Defend those without homes! campaign page [link]
NORSE" are from Robert Norse, who is an organizer for "HUFF Santa Cruz". He writes, "I regularly provide commentary like this to stories I post on the HUFF e-mail list. For those who want it, drop me an e-mail at [rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com]."
Occupy Monterey Peninsula activists have sent out a plea for help to oppose upcoming anti-homeless laws -- similar to some long in place in Santa Cruz (with the anti-homeless Downtown Ordinances in place since 1994).
E-mail the Monterey City Council your objections as suggested by the activist alert below.
E-mails for the Monterey City Council can be found at [monterey.org/en-us/cityhall/citycouncil.aspx].
E-mail the Monterey Herald with a letter opposing the "Santa Cruz solution" to Monterey's "too many visible homeless" bigotry problem. email@example.com (up to 200 words)
If you attend the 4 PM or 7 PM Monterey City Council meeting, please send HUFF an update. If you make any contacts there, pass on that information to HUFF and to Occupy Santa Cruz activists.
"Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom - Santa Cruz" [huffsantacruz.org] [firstname.lastname@example.org] [831-423-HUFF]
2013-08-16 NOTE BY NORSE: Monterey Court Retaliates Against 62-Year Old Homeless Woman -
Sunny Fawcett's struggle to be left alone by police was described in an earlier HUFF e-mail at [huffsantacruz.org/wordpress/attacking-the-whistleblowers-in-monterey].
I also interviewed her on Free Radio at [radiolibre.org/brbb/brb130718mp3].
Another article describing this travesty is at “Traffic Stop Becomes Criminal Case for Homeless Woman” [montereycountyweekly.com/opinion/local_spin/article_dac54a5e-d449-11e2-8591-0019bb30f31a.html].
2013-08-15 "Homeless woman who annoyed cops gets her sentence"
by Mary Duan [http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/archives/2013/0815/article_d02b4d92-0517-11e3-b14b-0019bb30f31a.html]:
Let’s go back to day one, says Monterey County Superior Court Judge Albert Maldonado: “Sept. 19, 2012. This is what should have been done.”
Maldonado is on the bench and speaking to Sunny Fawcett, a 62-year-old homeless woman who lays her head down most nights in a Dodge Minivan she parks in or around Monterey. “Day one” is a date rife with woulda, coulda, shoulda – both for Fawcett, the Monterey Police Department and ultimately, the criminal justice system.
Fawcett was driving down a very dark Garden Road, doing 20mph in a 40mph zone as she looked for a quiet, semi-safe place to bed down for the night. Her van was pulled over by Monterey Police Officer John Olney.
That simple traffic stop set in motion a 26-minute farce, recorded on Olney’s dash cam, during which Fawcett refused to roll down her window more than an inch or two, refused to turn off the car’s engine, repeatedly questioned why she was being pulled over, demanded Police Chief Phil Penko be called to the scene and took her sweet time handing over her proof of insurance and identification.
She was annoying and she was provocative and she was a frightened woman alone on a dark road. None of those things are illegal. Olney let her go without a citation, but a few weeks later, she received one in the mail; Fawcett was charged with criminal counts of obstructing a police officer and refusing to follow the lawful order of a police officer. Multiple hearings followed, taking multiple hours of court time, culminating in a multi-day jury trial in July.
The jury bounced the obstructing charge, but found her guilty of the other one.
“Alacrity is not required in encounters with the police,” Maldonado said Aug. 9, the first day of Fawcett’s sentencing hearing. (He would continue it to Aug. 13.) “We don’t live in a police state. Everyone has a right to question why they are being pulled over.”
What nobody has a right to do, though, is refuse to identify themselves to the police.
But between the trial, the thousands of dollars – between the prosecution, defense, court time, research attorneys and security – spent on the case and Maldonado’s exhibition of solid common sense, something went really wrong.
