Thursday, January 30, 2014

Vallejo City's potential anti-Homeless law creates controversy

Solidarity with the Homeless residents of Vallejo [link]!
Human Rights abuse in Vallejo, "the City of God" [link]!

“Anti-camping proposal leads to debate over homelessness”
2014-01-30 by Jessica A. York from “Vallejo Times-Herald” []:
Vallejo's homelessness policy conversations rarely stick within narrow confines, habitually spilling over into the larger social issue.
Tuesday night's discussion by the Vallejo City Council of a proposed new illegal camping ordinance was no exception.
The city is putting together an ordinance that would give law enforcement a tool to evict illegally camped homeless persons on city and private property, and to theoretically preemptively deter such camping in the first place. The ordinance remains in draft form, and no City Council vote was taken Tuesday.
Several public speakers, generally supportive of the ordinance, agreed that city leaders need to provide answers to the homeless issue in the city, not stop at making new laws.
"I ask that we look for us to provide solutions, and not just suggestions or infractions which result in incarcerations to our friends in need," said Maria Guevara of community organization Vallejo Together. "Something definitely needs to be done, but this ordinance should not be the only answer. Providing a safe place, accessible night and day for our friends, with help on site to transition is a great pair to this ordinance."
Mayor Osby Davis, who has led public workshops on homelessness in recent years, said he is not unsympathetic to the greater social concerns surrounding homelessness. However, he said, city leaders also have the rest of the city to consider.
"I think we have to realize that we have a delicate balance here," Davis said. "We have to balance the humane side of dealing with people who may be down on their luck, and at the same time, protecting the rights of those who have a right to use public facilities as well."
The council, sitting as the Vallejo Housing Authority , will consider sending out a request for proposals to establish homeless day center-type services as early as its Feb. 11 meeting, Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom said. The city has budgeted $75,000 toward this effort, down from previous years' plans to spend upwards of $500,000.
On Wednesday, Whittom added that two groups have formed to focus on Vallejo's homeless issues. One is led by the city's Housing and Community Development Manager Anne Putney. The other, headed by county Supervisor Erin Hannigan, includes various county officials, Councilman Bob Sampayan, Putney, Veterans Affairs, the American Red Cross and others.
"We are not at all silent on the issue. We are very much bellied up to the table and have taken many steps," Hannigan said Wednesday, referencing a winter emergency warming shelter. "One of the challenges we have is we don't have the funding to provide the housing of the homeless -- that's really an incorporated area (city) function."
Whittom said at the meeting that the public has raised concerns that the ordinance is designed to criminalize homelessness.
"The intent of this ordinance is not to accumulate fines or arrests," Whittom told the council.
Resident Doug Darling asserted the city should be unable to enforce the ordinance until sufficient shelter space is available to relocate illegally camped individuals. He urged the council to be proactive, rather than reactive.
"While I do not object to the proposal at all, it does not address larger problems. We have a homeless problem," resident Jimmy Genn said.
Cyndi Castenada, who introduced herself as "one of the homeless faces now," asked the city to consider including an exception for those living in their vehicles.
"Sleeping in your vehicle: I think you ought to take a serious serious look at repealing that part. Because, number one, it gives you a roof over your head, it gives you a door you can lock, it gives you access to a heater when you need it," Castenada said. "The people I know who live in their cars, they might have maybe a Dumpster in their car, but they don't have a Dumpster around their car."

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