Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘sleeping ban’

This Crow Won’t Fly

The United States has a long history of using mean-spirited and often brutal laws to keep “certain” people out of public spaces and out of public consciousness.  Jim Crow laws segregated the South after the Civil War and Sundown Towns forced people to leave town before the sun set. The anti-Okie law of 1930s California forbade poor Dustbowl immigrants from entering the state and Ugly Laws (on the books in Chicago until the 1970s) swept the country and criminalized people with disabilities for allowing themselves to be seen in public.

Today, such laws target mostly homeless people and are commonly called “quality of life” or “nuisance crimes.”  They criminalize sleeping, standing, sitting, and even food-sharing.  Just like the laws from our past, they deny people their right to exist in local communities.

In June of this year, Rhode Island took a meaningful stand against this criminalization, and passed the first statewide Homeless Bill of Rights in the country. The Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP)—a West Coast grassroots network of homeless people’s organizations—is now launching simultaneous campaigns in California and Oregon. Rhode Island will only be the beginning.

Today’s “quality of life” laws and ordinances have their roots in the broken-windows theory.  This theory holds that one poor person in a neighborhood is like a first unrepaired broken window and if the “window” is not immediately fixed or removed, it is a signal that no one cares, disorder will flourish, and the community will go to hell in a handbasket.

For this theory to make sense, you first have to step away from thinking of people, or at least poor people, as human beings. You need to objectify them. You need to see them as dusty broken windows in a vacant building.  That is why we now have Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) with police enforcement to keep that neighborhood flourishing by keeping poor, unsightly people out of it.

We have gone from the days where people could be told “you can’t sit at this lunch counter” to “you can’t sit on this sidewalk,” from “don’t let the sun set on you here” to “this public park closes at dusk” and from “you’re on the wrong side of the tracks” to “it is illegal to hang out” on this street or corner.

Unless we organize, it isn’t going to get much better soon.   Since 1982, the federal government has cut up to $52 billion a year from affordable housing and pushed hundreds of thousands of people into the  shelter system or into the street.  Today we continue to have three million people a year without homes.  1982 also marked the beginning of homelessness as a “crime wave” that would consume the efforts of local and state police forces over the next three decades.  Millions of people across the country sitting, lying down, hanging out, and — perhaps worst of all – sleeping are cited in crime statistics.
WRAP and our allies recently conducted outreach to over 700 homeless people in 13 cities; we found 77% of people had been arrested, cited, or harassed for sleeping, 75% for loitering, and 73% for sitting on a sidewalk.

We are right back to Jim Crow Laws, Sundown Towns, Ugly Laws and Anti-Okie Laws, local laws that profess to “uphold the locally accepted obligations of civility.” Such laws have always been used by people in power against those on the outside. In other words, today’s Business Improvement Districts and Broken Window Laws are, at their core, a reincarnation of various phases of American history none of us is proud of.

And they reflect a political voice now openly entering the political and media mainstream that dismisses social justice as economically irrelevant and poor people as humanly irrelevant.

This is not about caring for or even advocating for “those people.” This is about all of us. As Aboriginal leader Lilla Watson said, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”  If you are not homeless, if you are not the target now, then understand that you are next. Isolated and fragmented, we lose this fight.

But we are no longer isolated and fragmented.  On April 1, WRAP and USCAI (US Canadian Alliance of Inhabitants) sponsored a  Day of Action in 17 cities.  We are one of hundreds of organizations and allies, from Massachusetts to NewYork and from Tennessee to California, all separate but all working together to give meaning to social justice and protect the civil and human rights of all of us.

We can only win this struggle if we use our collective strengths, organizing, outreach, research, public education, artwork, and direct actions. We are continuing to expand our network of organizations and cities and we will ultimately bring down the whole oppressive system of policing poverty and treating poor people as “broken windows” to be discarded and replaced.

To join our campaign for a Homeless Bill of Rights in both California and Oregon contact WRAP at wrap@wraphome.org and we will hook you up with organizers working in both of these states or others as this movement continues to grow.

 

Posted on August 27, 2012 by WRAP Comms

This Crow Won’t Fly:
http://wraphome.org/?p=2466&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=119

Criminalization Fact Sheet:

http://wraphome.org/?p=2474&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=119

Read Full Post »

 


Anti-Okie Laws

The agricultural workers who migrated to California for work in the 1900s were generally referred to as “Okies”. They were assumed to be from Oklahoma, but they moved to California from other states, as well. The term became derogatory in the 1930s when massive numbers of people migrated West to find work. In 1937, California passed an “anti-Okie” law which made it a misdemeanor to “bring or assist in bringing” extremely poor people into the state. The law was later considered unconstitutional.