The Monterey County Probation Department, which investigates a defendant’s background and then recommends sentencing, apparently sent a letter to Fawcett requesting she come in for an interview, but sent it to the wrong P.O. box. She never received it, a mystery because her correct address was available on the police report – we know that because the ticket sure found her.
That was problem number one.
Problem number two: Someone at the probation department was apparently having a bad day when they decided to recommend Fawcett should spend 60 days in jail. When Deputy Public Defender Charles Shivers read that one in court at the outset of the sentencing hearing on Aug. 9, he conjured the dramatic intensity of the Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction to express his outrage: “It would be Draconian,” Shivers said. “If she can be jailed for this, I don’t want to be a part of this system.”
Maldonado said he was disregarding the sentencing recommendation. He seemed baffled by it.
“They want you to serve what I consider an extraordinary amount of time,” he said. “This should have been in traffic court. Traffic court, not Superior Court.”
What should have happened on day one, Maldonado said, is that when officers could not get her to show her license, they should have required her to stick her thumb through the open window and put her thumbprint on the citation. And if she refused that, they should have taken her before a magistrate immediately. There’s one on call 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week.
But, he said, “I have 12 ordinary citizens, jurors, who found you violated the law. You asked to be treated differently than any other citizen. In essence you asked for anarchy, and anarchy isn’t the answer.”
Maldonado waived the $1,000-plus fine Fawcett faced, but said he couldn’t do anything about the $214 in fines mandated by the state. He ordered her to serve three years on probation and turn over her identification to police if asked.
And then, in a breathtaking moment, he ordered the bailiffs to take her into custody to serve one day in jail. Less than one day, really: just enough time to book her and release her.
In the hallway after the hearing, a number of Fawcett’s supporters gathered and murmured that it could have been so much worse. But if the prosecution of Sunny Fawcett is to be used as a baseline for how the criminal justice system is functioning, we have bigger problems than anyone realizes.
BOB OLIVER posted at 12:15 pm on Thu, Aug 15, 2013.
"But if the prosecution of Sunny Fawcett is to be used as a baseline for how the criminal justice system is functioning, we have bigger problems than anyone realizes."
1. The Criminal Justice system : This was a "non case" which serves multiple purposes to those in power. It prevents there being enough time, resource and money to try real criminals (by design). It cost the tax payers about $40,000, (by design). It intimidates nearly everyone - by design.
2. This case was eventually turned into a Charade - when people began to take notice of it. The "acting" was good though. But then also, do we really need to hear "fiction" by those operating our Judicial System?
3. Simply: Sunny Fawcett has been a homeless person living on the Monterey Peninsula with the help of family and friends and her own abilities to meet her needs without being a major burden on others.
She was "illegally" stopped by Monterey Police on more than three occasions. These stops were then used against her in a court of law. Sunny Fawcett was "framed" by the City of Monterey, the Monterey Police, and Judicial System of the Monterey County.
Sunny effected her own defense by doing everything "her way". I commend her. It was creative and it had some good points. Through "the school of hard knocks" I am certain she is more aware than most of the condition of our country, and more so the condition of the Monterey Judicial System.
As a homeless person, Sunny can better relate to homelessness than most of us. The homeless always have been victimized for the injustice this country does in "our" name. Many more of us will become homeless as the present becomes the future and water prices here in our own community rise from 15 times the average price to 30 times - or greater.
Should we all continue to "not mobilize"? How much longer do we wait for others to "wake up"! Will it be to late? NEVER!
2013-07-19 NOTE BY NORSE: The author of this article and the homeless woman Sunny Fawcett have been outspoken criticis of police harassment of the homeless in Monterey. They were guests on my radio show last night, archived at http://www.radiolibre.org/brbb/brb130718mp3 . Sunny's case is also described at http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/opinion/local_spin/article_dac54a5e-d449-11e2-8591-0019bb30f31a.html ("Traffic Stop Becomes Criminal Case for Homeless Woman"). Sunny lives her van; Brian lives outside. Both report massive attacks on homeless people in Monterey driving them to nearby Seaside.
