted above)
• Ten-year trend data show the number of homeless persons in Santa Cruz County has
decreased since 2000, a 14.4% reduction
• The 2011 annual estimate of individuals who experienced homelessness is 9,041
BECKY: That's between 3% and 4% of our counties population that experiences
homelessness EVERY year at some point. Their common problem is lack of money.
• 76.1% of respondents were unemployed
BECKY: That means 1 out of every 4 homeless people have a job, but are still homeless
• 33% reported income from panhandling.
BECKY: That means 2/3rds of homeless people don't panhandle
• 37.6% reported earning less $101-200 per month and 21.8% reported earning less than $50 per
BECKY: With this kind of abject poverty in our midst, no WONDER they are homeless!
• 54.3% reported receiving $0 from government income monthly. 23% received $501-1,000 monthly.
BECKY: This means MOST receive NO govt money at all. Of those that do, MOST receive Social Security disability income which is not enough to forestall homelessness ONLY 22% of homeless people have an income over $1000/month.
• 274 were veterans
BECKY: So this means that of the 498 surveyed, 55% were veterans????
• Santa Cruz County has 979 chronically homeless individuals. Chronically homeless individuals were most likely to be White/Caucasian (78%), have two more disabling conditions (68%) with the most common condition of depression (53%) followed by chronic health problems (44%) and physical disability (42%).
• 52.4% reported that this was the first time they have been homeless. Of those who had been homeless previously, 87% reported homelessness only once in the past 12 months.
• The length of homelessness this current time was more than 1 year for 45.5% of the respondents
BECKY: In past years, the average length of homelessness was only 4 months.
Now its more than a year. Our coping capacity has diminished while the need has been rising.
Primary Causes of Homelessness -
The most common response for the cause of homelessness was loss of employment (25.2%), followed by alcohol/drug use (17%), argument with family/friend asking them to leave (12.4%), family or domestic violence (8.7%) and illness or medical problem (4.9%).
BECKY: What they fail to say is the primary cause of homelessness is lack of money. While 17% report their homelessness was due to alcohol/drug use, this could have been an eviction for being found in possession or using, rather than non-payment of rent. Our studies have shown that alcohol/drug use increases as a response to being homeless rather than the initial "cause" of becoming homeless.
• 38.6% were counted in the City of Santa Cruz (1,070)
BECKY: With a population of 60,049, the city has a homeless population of 1.7%
Our homeless? Their homeless?
77% indicated they lived in Santa Cruz County for at least three years before becoming homeless; 12.2% lived in Santa Cruz six months or less before becoming homeless.
35.7% stay outdoors/streets/parks/encampments at night. Shelters account for 28.9% and 22% report living in their vehicles.
BECKY: These survey findings were more likely to be taken from homeless people receiving services so 28.9% report staying in a shelter when the actual data suggest that 23% were sheltered (646).
Here we must consider that 100% of those sheltering were counted during point-in-time census while of those NOT in shelter, most likely 50% were never counted. We can trust that there are 646 shelter spaces in the County for homeless people. Therefore, if we consider those out of doors who were missed on the point-in-time count, we are sheltering only 10% during the times we have the most shelter available (winter).
TABLE 1: EMERGENCY SHELTER RESOURCES
Total Beds Year-Round 344
Total Winter/Overflow Beds 106
263 beds TOTAL TRANSITIONAL BEDS
SECTION ON THE HSC HISTORY:
"This concept of a day center had been supported in part by the business community as a means to help reduce impacts on the downtown. (At its April 7, 1998 meeting the Downtown Commission recommended establishing a day center for this purpose.)"
BECKY: So a "no loitering" policy makes no sense at the HSC
"For a short time beginning in 1994 the City allowed the vacant portion of the site to be used as an open air summer shelter. Use was discontinued in 1996 as plans developed for Community House progressed."
BECKY: This was the Coral Street Open-Air Shelter built 4 70 ppl, but ended up serving 225 at a time. It lasted almost 2 years. It was closed when the City refused to fund one dime of it, and the "excuse" of a winter storm was used to close it. No one died in the facility during the course of its operation. Several former residents dies when it was closed, including a man who froze to death under the Dakota Ave. bridge a few months later. I later became a member of the Board of Directors of Citizens Committee for the Homeless.