Jim Crow Laws

After the American Civil War (1861-1865), most Southern states passed laws denying black people basic human rights. Later, many border states followed suit. These laws became known as Jim Crow laws after the name of a popular black-face character that would sing songs like “Jump Jim Crow.” In California, Jim Crow played out against Chinese immigrants more than black people. From 1866-1947, Chinese residents of San Francisco were forced to live in one area of the city. The same segregation laws prohibited inter-racial marriage between Chinese and non-Chinese persons and educational and employment laws were also enforced in the city. African and Indian children had to attend separate schools from those of white children. In 1879, the California constitution read that no Chinese people could vote and the law was not repealed until 1926. Oregon and Idaho had similar provisions in their constitutions. In 1891, a referendum required all Chinese people to carry a “certification of residence” card or face arrest and jail. In 1909, the Japanese were added to the list of people who were prohibited by law from marrying white people. In 1913, “Alien Land Laws” were passed that prohibited any Asian people from owning or leasing property. The law was not struck down by the California Supreme Court until 1952.

Ugly Laws

From the 1860s to the 1970s, several American cities had laws that made it illegal for people with “unsightly or disgusting” disabilities to appear in public. Some of these laws were called “unsightly beggar ordinances”. The first ordinance was in San Francisco in 1867, but the most commonly cited law was from Chicago. Chicago Municipal Code section 36034 stated: “No person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object or improper person to be allowed in or on the public ways or other public places in this city, or shall therein or thereon expose himself to public view, under a penalty of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offense.”

Operation Wetback

Operation Wetback began in 1954 in California and Arizona as an effort to remove all illegal, Mexican immigrants from the Southwestern states. The Operation was by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and coordinated 1,075 border control agents along with state and local police agencies. The agents went house-to-house looking for Mexicans and performed citizenship checks during traffic stops. They would stop any “Mexican-looking” person on the street and insist on seeing identification. Operation Wetback was only abandoned after a large outcry from opponents in both the United States and Mexico.

Sundown Towns

Sundown Towns did not allow people who were considered “minorities” to remain in the town after the sun set. Some towns posted signs at their borders specifically telling people of color to not let the sun set on them while in the town. There were town policies and real estate covenants in place to support the racism, which was enforced by local police officers. Sundown Towns existed throughout the United States and there were thousands of them before the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited racial discrimination in housing practices. Sundown Towns simply did not want certain ethnic groups to stay in their towns at night. If undesired people were to wander into a Sundown Town after the sun had set, they would be subject to any form of punishment from harassment to lynching. While the state of Illinois had the highest number of Sundown Towns, they were a national phenomenon that mostly targeted anyone of African, Chinese, and Jewish heritage.

Today…… Broken Windows Laws Current “Quality of Life” laws also take a certain population into account: homeless persons. Using these laws, people are criminalized for simply walking, standing, sleeping, and other regular human behaviors. In other words, they are penalized and harassed simply because of who they are. Just as with Jim Crow, Ugly Laws, Anti-Okie Laws, and Operation Wetback, how people look and their very existence is the basis for charging them with criminal behaviors.

Posted on August 27, 2012 by WRAP Comms

This Crow Won’t Fly:
http://wraphome.org/?p=2466&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=119

Criminalization Fact Sheet:

http://wraphome.org/?p=2474&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=119

Read Full Post »

Jason Houk * Medford City Buzz Examiner * December 4th, 2010 3:48 pm PT

At the edge of the community plaza in Ashland Oregon, a group of homeless people have come together to try to raise awareness about the growing problem of poverty, homelessness and the need for a safe campground within the city limits. Ashland is a vibrant community in Southern Oregon that is well known as the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It’s a little city of about 22,000 people that lies nestled in the valley surrounded by hills and mountains in an area that seems to draw a fair number of dreamers, artists, poets and writers. It’s a place with a tourist driven economy and one that has skirted around the issue of homeless residents for many years.

Technically it isn’t illegal to be homeless in Ashland, but it is also not legal to sleep outside on public property either and therein lies the dichotomy.

It’s about eight o clock on a Friday night, on the fifth day protesters have gathered in the plaza. It is cold enough to see your breath as about a dozen people stand next to a bus stop holding signs asking for solutions.

Some of the signs seem a little angry, but this is largely a peaceful group. “Civil rights, basic human rights are being denied. It’s unacceptable,” says Stephanie Joy, a young woman who is currently homeless. In the distance there are holiday shoppers and fire dancers, and as Stephanie speaks, area residents driving by honking in support.

“I’m convinced that more families will be affected by this and there is a coldness in that.” She pauses for a moment and continues, “It’s also good though in a sense because it is forcing people not to be so distracted. They are talking about it.”

Protests began earlier in the week when police rousted a group of homeless campers sleeping in a wooded area above Lithia Park in Ashland. It was after midnight and the group had nowhere to go. They had been frustrated by earlier encounters with Ashland PD. People who are caught sleeping, camping or cooking on public property face fines and harassment. Finally in a move of desperation the group took up the protest in downtown Ashland across from City Hall.

On the sidewalk under the protesters, some folks have written messages in colorful chalk. One says that Jesus slept outside and above the sidewalk at the entrance of the plaza there is a large lit up menorah. About a million gold lights have been carefully hung up throughout the area so that each downtown shop is illuminated. And in the middle of all of this holiday cheer there are homeless men and women lined up on the sidewalk holding signs, waiting.