2013-06-30 "Monterey Police Harassment of a Homeless Woman!"
by Stan Lee [http://www.broowaha.com/articles/16886/monterey-police-harassment-of-a-homeless-woman-]:
This is the story of the Police Department in Monterey pulling over a Homeless Woman for driving too slow and impeding traffic, when there is no such violation and there was no traffic!
Monterey Police Officer John Olney pulled over a Homeless senior woman on September 19th, 2012 for "impeding traffic" in the middle of the night, when there was "no traffic". Claiming that she was in violation of "Vehicle Code 22400", while driving on Garden Road for going "too slow".
The code that she was cited for was for driving "too slow" on the Highway, not on a City Street, something that Officer John Olney should have known.
The Officer was even "caught lying" on the Police Videotape, stating that she was driving 18mph and as low as 6mph, when the Police Radar documented that she was going between 30 and 35 MPH and then was pulled over. Only once during the time Officer Olney followed her did she go under 30MPH (28) before she was pulled over.
When Officer John Olney pulled her over he never mentioned anything about weaving, which he would later document in his report for the basis of pulling her over.
The Homeless Woman would not roll her window all the way down, because she had seen and heard how the Monterey Police Department had been harassing the Homeless and she heard stories of a woman that rolled her window down and a Police Officer unlocked her door and then she was thrown on the street by a few Officers. She was clearly afraid of the Monterey Police Department!
Then out of fear, the Homeless Woman asked the Officer to call Police Chief Phillip Penko. Officer John Olney then said "the Police Chief was probably in bed sleeping" and instead called a couple of Supervisors that never even bothered to introduce themselves to the Senior Homeless Woman. But instead one of them choose to peak into her passenger window and startle her. Something she thought was very creepy!
That same Supervisor named Frank Russo stated on the Police video of the scene that Officer John Olney "had gotten way more out of her than we did". He had pulled her over on September 11th, 2012.
So the last time she was pulled over Supervisor Frank Russo told her that her head lights were not on, but when he decided to actually look at them he realized that he had made a mistake. So she wasn't cited for that traffic stop by this officer.
So this Homeless Woman has been stopped by 2 Police Officers in Monterey on two different occasions for phony violations that both officers had no proof of. Isn't that harassment of a homeless person?
Then a month after the last traffic stop by Officer John Olney she received a letter in late October 2012 informing her that she was being charged and they were issuing a Criminal Complaint against her.
The Crminal Complaint was filed by Mr. Dean Flippo of the Salinas District Attorney's Office claiming that she had been charged with violating Penal Code 148 (a) (1), but he never bothered to take into consideration that the Police video revealed that Officer John Olney lied about her speed, quoted VC 22400, which is for Minimum Speeds on a Highway and not for driving on a City Street. Garden Road is not on a Highway, it's a City Street.
Then the District Attorney's Office forgot to document the fact that Supervisor Russo had claimed on the Police video of the scene that she cooperated more than she did when he pulled her over on his traffic stop a week before.
The Penal Code that they used was PC 148 (a) (1) which is for a person who willfully Resists, Delays and Obstructs an Officer from performing their duties. This is such a joke because the Supervisor Frank Russo stated on the Police Video that she cooperated more than the previous time and she wasn't cited on that occasion. So why charge her with a crime?
Supervisor Frank Russo said at the end of the Police video that "I was just going to break her window", which goes to show that the Police in Monterey, California need to learn how to properly deal with Homeless People and stop their violence towards them.
To further prove how foolish the Monterey Police Department and District Attorney's Office has been in this case, they want to cite her for willfully resisting, delaying or obstructing the Officer from doing his duties. Yet you have a Supervisor stating to Officer John Olney that he got way more out of her than he did when he pulled her over and that she found the Police untrustworthy.