"In 2012,the City allocated $216,000 for improvements to HSC to renovate the “Locker Bay” area to provide a multi-purpose community room; empowerment center and computer lab; new lockers; and a dentist operatory. Construction is expected to begin in the next year or two for this project."
BECKY: So far, they've taken OUT the lockers. So far, they've made homeless people's lives worse.
"In 2008, the City property was appraised “as is” at $6.37 million."
BECKY: So the City can close the center and sell it?
"The City budget for the 2013 fiscal year allocated $69,000 for the Day Center and Paul Lee Loft; $45,000 for the Rebele Family Shelter; $40,000 for the River Street Shelter; and $70,000 for Page Smith Community House. All but $16,000 of CDBG funds in this total of $224,000 is from the General Fund for Community Programs."
BECKY: The City funds a pro-rata share by population expenses for the County-wide Homeless Action Partnership and the north county Winter Shelter Program at the Armory (operated by HSC). This funding is from the General Fund under the City Manager’s Office budget. In FY2014 the City’s share will be $95,910.
BUSINESSES: The Victims -
"The overall impression of the business community is that homeless and/or transient individuals
are driving customers away."
"Customers state they are reluctant to walk downtown because of the general presence of transients and their anti-social behavior."
"Customers do not want to be confronted by aggressive panhandlers, be a target for verbal abuse and be fearful of some individuals."
"Customers and employees feel very uncomfortable when transients enter their store."
"Although they call 9-1-1, employees must deal with the issue of trying to move the individuals out of the store before they receive a response from the police. This is a huge burden, especially during busy times."
BECKY: Police won't respond to a complaint INSIDE a store?
"Dealing with the social issues takes time and focus away from running a business and there is an emotional toll from dealing with the social issues and also trying to reassure employees and customers that downtown is safe."
"A theme in these visits consistently is the severely negative impacts of homeless and transient individuals on the businesses’ success and employee safety."
"Remove human feces, urine, vomit, liquor bottles, cardboard and even mattresses from business exterior."
BECKY: OPEN UP a public bathroom where people can use a toilet!! Duh!!
"Clean up and monitor restroom use. Restrooms have been used for bathing, drug use and vandalism. Some businesses control the use of restrooms through keys, while others have had to install token devices for their patrons"
BECKY: So where is a homeless person supposed to go to the bathroom if not where other people do?
"Install gates or fencing in the back of their businesses at significant expense. Recently a property owner had to install gates across the back of the building entrance because people were sneaking through during the day and hiding in the upstairs until the business closed."
BECKY: God forbid a homeless person who has no other option should sleep behind a closed business!
Here the business owner is the "victim" while the homeless sleeper is the perpetrator
"Install devices or remove objects on the building in order to prevent people from accessing their roofs, which are sometimes used for camping."
BECKY: If people weren't hiding from the cops for illegal camping, they wouldn't be trying to sleep on rooftops (out of the way and unseen--the horror!!)
"Seal all entrances to trash enclosures which are used for camping and rummaging through recycling."
BECKY: God forbid a homeless person should find FOOD in a dumpster, or pull out recyclables to turn in for cash!! Again, the person who is HUNGRY is the victim, not a business owner claiming he/she is "forced" to lock their garbage up lest it help some unfortunate person.
"Investment of funds for security guards or cameras. Some businesses are currently considering hiring their own security guards to patrol right outside their store. Their employees and customers, especially women, get verbally harassed or intimidated."
BECKY: Security cameras are an ordinary cost of doing business. Most theft comes from employees. As for harassment or intimidation, I get plenty of that on the internet from housed people sitting in their homes on their computers!! Why blame homeless people for this?
"Many business owners and their employees have had their vehicles broken into and items stolen."
BECKY: Homeless people are not any more likely to commit this kind of crime as anyone else. If you want a profile of a car burglar, they are generally male and under age 26. Housing status has nothing to do with it.
"The City has thousands of acres of regional parks, neighborhood parks and open space/greenbelt land, a rich resource that has been misused by illegal campers for many years. Virtually all Parks and Recreation field staff are impacted in some way by transient individuals. Whether staff is cleaning encampments, removing discarded personal items, handling discarded biological hazards, or, in some cases, being directly inhibited from doing their jobs through the actions of some transient individuals, Parks staff deal with the impacts daily."