Ashland police have issued several citations this week related to the protest. Police say that so far, nobody has been arrested since they have all agreed to keep moving when they have been asked to move on. The general consensus among the protesters seems to be that since they do not have anywhere to go, they are all staying put and will keep protesting and fighting for a legal camping space.

Earlier this week, Ashland’s Police Chief Terry Holderness was quoted in an NBC interview as saying that homeless people could get a free bus ticket to Medford, Oregon where there are social services in place for them. Medford Police Chief Randy Schoen says that “Medford already has a significant homeless population and that is largely due to the social services Chief Holderness has mentioned. The County Health Department, the Veteran’s Administration, job counseling services, drug and alcohol recovery services, shelters and etc are located in Medford. Often these services are close to capacity and in the case of shelters there are times people have to be turned away. This is not just an Ashland or a Medford issue. This is a county wide issue. The Homeless Task Force has some good ideas but often those ideas are limited by access to funding.”

In the meantime other ideas are flowing. “A homeless council could possibly come out of this,” says Critter Salent who is one of the homeless men in the group, “and anyone who does not have a house or pay rent could be on it, so we could have a voice.”

Sean Gordon, a local passerby thinks that one solution might be to get some of the homeless to help keep the downtown area clean. “Sweeping up in front of businesses could go a long way in establishing people’s credibility and they would get business owners support, community support. It’s good karma, he says.”

As the evening progresses the atmosphere changes when four Ashland city police cars suddenly converge on the plaza. Officers gather at the south end of the plaza as the protesters nervously hold their ground. It is still early and the police withdraw but the protesters know the officers will be back.

When asked what the protesters need Critter responds “We need people to come out…” noting they have received some public support, folks standing in solidarity and delivering food and beverages to the determined group.

The challenges facing Ashland and its homeless citizens are not unique to this community. Ashland is in a position to demonstrate compassion and become a leader in finding solutions. If any community has the ability, resources and will it is Ashland, Oregon. “We have to start cooperating together,” says Stephanie Joy.

Vanessa Houk contributed to this article.

http://www.examiner.com/city-buzz-in-medford/ashland-oregon-homeless-protest-for-solutions-city-standoff

Read Full Post »

We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. ~ Edward R. Murrow

Ashland Oregon Criminalizing Laws Target Homeless – One Ordinance States “Sleeping Prohibited”
October 19, 2008
by freedomrebel

When a city like Ashland, Oregon passes laws targeting the homeless it sends a clear message that they are not welcome. It sends another message that beneath the thin veneer; society considers them worthless. Instead of lending a helping hand, most people cross to the other side of the street to avoid them. As if they have something that is contagious. This lack of empathy I find to be heartbreaking.

McCain’s home state of Arizona is one of the places where 32 homeless people died on the streets of Phoenix, in the summer of 2005. Four homeless men died of heat exposure, in one weekend, in the summer of 2006. Sad statistics that I’m sure did not even get a mention in the local paper. When cities like Phoenix and Ashland could solve the problem easily by building homeless shelters.

The ACLU of Oregon is challenging Ashland’s anti-camping ordinance.

The Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon calls upon the City of Ashland to amend its “Prohibited Camping” ordinance from one that punishes poverty and homelessness into one that prods the city to provide housing for the homeless.

The city’s inhumane anti-camping law is inconsistent with the values of the Ashland, and the ACLU calls for immediate reform.

“The poor should not be punished simply for being poor, and that’s what this law does in Ashland,” said the ACLU of Oregon Executive Director David Fidanque. “The city of Ashland and all cities should seek to address the underlying issues of homelessness and poverty, rather than enacting and enforcing laws that target those who are homeless.”

In a report released today, the Southern Oregon Chapter calls on the Ashland City Council to make the specific revisions to the Prohibited Camping Ordinance, Municipal Code Section 10.46, and to the related “Sleeping Prohibited” ordinance, Section 10.68.230:

Section 10.46.020 (“Camping Prohibited”) should be amended to provide that, except as set forth in Section 10.46.030, the prohibitions in this ordinance shall not apply between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m., unless and until at least 50 units of permanent supportive housing are created within the City of Ashland, at least 50 percent of which are centrally located. These units must be created for current or chronically homeless persons.

Section 10.46.050 (“Penalties”) should be amended to lower the offense in Subsection A to a “violation,” to correct the erroneous reference in Subsection B to Section 1.08.010, and to correct the next to last word in Subsection B from “rebuttal” to “rebuttable.

Section 10.68.230 (“Sleeping Prohibited”) should be repealed.

The “Sleeping Prohibited” is way over the top. Ashland is by far not the worse for their poor treatment of the homeless; actually that goes to Florida.

Florida historically is “one of the worst states for criminalizing homelessness.” Stoops points out an Orlando ordinance that limits feeding homeless people in public places. In April 2007, undercover cops were sent to Orlando’s Lake Eola Park, to arrest Eric Montanez for feeding 30 homeless people – five more than the city’s 25-person limit.