Keep in mind also that it was a dark secluded road, in the middle of the night and she is a senior Homeless woman that was all alone. Something that the Officers did not even take into consideration.
If the circumstances were reversed John Olney would have acted in the exact same way. If it were his mother he would have wanted her to proceed with the exact same caution that she showed.
Would you trust an officer, when he has another one sneaking up to your passneger side window?
Is there really a minimum speed limit for driving on a city road in Monterey? Are drivers required to only drive the speed limit and not a fraction below it? Doesn't there have to be traffic to be pulled over for impeding traffic? Is it illegal for a woman to be scared after being pulled over in the middle of the night? Is asking a question to an officer resisting, delaying and obstructing the Officer from performing his duties?
Instead of the Monterey Police Department putting the spotlight on Homeless People, the Media should put their spotlight on them for citing hundreds of Homeless People for illegal camping in business areas using Monterey City Code 23-3(a), when they know that this code is for Recreational Areas only, which makes it fraud! Some of these Homeless People have received fines that they couldn't pay and had to serve jail time and some received probation.
The story behind the story is that the Monterey Police Department are making it illegal to be Homeless in the City of Monterey, California and they have no right to enforce this kind of fraud and undeserved punishment on innocent people!
If you would like to see a peaceful change take place in the City of Monterey then please contact "The Monterey Mayor Chuck Della Sala", The Monterey Police Department", "The Monterey City Councilman Alan Haffa", "The Monterey City Manager Fred Muer", "Monterey Police Chief Phillip Penko" and "The City Attorney's Office" and ask for immediate change and dismissal of all the illegal camping tickets and to cease the illegal sleeping and camping that the City Council voted on in a secret meeting without the voters consent and approval!
To this day the Monterey Officers still enforce this Monterey City Code 23-3(a) and give out these tickets, knowing it is illegal, but they never put on the ticket that it is for a Recreational Area only.
2013-06-25 "Homelessness on the Rise in Monterey County, Census Shows"
by Sara Rubin from "Monterey County Weekly" [http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/blogs/news_blog/article_3cf9b316-de01-11e2-85fc-0019bb30f31a.html]:
Tent residents of Chinatown in Salinas celebrated Christmas with decorations last year.
An overwhelming majority of Monterey County's homeless population lives without shelter, and those numbers are on the rise.
That's according to the 2013 homeless census, conducted in January and presented Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors. The census represents a point-in-time snapshot of homelessness, based on data collected in one day by volunteers, who work on teams led by paid homeless individuals.
The 2013 census reports a 3-percent increase over 2011, bringing the county's total homeless population to 2,590.
That number almost definitely is lower than the reality, says Glorietta Rowland, an analyst with the county's Community Action Partnership. That's because the census is, by its snapshot nature, imprecise.
"It is historically an under-representation of homeless in the community," Rowland says.
The census estimates over 6,000 individuals experienced homelessness over the course of the past year—that annual estimate is a 58-percent increase from 2011.
In South County in particular, Rowland worries the numbers don't accurately reflect the homeless population.
"Because we did not have people familiar with South County, the numbers there were very low," Rowland says. "We know there are more homeless in that area."
According to the census, there were 99 fewer homeless individuals in Greenfield, and also declines in Gonzales, King City and Soledad.
On the Peninsula and in North County homeless was up, census data shows. Monterey, Seaside and Prunedale all reported increases.
About three-quarters of the individuals surveyed do not live in shelters.
"There is a need for housing," says Jill Allen, director of Dorothy's Place in Salinas' Chinatown.
Dorothy's converts a day-use room into an emergency shelter each night, called Women Alive, and last year provided sleeping space to 188 women—many of them mentally ill, and many of them seniors, Allen says.
The nonprofit is in the midst of a fundraising push and education effort to "get people talking about better emergency facilities for women, and aging women who are out on the street," she adds.