BECKY: Actually its over 2000 acres and not one inch of it is a LEGAL campground! So where are people supposed to sleep? When its illegal everywhere, people camp/sleep anywhere. Note, the staff of Parks & Rec are the "victims" instead of the paid staff who destroy homeless peoples property and rudely move them along on sight.
"Park Rangers and the police have noticed heightened agitation in many transients as City efforts have increased to push them out of restricted areas and to address their
BECKY: That’s because the City conducted unprecedented "sweeps" of homeless people last summer
and, given there is NO PLACE for them to go, they objected. ANYONE WOULD!!
Again the abusive and unsympathetic rangers & SCPD are the "victims" and poor, homeless people
without a pot to piss in are the "perpetrators" committing "illegal behaviors."
"The City has devoted significant resources to encampment clean-ups for many years, with focused efforts taking place since the summer of 2012, led by the Police/Parks Unit and the Ranger Program. Parks staff may spend upwards of $5,000 per month on contract labor, personnel costs, materials and disposal fees to clear encampments."
BECKY: This cynically-motivated pogrom against homeless people was organized not so coincidentally
with the bringing of the Santa Cruz Warriors professional for-profit basketball franchise to town. The timing of this draconian effort to drive homeless people around in endless harassment campaigns marks one of the darkest chapters in the history of homelessness in the City of Santa Cruz. Again, Parks & Rec are the "victims" forced to spend "$5000 per month" to destroy homeless peoples meager possessions and to throw away their vitally-needed camping gear.
"Initially, rangers will employ Santa Cruz Municipal Code (SCMC) Section 6.36.010, which prohibits camping within the City limits during the hours of 11 p.m. and 8:30 a.m."
BECKY: Actually SLEEPING is illegal between 11PM & 8:30AM. Camping is illegal 24/7.
"Rangers will also use SCMC 13.04.010, which describes limitations on access on park lands. This can include entering a closed area, having a bike in a prohibited area, or having a dog in a wildlife area."
BECKY: HUGE areas of public space have been placed off limits to members of the public in a not very transparent effort to eradicate the use of those areas by homeless people. This is a misuse of our justice system. Areas closed off for restoration must ACTUALLY be being restored. Not just a catch-all way of making homeless people into criminals should they try to use an out of the way place to sleep or to camp. Rangers shouldn't have the task of doing our social engineering for us. Obviously homeless people have no money and need help. Turning them into criminals and removing huge swaths of public space from the PUBLIC is the wrong way to go.
"...being in a park after hours (SCMC 13.04.011(c)) are employed."
BECKY: Hours of use are increasingly restricted and in many cases areas are closed entirely. This is not why the voters taxed themselves to pay for these facilities. they should remain available for public use.
"In 2011, Police made contacts or responded to 1,567 calls for service involving illegal camping,
issuing 615 citations (SCMC Section 6.36.010). That same year, Park Rangers made 728 contacts and issued 4 citations. On the aggregate, this equates to a monthly average of 191 contacts and 52 citations issued for illegal camping"
BECKY; Note: just because its called a "call for service" doesn’t actually mean that someone called for service. Virtually all citations issued by Parks & Rec had no one calling to complain. these are self-generated "calls for service".
"In 2012, there was a 24% increase in contacts/calls for service for illegal camping (1,948) and an increase of over 100% in citations issued (1,234). In 2012, Park Rangers saw a 34% increase in contacts/calls for service (973) with a 2,525% increase in citations issued (105). The increase in 2012 can be partially attributed to stepped-up enforcement efforts beginning in the summer in response to significant community concern about illegal encampments. This equates to a monthly average of 243 contacts with 112 citations issued for illegal camping."
BECKY: ALL in an effort to make way for a for-profit professional sports franchise that also used up 2/3rds of the Cities reserve funds to build it a stadium where only wealthy people will ever watch a game. There is no evidence that issuing a ticket for illegal sleeping will stop even one homeless person from sleeping illegally. It is just an exercise in torture with the "hope" the person will either leave town or die. Many do die. Has the City been made "better" by more than doubling the number of camping citations issued? If so, where is the evidence?
"Finally, as the following Fire Department section will describe, 49 grass, rubbish, and forest fires—or 15% of the total fires of these types—have been identified as being likely caused by homeless persons between 2008 and 2012."