“You can feed pigeons, dogs and squirrels, but God forbid you try to feed the homeless,” Stoops says.

In many cases, ours laws protect animals better than they do people. It makes me yearn for the stories my grandmother use to tell me about – during the depression – when her family of 11, use to feed the homeless that would come to their back door for a meal. They didn’t have any money but they never turned away a single person that came to the door hungry. It was the worst of times that brought out the best in people.

http://tpzoo.wordpress.com/2008/10/19/ashland-oregon-criminalizing-laws-target-homeless-%E2%80%93-one-ordinance-states-%E2%80%9Csleeping-prohibited%E2%80%9D/

Read Full Post »

Foot Care Program for the People who are Experiencing Homelessness
http://www.nursescare.net/homeless_footcare.htm

“The foot care problems for people who are homeless are great and are a major deterrent for one to getting or maintaining a job. The average homeless person stands in lines about 4 hours a day and walks on the average of 35 miles a day usually on cement! If they are able to stay in a center that has no beds available they must sleep upright adding to their increasing their painful foot swelling.

Other problems usually include chronic foot infections, immersion foot (like Trench Foot) caused from being in wet socks & shoes too long, as well as severe calluses, blisters, and ingrown nails from poor (if any) socks and ill fitting shoes. Then of course in the winter there is the excruciatingly painful problem of frostbite….”

“A program sponsored by Nurses Foot Care Services is hoping to eliminate many of these peoples’ foot problems. After screening and treating them for the most immediate problems this group of volunteer nurses and nursing students will be doing intensive education on prevention as well as referrals. These people will be shown how to correctly, wash, rinse, dry, and screen their feet for problems. They will be taught how to file their toenails and pick out correctly fitting socks and shoes. Exercises & diet ideas to decrease their foot swelling will also be taught. They will also be given washable reusable nail files, good clean seamless socks, and shoes as needed.”

This program looks worthwhile for someone who needs shoes, socks, foot medical care, use of a sink and toe nail clippers. However, people experiencing homelessness, like anyone else, know what their feet need; there’s not an educational problem. The problem is that people can’t get what they need if there is no place to rest, to get out of the rain and cold, no place to slip the shoes off, wash socks and feet. This “foot program” is a good example of a group of people really trying to help their sisters and brothers who are not otherwise having their needs met, but most important would be joining the struggle for dignity and justice with and for people living houseless.

As long as every human need is systematically denied to people who are living without shelter, as long as houseless people are prohibited from going in places to get warm and dry, prohibited from using a shower, bathroom or kitchen sink, as long as police continue, throughout the country, to punish and chase houseless people around wherever they are, not let them sit, lie down, or BE ANYWHERE for very long- many of us who are living houseless- of all ages, backgrounds, and educations- will continue to be sick, in pain… and die on the streets.

Defend Homeless People! Take down the “Bathrooms for Customers Only” signs! Speak Out Against Prejudice and Oppression! Join the Struggle for Dignity and Justice!!

Read Full Post »

Charlotte rejects anti-camping law

Measure was not a solution to issue of homelessness, critics say

By CHRIS GERBASI, Correspondent
Published: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.
http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20100714/ARTICLE/7141031/2055/NEWS

CHARLOTTE COUNTY - Following emotional pleas from the public to help Charlotte County’s homeless population, county commissioners narrowly rejected a proposed no-camping ordinance that critics said targeted the group.

The commission on Tuesday voted 3-2 against a ban on living or sleeping outdoors in a temporary shelter on public or private property without permission from the landowner. Commissioners Robert Skidmore, Richard Loftus and Adam Cummings voted against the ordinance; Commissioners Bob Starr and Tricia Duffy were in favor.

The proposal stemmed from complaints from residents and business owners about “vagrants” living in parks or near stores. Laws against street drinking and aggressive panhandling were previously passed this year.

About 15 people, some quoting from the Bible, the Constitution and the Statue of Liberty creed, addressed commissioners. Punta Gorda lawyer Michael Haymans and others questioned the proposed ordinance’s constitutionality. Some speakers said they were formerly homeless or work with the homeless. They said they fear the trend in the county to criminalize everyday activities of homeless people: sleeping, eating, sitting, begging.

“I’d like to see the trend in thinking change to something more positive,” said Angela Hogan, executive director of the county Homeless Coalition.

Several residents asked commissioners to find compassionate alternatives to help those most likely to be affected by the ordinance, the estimated 1,000 to 1,500 people living outdoors in the county. Suggestions included creating a tent city or new shelter on county property.

“I don’t understand why this commission is spending so much time looking at short-term punitive measures instead of short-term curative measures,” resident Michael Hirsh said.

Starr insisted that this is not a “homeless issue,” but rather about property rights and trespassing, and he had support from Duffy and just three residents who spoke.