About 20 percent of homeless individuals live in families, the census found, though the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development definition of homeless doesn't count families that might be doubling up in houses.
HUD requires all communities that receive federal funds to support homeless services conduct a bi-annual census.
ACTION ALERT: Monterey City Council Slated to Crack Down on Homeless Tuesday 5-21
Occupy Monterey Peninsula [email@example.com]
A recent story from the Herald follows the Activist Alert.
The City of Monterey is considering adopting new ordinances to punish homeless and other needy folks that live in, or visit, Monterey. Urgent action is needed for the public to speak out against these punitive actions, which are counter-productive and ineffective.
The 4:00 City Council meeting is focused on punitive ordinances--Sit-Lie, No Smoking areas outside, and Restricted Parking on Garden Road and elsewhere that homeless people sleep in cars. The 7:00 meeting, after Budget update, will look at new programs that SERVE the homeless. The purpose in breaking the agenda items up was to confuse and divide the community. Please show up and comment in opposition to these ordinances, and to urge the city to adopt programs that help needy folks, not punish them. Let's stop criminalizinag poverty!!
Please read the talking points reprinted below and speak to one or more of them, or other pertinent subject matter of your choice.
In solidarity with the victims of an unjust and unequal society.
TALKING POINTS ON THE PROPOSED ANTI-HOMELESS LAWS
Council is discussing Sit-Lie, non-smoking ordinances and expanded Parking Restrictions (on Garden Road and near Roger’s Lake) at their 4:00 meeting on Tuesday, May 21. In the evening session, after 7:00, they are discussing other options to provide services to the homeless.
Sit-Lie Talking Points -
Pick ONE of these to explore in detail. Other people will do others.
1) Sit-Lie laws are not proven to be effective. There is no objective evidence that they reduce the amount of panhandling or other negative impacts of homelessness. The so-called Travelers are not intimidated by Sit-Lie because they are only here for a few days or weeks at a time and simply leave without going to court.
2) The ordinance would be costly to enforce—it would require more police to walk around and cite people and court costs to prosecute.
3) There has been no cost-benefit analysis to compare a Sit-Lie ordinance to other types of programs designed to assist people. How can Council discuss this apart from a budget report, with no cost projection, and without a benefit comparison to other support programs that are being considered later tonight?
4) The ordinance is likely to be challenged in court and could cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. The city would be assuming legal liability for no proven benefit.
5) The city claims that residents and tourists feel afraid downtown because of the homeless. Is this fear legitimate or imaginary? Is there any objective criminal evidence to prove that fear of homeless individuals is justified? How many violent crimes have the homeless in Monterey been convicted of in the past year? How many violent crimes have non-homeless individuals committed? Laws based simply on unfounded fear (lacking any real threats or harm) are biased and prejudicial. In the past, our country had a shameful history of passing laws to limit the presence of minorities in white neighborhoods and in the evening.
6) A recent city survey found that 91% of residents feel “safe” or “very safe” downtown; only 1% felt “very unsafe.” Are you proposing a fear based ordinance based on only 1% of the population?
7) Over the past several years funding for homeless programs has been cut. In 2012, social service funding (some of which helps homeless individuals) in Monterey was cut 50% from $250,000 to $125,000. In 2013 it is proposed to cut it another 30% to $80,000, of which about $50,000 will directly benefit homeless people. During this time complaints related to homelessness have risen. There appears to be a correlation between funding for homeless programs and increasing complaints. Shouldn’t the city study this correlation to see if it would be more cost effective to fund homeless programs better rather than shift resources to policing and criminalizing of homelessness?