BECKY: Actually, several of these fires appear to be arsonists attempting to "burn out" homeless people as part of a vigilante effort which is not reported on by media, prosecuted by the District Attorney, nor are the individuals who did this pursued and arrested. Furthermore, during fire season, sometimes parks are closed due to fire safety dangers. Unlike others who are displaced due to fires, no shelters are set up for the homeless people displaced by these actions showing obvious discrimination in services based on housing status.
"On a daily basis, Public Works staff clean up feces, urine, drug paraphilia, and trash left by homeless individuals."
BECKY: Since there is a chronic shortage of public bathrooms for the 3.4 MILLION visitors Santa Cruz entertains each year, blaming "the homeless" amounts to vilification & scapegoating. The call to put Sharps containers widely throughout the City SHOULD be the official response. Only 17% of homeless people report having problems with drug/alcohol addiction. When the bars close each night, HOUSED drunk patrons are known to urinate frequently in public places, but are rarely held accountable.
"On a daily basis, staff dislodge homeless individuals sleeping in the parking garages and lots, and clean up the lots, garages, restrooms, sidewalks, landscaping, and bike lockers."
BECKY: So the PAID public works staffers are the "victims" and the people who have no place to live due massive manipulations in housing prices and cuts to human services, are the "perpetrators" and apparently the ONLY PEOPLE known to litter!!
"the public restrooms are heavily impacted most of the time"
BECKY: Oh, really? You don't say! So when you don't have anywhere near enough bathrooms, you blame homeless people (who don't have a private bathroom) for both urinating and feces AND for heavily using the few public restrooms that ARE available?
This is a failure by the leaders of our community to install sufficient public restrooms at all hours so that the public, visitors, and homeless people alike can practice proper hygiene.
"Another impact is the theft of recyclable material. At least half of the individuals that the City has caught in this illegal act are homeless."
BECKY: There are very few ways homeless people can earn money. Most won't ever be hired for a regular job. Recycling is one such way that has had the effect of cleaning up the environment for everyone. Part of the problem lies in the rules themselves. A person who has thrown an aluminum can into his own recyclable container,would be committing a crime if he/she pulled it out again. They are not allowed to let another person take the items out. This is a ridiculous restriction and should be relaxed. The number of citations issued could be cut in half by this simple change.
"The City has one Resource Recovery Collections employee working almost full time cleaning up illegal disposals, but the City estimates 1/10 of the materials coming directly from homeless individuals."
BECKY: Well, at least they admit that 90% of the litter they find comes from housed people!
"Staff report that there are sustained high levels of fecal bacteria indicators in the San Lorenzo River, its estuary, Antonelli’s Pond and throughout the City."
BECKY: This seems very damning to homeless campers EXCEPT that the vast majority of river contamination occurs between the Highway One bridge and the river mouth--- the area where the San Lorenzo runs through the City of Santa Cruz. It is the CITY which is polluting the river, NOT homeless people!
FIRE DEPARTMENT: "Table 1. Percentage of Calls for Service Related to Homeless Individuals"
BECKY: Table shows that calls for service related to homeless people are in direct proportion to the number of people who are experiencing homelessness (1% - 3%) AND that these calls for service have remained consistent over time
YET despite the data we see this "explanation" (page 23): "These figures fail to capture the true extent of the Fire Department’s services to the City’s homeless population (as homeless status is not coded in the data; see next paragraph) but they nevertheless reveal a significant finding: a spike in calls in 2012 calls for service that are readily linked to homeless individuals more than doubled from their 2008 and 2009 levels. Moreover, while the total number of calls for service received by the Fire Department jumped in 2012 to 6,777, calls to locations closely linked to the homeless climbed at an even faster pace. Whereas calls for service to the homeless population constituted 2% of the total calls in 2008 and 2009, and 3% in 2010 and 2011, they comprised 4% of the total call volume in 2012."
In January of 2008, Santa Cruz had 12.1 inches of rain, in 2012, only 3.68 inches, in 2013 only 0.9 inches! So the fire dept. is blaming homeless people for the drought?????
"Anecdotally, the share of calls for service answered by the Fire Department that are associated with the City’s homeless population is certainly much greater than percentages found in Table 1."