Starr has said he wants to clear out all the unlawful campsites in the county as public health hazards. If he can get support from the board, he hopes to initiate a cleanup plan with the Public Works Department. He said there are an estimated 109 campsites, and the county has contacted most of the property owners, many of whom live out of state. He said about 70 percent of the respondents have granted permission to clean up the properties.

Skidmore said he favored such a cleanup, but argued that trespassing laws already exist to deal with illegal camping. He and Loftus questioned the costs involved with the ordinance for enforcement, prosecution and incarceration.

Cummings, who also voted against the drinking and panhandling ordinances, again said he was uncomfortable with treading on personal freedom.

“I oppose this ordinance because the intent behind it is unconstitutional,” he said.

County attorney Janette Knowlton said the language was based on a Sarasota city ordinance.

One provision would have given violators the chance to be taken to a shelter rather than be charged with the second-degree misdemeanor.

She said that if no bed space was available, the offender would be given a warning and not be arrested. But with typically few beds available at the coalition’s 53-bed shelter, Hogan said the ordinance would be “unenforceable.

Read Full Post »

Peace Protesters Call for an End to the Santa Cruz Sleeping Ban

Since July 4th, a couple dozen people have been protesting the Santa Cruz Sleeping Ban by camping each night from 8pm – 8am at the County Courthouse. Organizer Ed Frey says that the demonstration aims to “convince local and national government to stop breaching the peace, especially that of peaceful sleepers, and to instead use resources to discourage violence and warfare in all its forms.”

Indybay contributor Skidmark Bob spoke with Ed Frey, Robert Norse, and other campers who are participating in the civil disobedience in violation of the City of Santa Cruz Sleeping and Camping Ban, officially known as M.C. 6.36.010.

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/07/07/18652973.php

4th July 2010 Sleepout/Camping Ban Vigil at S.C. County Bldg. | Santa Cruz Courthouse Sleepout Day 3 |Free the Land on Peace Camp Night 3

Read Full Post »

The word is that raids will begin on Monday, July 19th. Cops hunt down outside-sleeping people every night, but these raids will be broad-sweeping and perhaps more orchestrated.

These raids will violate the rights of the houseless people. There are no legal, free-of-charge places to sleep in Eureka (or Arcata), so there are no options for almost all people who have no shelter except to sleep where they can find a hidden piece of ground. Then ya gotta be able to protect yourself from the rain, wind, cold, dew.

This is not a new situation. But all too often, people who are housed dismiss the reality of the situation by simply saying, “Well, there are homeless shelters for them to go to.” That is completely INACCURATE.

All of us need to sleep. That is a NECESSITY. And even the crooked, ruled by the rich courts of the U.S. say that because none of us can go without sleep, it is more of a “significant evil” to deprive a person of sleep (as do the laws against sleeping on public property and the cops who wake people up) than to break a law that prohibits you from sleeping. When someone is punished for something- like sleep- which they cannot go without, it is (here’s the court again) “cruel and unusual punishment.” I would also call it discrimination. And the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, among other things completely defied by policies throughout the U.S. :

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and
well-being of oneself and of one’s family, including food, clothing,
housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to
security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood,
old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond one’s control.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 25, Section (1)

So, if you’re a person who still needs to see something in the “law books” to really believe it’s legitimate, there is plenty to support that people have a right to sleep, even when they don’t pay rent somewhere. And if there are no available options besides a small piece of Earth (or a doorway, or a dumpster or a person’s own vehicle), people are to be left alone.

These raids of sleeping people violate a bunch of human and Constitutional rights, including the right to privacy, to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, etc. When cops (or John Shelter in Eureka or John Cassali in SoHum) steal and/or destroy peoples’ property, it doesn’t matter what they want to call it- “cleaning up”, “helping out”, “warning” -it is illegal. It is stealing. It’s cruel. It ain’t right.

Another thing that happens during these raids (and any random night): When the cops approach someone sleeping (how scary, huh?), they not only wake the person up (say 3:30am, flashlight in the eyes, hand on the gunbelt), but they often physically hurt the person. Cops slash tents, kick people in the ribs, threaten people with guns, pull folks out of their vehicles, grab people’s arms so hard they bruise, bang on windows, tow away someone’s only private space… It IS really that bad.

Every Saturday there are PEOPLE PROJECT meetings at PARC [Peoples' Action for Rights and Community] at 1:30pm. These are spaces where we can figure out how we will fight this painful and ongoing injustice.

Please contact PEOPLE PROJECT if you want to do something about this upcoming raid situation. (707) 442-7465

Read Full Post »

HUFF [Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom] is soliciting blankets, sleeping bags, pillows, tarps, and food donations for our nightly event. Please come by, sign our petition, and lie down with us against the Sleeping Ban (MC 6.36.010 section a). If you would like to add your name to our list of endorsers, please e-mail me back at the above e-mail address. — Becky Johnson of HUFF

Homeless, their advocates sleep at county courthouse to protest Santa Cruz’s camping ban

By Kimberly White
Posted: 07/06/2010 01:30:54 AM PDT

found online at: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ ci_15446448

SANTA CRUZ — A handful of homeless men and homeless rights advocates gathered in front of the Santa Cruz County courthouse Monday night, spreading out blankets and unfurling their sleeping bags in a willful violation of a city ordinance that prohibits camping within city limits.