8) The city is proposing to allocated $80,000 in CDBG (Community Development Block Grants) to various non-profits that serve elderly and low income individuals, of which about $50,000 directly serves the
homeless. None of that money is from city of Monterey’s general fund; it is all federal money. The city simply transfers the federal money to various programs. Out of a 60 Million dollar budget, not one dollar from local sales tax, TOT, or property taxes is devoted to helping homeless individuals. It would appear that our homeless problem is not a result of attracting people with our great programs. Other cities that have imposed Sit-Lie ordinances offer far more options, spaces (Shelters), and support to the homeless than Monterey. It is inhumane to criminalize the act of sitting, lying or sleeping in public when the city does not offer low income people a place to go and where it devotes zero city dollars to helping people.
9) The city recently conducted a survey and a large majority of residents said that city services to low income people were Very Poor. In comparison to other cities, Monterey was “Far Below Average” in public perception of its services to Low Income individuals. Instead of wasting more resources on an ordinance that will be costly to enforce, and ineffective, the city should devote more resources to improving services to low income people. Clearly the survey shows that the public does not deem these services as adequate.
What kinds of services were supported by the public at the MPC Symposium on Homelessness, attended by over 250 people? Again, speak to one or two that you feel are most important, or other ideas that have been advanced.
1) A jobs programs: many homeless want jobs but their age, the Recession, or a criminal record (often for doing nothing other than sleeping) makes it hard to get jobs. According to the last Monterey County Homeless Census, over a third do work now, but they don’t make enough to pay rent. Clearly we need more jobs and more better paying jobs. Some homeless people would be happy to sweep our streets, pick up trash, and clean up graffiti. The city should explore partnering with the various business districts, the Chamber of Commerce, and the non-profits to develop a job placement program that could be funded by the businesses. The businesses don’t like the homeless panhandling; perhaps they would be willing to hire them to keep our business districts clean and attractive? The city should develop a plan after looking at models used in other cities.
2) A Safe Car Park program would give the car homeless a safe place to park where they would not impact businesses or neighborhoods. This would be more cost effective than ticketing and prosecuting people for sleeping in their cars. The New Beginnings in Santa Barbara is a good model.
3) The city should provide more public restrooms to avoid hygiene issues; everyone, not only the homeless, would benefit from more bathrooms and a cleaner city. If there are problems with people urinating or defecating in public for lack of public restrooms that is the fault of the city.
4) Police could hand out MST bus passes to local homeless as an incentive for good behavior and to enable them to get to the Good Sam in Sand City for showers and laundry services.
5) There should be one person on staff responsible for interfacing with the homeless, businesses, and non-profits, either a Social Worker or special trained police officer. If this person is a police office, he or she should have some Social Work or restorative justice training, in addition to mediation and conflict resolution training. The city could offer to train an existing officer, hire one, or hire a Social Worker for far less. In a city with 700 plus employees that is experiencing so many issues around homelessness, it is shocking there is not one trained social worker. The city claims that police are not trained to deal with these types of populations and that they are not primarily addressing “homelessness” per se, but in fact, they are the only city employees who regularly interact with the homeless. We need someone who understands the complex issues surrounding homelessness and who has proper training.
6) The city should work with other cities to ensure that more low income housing is set aside for the homeless and other low income individuals. The section 8 waiting list for Monterey county for housing is 5 years long and they are no longer taking names. The city should partner with other cities and FORA to identify barracks on the former Fort Ord that could be converted by a non-profit into emergency shelter. It is time to stop passing the buck and ignoring the fundamental problem: lack of shelter. Do something to provide shelter to our veterans, women, families and children.
7) Women in Monterey do not have a shelter and are among the most vulnerable to life on the streets. Monterey should require that the low income housing it is proposing behind City Hall be restricted to low income women over the age of 50, with preference to currently homeless women living in Monterey.
2013-05-18 "Monterey symposium examines homelessness; Health care, public policy, shelter among topics"
by Dennis Taylor from "Monterey Herald" [http://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_23275211/monterey-symposium-examines-homelessness]:
There are 2,500 to 3,000 homeless people in Monterey County. Half are classified as "chronic homeless," meaning they have a documented disability or have been without a residence for a year or longer. The county has about 250 homeless families.