So, don't look at the facts. Just listen to what I say, huh?
"from 2008 to 2012, 90% of calls for service associated with homeless persons were EMS calls. Put in the context of total EMS calls for this period, the 756 EMS calls"
Eureka! We have the hidden homeless cost. Ambulance rides to the hospital! Perhaps housing them would be cheaper??? While Fire Department response to FIRES related (possibly) to homeless encampments, (3% for 2012, the lastest data available) EMS response related to Homeless people is 91% for 2012. However, this does NOT mean that most 911 EMS calls are from homeless people. The dept gets/has 19,000 EMS calls per year of which 756 were related to homeless people or 4% of the total calls. this is only slightly higher than the percentage of people who are homeless within the City.
Calls for service by fire & EMS in immediate neighborhood of Coral Street: 2011 = 107 2012 = 197
FIRES BLAMED ON HOMELESS ENCAMPMENTS -
15% of 335 fires are listed as caused/suspected by homeless people
POLICE RESPONSE: "it must be noted that the Police Department does not track data about a person’s housing status. That is, similar to the FireDepartment, the police report form does not contain data fields to capture that information.Therefore, to gather statistical data, citation and arrest reports were hand-reviewed for mention of homelessness in the narrative description of the call for service."
BECKY: This is nonsense. The police report forms include an address field. If the person is listed as "homeless" "transient" or lists his/her address as "115 Coral St." they can easily be sorted by homeless status.
THE PHONY CRIME WAVE -
"the data collected were focused to answer questions posed in advance, many of which inquired about calls for service in the Harvey West Area and those of persons who self-affiliate with the Homeless Services Center complex by providing the 115 Coral Street address at the time of arrest." page 26
BECKY: So in order to create the impression there is a "crime wave" around Coral St. services area, they ONLY provide data around Coral St? What kind of data gathering does this represent? You can't compare apples to oranges if you only talk about apples.
Table 1 page 26 shows number of arrests & citations of only homeless people: SCPD 2012 arrests = 2,044 and Citations = 3,616 SCPD total arrests in 2012 = 4,908 showing 42% of those arrested are homeless. Considering that there are only 1070 homeless people counted in Santa Cruz, the SCPD are on the average arresting every homeless person in town twice each year.
Compared to Capitola police, Watsonville police, and Scotts Valley police, which only cite or arrest homeless people 7% - 13%
"These data show a few trends. First, SCPD is significantly busier than the police departments of the other cities in the County. With SCPD topping over 100,000 calls for service in 2012—an all-time high—this data are consistent with an over all trend of increasing demands for police services in our City that is disproportionately large. SCPD has also noticed a steady rise in the number of calls for service in the Harvey West Area from 2008 to the present." page 27
BECKY: The data clearly show an over-the-top trend of making multiple arrests and writing voluminous citations by the SCPD. Since homeless people represent 1.7% of Santa Cruz population, yet constitute 42% of all arrests, no other conclusion can be drawn than the practice shows harassment, discrimination, and selective enforcement of homeless people under existing laws. Readers should remember that "Calls for service" are not calls for service. They are just in many if not most cases self-generated markers to record "work" done by police including regular patrols where no one called for anything.
"SCPD has also noticed a steady rise in the number of calls for service in the Harvey West Area from 2008 to the present." --- page 27
BECKY: While not providing the actual data to compare the Harvey West area with in order "to keep this information to a manageable level" we are to accept this anecdotal claim that crime is rising in these areas where homeless people are found.
"Of total citations in 2012 and 2013, about 30% are issued to persons who list 115 Coral Street as their address." --- page 27
BECKY: Since the City Council has chosen to pass laws againsts sleeping, using a blanket, camping, sitting, lying down, BEING in a parking lot or parking garage, begging, singing, using a sign, feeding birds breadcrumbs, smoking in huge swaths of public spaces out of doors, draconian closings of massive amounts of public space while selectively enforcing all of these laws against homeless people, you see the situation we have today.
"SCPD’s data show that multiple arrests are common and that 325 unique individuals who supplied 115 Coral Street as their address were arrested 1,259 times in 2012."
BECKY: This is a textbook case of harassment of individuals based on their housing status. Santa Cruz will likely be sued for this and lose in court costing enormous legal costs with huge fines likely levied.