Leigh, who declined to provide his last name, was preparing to sleep out on the courthouse steps for the second night. He said he has lived in Santa Cruz for 35 years and has been “houseless” for the last four or five years.

“I understand at some legal level why the ban was implemented, ” he said. “I also understand that it was implemented due to the city’s intentional oversight in the creation of housing and jobs for people that actually live here. They’re in violation of the state charter that requires them to build housing for people that actually work here, or at least plan for it.”

He called the ban a “draconian measure” aimed at making it “harder for people that they do displace to stay here” and then criminalizing the resulting behavior.

“The problem is, for a lot of people here, there’s no place to go,” he said.

Organizers of the “Peace Camp” say they will continue camping on the courthouse steps every night from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. until the city either scraps what they call a “sleeping ban” or creates a safe shelter with additional capacity.

Santa Cruz Vice Mayor Ryan Coonerty said the city attorney automatically dismisses any citations handed out for illegal camping, provided there is proof that all available beds at the various shelters around the city are full.

“He’ll dismiss it,” agreed Ed Frey, a local attorney who helped organize the protest, “but he won’t stop the police from waking people up, writing them a ticket, making them go to court twice, and go over to the homeless services shelter and get an affidavit to the effect that there were no beds available that night. And then the law, in its majesty, will grant you a not guilty verdict.”
According to the 2009 Santa Cruz Homeless Census and Survey, about 2,260 people in the county are homeless.

Coonerty estimated that through a combination of city programs and a partnership with area churches, roughly 400 beds are available each night — and the latest report that came out last month showed that the shelters averaged about 84 percent capacity total.

“I’m not even sure that any area churches are participating anymore in that program,” said Becky Johnson, a member of advocacy group HUFF, or Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom, which is backing the protest. HUFF estimates that shelter space is available for only 8 percent of that population, or about 180.

She said the Interfaith Satellite Shelter Project is now redirecting their staffing and funding into the Paul Lee Loft, a new facility at the Homeless Services shelter.

Frey said about 10 of the about 30 people who arrived at the courthouse lawn Sunday night slept there overnight. Deputies eventually came by “and checked us out,” he said, but ultimately left without issuing any citations.

Paul Tashiro, patrol supervisor for the Sheriff’s Office, saw several people camped out on the platform in front of the courthouse Sunday night, but said no citations were issued because the protesters were peaceful and not creating any disturbances.

In fact, Tashiro said Monday afternoon — before that evening’s vigil began — that he didn’t even know what they were protesting.
“I don’t know how much attention they brought to the homelessness issue in the middle of the night on a holiday weekend,” he said when he learned that they are protesting the sleeping ban. He noted that if they are gone by 8 a.m. today, “they won’t disrupt any services because the county doesn’t even open until after 8 a.m.”

Asked what the advocates hope to accomplish, Frey said they want to “put pressure on the city government and courts to do the right thing” and stop depriving the homeless of sleep. Instead of forcing the homeless to jump through so many hoops to get the fines dismissed, police should simply call the shelter themselves to confirm that it is full, he said.

“The solution is to follow the law … which gives the homeless a right to privacy, a right to be left alone, a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, a right to due process of the law, and a right to be free from torture,” Frey said.

“If they think it’s unconstitutional, they should challenge it,” Coonerty said. “If they want to change the policy, they should have people run for City Council. … I don’t think camping out is the most effective way” to create the change they want.

Read Full Post »

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/03/20/18642123.php

Homeless Frame-Up by Cops and City Attorney Defeated in Rare Court Victory
by Robert Norse

Saturday Mar 20th, 2010 4:59 PM

The City’s “Go to Sleep; Go to Jail” campaign suffered a rare setback with two “Not Guilty” verdicts after a four-hour contempt hearing for Anna Richardson and Miguel deLeon on Friday, March 19th. Judge Timothy Volkman returned to the plain language of MC 6.36.010c which makes sleeping, even on blankets, even with your possessions around you, a legal activity during the day if you have no intention of remaining overnight and haven’t “set up a campsite”, no matter how much that infuriates police officers who want you to move along.

BREAKFASTING WITH THE BIRDS

The day began outside the main entrance of the courthouse at 8:15 AM with a free breakfast provided by Joe Schultz, soon to open a new restaurant downtown on Front St. Schultz has long been a supporter of homeless protest actions in Santa Cruz, a rare exception to the cowed, indifferent, or hostile response of many merchants downtown.

The Downtown Association, whose former executive director Peter Eberle, voted to end the entire Camping Ban in 1999 when he was on the Homeless Issues Task Force has since refused to even discuss modifying the Sleeping Ban sections of the camping ordinance under the leadership of its new director, “Chip”.