"These are the people we can find, and the people who fit a very strict definition of 'homeless,'" said Supervisor Jane Parker, keynote speaker at United Way Monterey County's "Hungry and Homeless in Paradise" symposium Saturday at Monterey Peninsula College. "If you start to think about the number of families who are living in a garage, or crowded into one bedroom at the home of a friend or relative, or sleeping on a couch, the numbers go much higher very quickly."
The ugly truth in "paradise" is that the majority of locals who are fortunate enough to be employed are also in dire straits: More than half the jobs in Monterey County pay minimum wage or less — a fact that brings up another dismal set of statistics.
"There's a table in the weekly home report that shows how many hours a person earning minimum wage must work to afford an apartment in Monterey County," Parker said. "To live in a studio apartment in our area, a person earning minimum wage must work 83 hours in a week. To afford a one-bedroom apartment, the number is 94 hours. A person needs to work 108 hours in a single week to pay for a two-bedroom apartment, and 152 hours for a three-bedroom apartment."
Those figures do not include food, utilities, car repair, medical bills or any other necessities that might compete for a person's dollars, she said.
Those stark realities were the rallying cry that attracted hundreds of residents — some homeless — to MPC for a five-hour summit designed to identify the issues surrounding homelessness and to discuss possible solutions.
The symposium comes as the Monterey City Council is set Tuesday to discuss possible new ordinances to address frequent complaints from residents, tourists and the business community about homeless people and panhandlers downtown and in other areas. One ordinance under discussion would make it a crime to sit or lie on sidewalks or other public spaces.
10-year plan -
Saturday's symposium featured breakout sessions on topics that included health care, public policy, faith-based initiatives and shelters. The sessions were largely town-hall style gatherings that solicited input from those attending.
One session was titled "Our Community's 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness." The plan was created in 2010-11 by HomeBase/Center for Common Concerns, a nonprofit public-policy law firm based in San Francisco, using input from "a wide array of community stakeholders."
The plan, accepted by the boards of supervisors in Monterey and San Benito counties, calls for access to housing and housing services, and transition services for people who have just been released from jails, medical facilities and foster programs.
Much of the strategy involves streamlining processes, improving communication and eliminating the bureaucratic red tape that tends to clog the system.
"Let's say a single male comes to a shelter that is for women and children only. So that person is told, 'I'm sorry, you don't qualify here.' That person then might have to go from program to program to program, trying to find somewhere to be, and therefore might be more likely to simply give up," said HomeBase attorney Carolyn Wylie. "Instead, we'd have a coordinated system in which the person could make one telephone call, or be sent to a center that is a one-entry point. It would be a coordinated system where all people could go (to find solutions to their problems)."
Looking for solutions -
Audience members pointed out specific issues commonly faced by the homeless, including what they called a tendency to regard them as "second-class citizens" and to dismiss their problems.
They suggested a need for free transportation to get the services they require. They asked for more responsive, more flexible agencies. They advocated local jobs that pay a living wage, and more affordable housing.
"I think it's important to try to lower the cost of living, rather than try to increase income, for the homeless," said Charles Wilson, a Peninsula resident with homelessness in his history and a computer science degree on his résumé. "Rent should not be more than one-third of income for anyone."
Another woman called for the decriminalization of homelessness and an end to harassment by law enforcement officers of people living and sleeping in public places.
One homeless man, who said his street name is "Bones," said current laws make getting assistance difficult for anyone with a felony drug conviction.
"It's against federal law for drug offenders to use federal funds for a lot of this stuff. I don't have any drug convictions, but I have felonies on my record, which is what's holding me back from getting a real job," he said. "People who have serious drug problems and get out of prison and can't get their stuff together because of these federal laws that stand in their way ... that really screws things up for everybody. The guy is on the street, he's a drug addict, he doesn't have a job, he can't get any kind of federal assistance because it's against the law, and the cycle just continues."