"Accordingly, a smaller pool of individuals are incurring a staggering number of arrests and consuming an inordinate amount of public safety resources." page 27
BECKY: Seems like the SCPD is generating a lot of their own job security by scapegoating a few hundred people over and over and over again. this is torture. And it kills people with the stress too.
"As 82% of the department’s $22 million annual budget is composed of personnel cost s, and there are over 100,000 call for service annually (104,946 in 2012), a general cost of $180 per call for service is reached."
BECKY: $22 million a year for the SCPD and homeless funding for the HSC & homeless funding = $224,000 from the General Fund.
"In 2012, there were 5,660 arrests or citations for persons listing 115 Coral Street as an address, which yields a cost estimate of $1,018,800 to service those public safety needs." -- page 27
BECKY: That’s 4 times the amount we spend to feed, house, provide medical services, laundry, showers, bathrooms, and counseling for homeless people. What possible value do all of these arrests and citations of homeless people accomplish other than job security for cops and jailers?
"These guards have produced an improvement in safety and quality of life in these areas and the community has responded very positively to their presence. The program, however, comes with a cost of about $350,000 annually."
BECKY: This First Alarm program to provide security guards for City Council offices costs $125,000 MORE than we pay for social programs to HELP homeless people.
"Accordingly, this funding will be requested in a separate budget line item for FY 2014." page 28
BECKY: $22 million and 100,000 "calls for service" aren't enough? We need MORE MONEY for cops??? In what rational universe does this make sense?
CREATING CRIMINALS: TURNING THE HOMELESS INTO THE HUNTED -
"The most common crime types are: 14 California Penal Code (PC) PC § 484A – Theft PC § 647(f) – Public Intoxication PC § 1203.2 – Probation Violation SCMC § 6.36 – Camping in City Limits Prohibited SCMC § 9.10 – Panhandling (Prohibited Locations, Manner, Time) SCMC § 9.12 – Consumption of Alcohol in Public SCMC § 9.50 – Prohibited Conduct on Public Property" --- page 28
BECKY: Note that intoxication and consumption of alcohol are legal on private property, hence they are ONLY enforced against homeless people who have no legal place to drink. Panhandling is a "crime" done by very poor or homeless people. It is questionable if it even IS a crime or protected under the 1st amendment as right to speech. "Conduct on public property" is where cops cite homeless people for sitting on the concrete lip of a treewell on Pacific Ave. or for sitting on a park bench wrong, or for standing on a water box, or for sitting on a drinking fountain. Again, housed people do these things all the time but generally are not cited. A probation violation could be as minor as jaywalking or smoking a cigarette on Pacific Ave.
"Also of note is the 2009 strengthening of SCMC § 4.04.015 “Failure to Appear or Post Bail” by the City Council, which allows law enforcement to obtain a warrant for arrest of any person who, in a six-month period, fails to appear in court on three occasions in connection with a citation issued for criminal violation of the SCMC." --- page 28
BECKY: And they say that there is no debtors prison in the USA!
"The City had been having problems with recipients of citations ignoring citations as there were no repercussions." ----page 28
BECKY: If you call "no repercussions" a ruined credit rating, garnisheed wages, leans on bank accounts, losing one's drivers license and income tax refunds forfeited.
"This code section establishes a misdemeanor offense for three failures-to-appear in a six-month period and allows for a warrant for arrest. This process proceeds through the City Attorney’s Office." --- page 28
BECKY: This custom-designed draconian criminalization effort by City Attorney John Barisone reversed a trend to reduce over-crowding at area jails. It is not done in any other City."
"The City was not able to obtain information about court costs as these types of data are not collected." page 28
BECKY: So in ADDITION to the $180 EACH for a "call for service" the taxpayers pay undisclosed OTHER costs for courts, lawyers, bailiffs, file clerks, jailers, and jails.
LOCKING DOWN THE LIBRARIES -
IMPACT ON LIBRARIES "Staff notes that many Library users who carry their bulky possessions/items with them and spread out over tables and aisles." ---- page 29
BECKY: This is surprising? that homeless people have to carry all of their possessions with them at all times? And again, the LIBRARY STAFF are the "victims" and homeless people and their meager belongings are the "abuse."