Over a dozen homeless people munched coffeecake, sipped coffee,and spoke out about their experiences outside. Curbhugger Chris Doyen passionately denounced the existing laws that target homeless survival behavior like sleeping and sitting in public places. Congressional Candidate and Attorney Ed Frey (pronounced “fry”) described his appeal of the case of Robert “Blindbear” Facer on the grounds that waking people up is torture and requiring people to wake up, get ticketed, move, and get a letter asserting what everyone knows–that there’s no shelter–is cruel & unusual punishment.

Anna Richardson’s pro bono Jonathan Gettleman, decked out in a dark court-friendly suit, said his main focus today would be keeping his clients out of jail. “Compassion, not more punishment” is required, Gettleman noted, adding “everyone knows the shelters are wholly inadequate. People don’t want to be treated like they’re in prison just cause they want to sleep…”

JUDGE VOLKMAN’S INITIAL POSITION

Initially things didn’t look too good. Attorneys Mark Briscoe and Jonathan Gettleman sitting alongside defendant Miguel deLeon faced City Attorney John Barisone. Judge Volkman dismissed all of the defense’s concerns about the May 2009 Injunction itself being improper, the minute order served not matching Barisone’s final language, and Barisone’s affidavit being incomplete. The complaints were police reports and citations from three officers, one of whom, Officer Martin, was on vacation.

Barisone decided (ill advisedly as it turned out) to proceed with the case without Officer Martin, who was apparently 50% of his case. The one point the Gettleman/Briscoe defense team won was a ruling from the judge that “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” was the standard the City Attorney had to meet, since the penalty involved possible jail time and was hence ‘quasi-criminal”. Some thought the reason Barisone was using a Civil Injunction was to evade the need for a real trial with a high standard of proof and more protections for the defendants.

Barisone also chose not to use the “three infractions ignored makes a misdemeanor” law which he and City Council added to the city code in January 2009 over the objections of homeless advocates. Did this mean that the two homeless musicians had either dealt with all their citations, or hadn’t gotten three since May 2009? Or was Barisone simply using a procedure with less protection for the defendants (a civil Injunction that seems to circumvent the need for a jury trial, is not susceptible of appeal, and provides for no appointed public defender)?

The “case” for contempt itself involved four incidents of police contact between the two and Officers Winston, Forbus, and Martin. The issue wasn’t sleeping at night or sleeping at all, even though the cops woke them up, prompting their anger. The issue was “setting up a campsite with the intention of remaining overnight” downtown in the “forbidden zone” created by Barisone and ratified by Judge Burdick in May (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_12483386?IADID=Search-www.santacruzsentinel.com-www.santacruzsentinel.com).

Three witnesses testified–Officers Forbus and Winston and homeless expert Linda Lemaster. Forbus and Winston are downtown beat officers under the jurisdiction of Sgts. Harms and Garner, to whom they reportedly pass on reports of all contacts with the two targeted homeless musicians. Lemaster previously served the city as Chair of the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women and of the Homeless Issues Task Force. She is currently on the County’s Homeless Action Partnership.

THE ISSUES AND LINDA LEMASTER’S TESTIMONY

The key legal issues under scrutiny were (1) what determines whether a person as “set up a campsite” and (2) what is the standard for proving they had “an intention to remain overnight”.
Both connditiosn are required to cite and convict someone during the day under MC 6.36.010c. At night just sleeping or covering up with blankets after 11 PM is itself illegal on all public property, on much private property, in any structure that isn’t a house or hotel, and in any vehicle parked on public property. A third was whether the presence of homeless possessions next to an individual sitting, lying, or sleeping was itself significant or sufficient evidence of a campsite and an intention to remain overnight.

Lemaster testified there was a waiting list for storage lockers at the Homeless Services Center and insisted that commercial storage lockers are out of reach for anyone without a stable income. She talked about her own difficult experiences when a homeless mom. Barisone vigorously cross-examined her, suggesting that lockers were available for storing homeless property without even hinting at any evidence. He volunteered that homeless failure to apply for shelter and services indicates a conscious scofflaw mentality and not a function of the wearisome homeless treadmill. Finally he ignored the well-known and unchanging lack of shelter space and services. “Many homeless people stop trying,” said Lemaster. “They are pressured over time to give up on waiting lists and application hurdles in order to stay focused on immediate survival needs.”

Lemaster subsequently claimed that numbers of local homeless people exceed access to even momentary public aid by a facto of more than 15-1. “Homelessness,” she noted, “is a growing epidemic that will not be resolved by municipalities.” “It is profoundly immoral to simply pluck out the most egregious presences on Pacific Avenue, while ignoring the forces that destroy everyone else outside until they get sick or angry or messy or die.”

Last year’s county homeless death figure was nearly three times that of the prior year (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/12/19/18633184.php?show_comments=1#18633349).

Not discussed at all were the difficulties involved even when Armory shelter space is available. Shelter space is never available in the late spring, summer, and early fall for 95% of the chronically homeless who apply, according to Lemaster. Requirements include: Show up early and so miss work opportunities; Face what some call unhealthful conditions sleeping in a room on the floor with many coughing and sick people; Show picture ID; Deal with what some have described as discriminatory treatment by ill-paid staff and Armory personnel; Abandon most of one’s property during the night; Accept sexually segregated sleeping conditions; etc.
etc.