"There are people who leave their belongings for long periods of time even though they have left the building." -- page 29. "Patrons are limited to one hour’s use (of the internet) per day and they must sign up for time. Many internet users are anxious to be able to use the maximum time they are entitled to and this often leads to conflicts and aggressive behavior that the staff has to monitor. --- page 29
BECKY: This sounds like the library should provide more computers to meet the need.
"Uncomfortable situations arise when library users whose body odor, or the odor of their possessions, affect patrons trying to work nearby. Staff have reported several instances of lice and flea infestations. Additionally, vandalism, drug paraphernalia, and garbage inside and outside of our buildings are ongoing problems."
BECKY: Homeless people smell! Again, they who have little access to bathing or laundry facilities are the perpetrators while those who catch a whiff of them are the "victims." We need to open more bathrooms, public shower facilities, and perhaps laundry facilities for those who can't pay for them? Or are these passages just included to vilify homeless people some more?
"many homeless and/or mentally ill individuals seek refuge in the library as an antidote to the chaos and uncertainty they face on the streets." "According to staff, the addition of private security guards has been a tremendous help to all Library staff and their added presence has helped foster a positive effect on the atmosphere of the Library. However, illegal activities and anti-social behaviors, at least in part associated with homeless and/or mentally ill individuals persist in the Library." -- page 29
BECKY: Translation-- We are handling the problem expertly with our law enforcement resources but we still have an unmanageable problem. Way to have it both ways!!
TOKEN RESTROOMS DOWNTOWN--NONE AT NIGHT; MASQUERADING REPRESSION & "CONTROL" AS ASSISTANCE -
DOWNTOWN RESOURCES: "The City has also implemented a Visitor Restroom Program, which pays a stipend to businesses willing to open their restrooms to all visitors." --- page 30
BECKY: HUFF called for this years ago to increase bathrooms downtown. We are glad the City finally acted on this. Now if they will go further and MANDATE that businesses over 1000 sq feet or restaurants must provide a bathroom for their customers, we can open up even more bathrooms.
"Participates in funding and administering the Downtown Hospitality Program."
BECKY: these downtown Hosts are basically snitches for the police who run around telling people they can't sit down or beg. They are very low paid and not well trained. A questionable asset.
"Contributes funding to the County for a downtown outreach worker (DOW) to provide services to people in need of social services..." --- page 30
BECKY: What use is a social worker to refer people to programs with long waiting lists and disappearing budgets?
"Provides $25,000 for Homeward Bound services (administered through the Homeless Services Center, and M.O.S.T/DOW), a program that provides bus tickets to homeless people who want to return to their home communities"
BECKY: HUFF has received reports of homeless people who sought services and were told they could ONLY get a bus ticket out of town. Note that the funding for this program alone is 1/10th the cost of ALL HOMELESS SERVICES at 115 Coral St. While not necessarily bad, no one should be forced to leave town when seeking homeless services.
"Attempts to redirect churches and organizations that distribute food downtown to work with established indoor free meal programs." --- page 30
BECKY: Here charitable individuals are pressured, shamed, and harassed for providing free food to people who are obviously hungry and need help. Julie Hendee of the RDA harassed Pastor Adams to ending his program on the streets. This is a HORRIBLE use of public funds!!!
SOCIAL SERVICE FUNDING "In FY 2013, the City Council allocated $1,034,622 in General Fund dollars toward community programs." --- page 21
BECKY: total city funding for homeless services = $270,000 per year. Current funding represents a 25% reduction from 2009 when the City restructured aid
BECKY'S FINAL COMMENTS:
Additional funding for homeless-related programs but which provide no direct funding to homeless people cost $292,0008 (homeless census, Downtown outreach worker, Homeless management information system, etc.)
No discussion of housing costs, housing vs wages paid formula, or any claim that criminalizing homelessness is cost effective on any level. No documentation of actual drug use by homeless people was presented. No cost analysis of jailing costs to taxpayers for enforcing petty rules downtown.
Assistant City Manager, Tina Shull who authored this agenda, provides no data on homeless deaths which now number over 500 since the HSC started collecting data in 2000. Homelessness is described as "serious and complex" which "originates from a variety of causes." Shull falls short of explaining the gap between the cost of housing in the City of Santa Cruz and the wages paid for jobs here, and how, as this gap widens, more people fall in.