BAD SENTINEL REPORTING

Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown sat through the proceedings and wrote a heavily merchant-friendly story. It mostly ignored the deeper legal issues and repeated deceptive and incomplete descriptions from prior stories. J.M. Brown cast the two defendants in a bad light, highlighting merchant fears and unproven allegations. (See “Judge dismisses some charges in preliminary injunction against S.C. couple accused of violating city’s camping ban” at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_14711762?source=rss).

Brown nowhere mentioned the costs of the proceeding nor indicated the bizarre nature of the patently fraudulent charges (even under the abusive wording of the Injunction covering downtown sleeping and the absurd Sleeping Ban making it illegal everywhere else). Apparently he didn’t think to ask the City Attorney: “Why would you think that two people sleeping at midday with their possessions downtown constituted a campsite?” “How could that possibly mesh with the wording of the law and the Injunction?” “Why would you spend city time and money and waste the court’s time with this?”

Reporter Brown repeated the unproven, irrelevant, and inflammatory charges of “bathing in a fountain”, “destroying trees” , “trespassing” and other claims rejected in the May Injunction hearing, Those smears were not permitted in this contempt hearing which was specifically held to determine only whether the two were violating the Camping Ordinance in the forbidden Downtown zone–the only behavior the Injunction bans, and the only “crimes” alleged.

It was not proven at the May 2009 hearing that created the original injunction that Richardson and DeLeon were a Public Nuisance, simply that they were regularly charged (but not convicted) of violating the unconstitutional Sleeping Ban. This alone was the grounds for labeling them a “nuisance per se”, not any substantial nuisance behavior. Thus was created this unique Injunction which bans an essential human function–sleeping, and set the two up as police targets. Not because their behavior specifically injured anyone, but because nighttime homeless sleeping is and has been illegal in Santa Cruz since 1978.

Brown used [phrases like “vagrancy”–an outdated and prejudicial epithet which criminalizes poor people outside for their status). “Years of negative public perception about safety issues” echoes a paranoid merchant perception–but the two are not charged with any violent crimes. Brown quotes Mayor Rotkin at length, who as usual talks out of both sides of his mouth–professing compassion for the homeless, but supporting the Sleeping Ban–which makes homeless people criminals for a life-sustaining act. All that De Leon and Richardson were charged with was sleeping during the day. Iinstead of grilling Rotkin on where homeless people can park their bones or researching the shelter realities, Brown simply mouths authority propaganda.

Misleading and sloppy reporting includes such comments as “limitations on loitering”. There is no such crime; City Council under pressure from gentrification advocates and merchants intent on blaming homeless people for the economic depression has made more than 95% of the city’s sidewalks in business districts a crime to sit on, and peacefully spare change on. A huge expanse has also been made forbidden territory for political tabling or busqueing.

MY RESPONSE TO THE SENTINEL STORY ON THEIR WEBSITE

I wrote the following commentary in response to Brown’s Sentinel article which covers some more points (somewhat modified in this reprinting):

City Attorney Barisone’s arrogance strikes again. As with another recent case where he’s wasted over $100,000 of the City’s money (and intends to waste more), this one was a really bad call.(See http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci… )

Anna and Miguel were sleeping downtown during the day–an activity not forbidden by Burdick’s injunction. But when harassed by Officers Forbus and Winston, they refused to move (as was their right since they were doing nothing illegal). So maybe the two officers, out of resentment that their heavy-handed authority was being properly and caustically challenged, wrote phony tickets without probable cause to further intimidate the two.

The tickets “worked” in that the two defendants gathered together their possessions and left. They also provided grist for Sgt. Garner and Barisone’s stalking agenda: holding the two in contempt and jailing them.

However, sleeping during the day is not “setting up a campsite” and even a judge nervous about offending the merchants and politicians knows that. It may show the depth of Barisone’s arrogance (or perhaps his indifference–after all, he gets paid regardless) that he proceeded to drag these two into court on what were obviously false charges.

Further aggravating the situation for those of watching the trial was the fact that apparently the cops did not say they’d gotten any specific complaints about the two sleepers. It was just two thugs in uniform showing their power or currying favor with the city attorney–at what may ultimately be a significant cost to the city.

Exerting naked power against people–even poor people–can piss them off, especially when it’s illegal.

Volkman had no choice but to find the accused not guilty of contempt. Barisone should have known that from the getgo. Barisone and his two cop witnesses should be held liable for harassment as well as misuse of public funds.

Even those whose agenda is characterizing visible homeless people sparechanging downtown as “bums” should get together to dump these incompetents.

Ironically sleeping during the day is the only legal option for all homeless people in Santa Cruz since sleeping at night is banned under MC 6.36.010a.

So Anna and Miguel sleeping at 1:40 PM and 5:20 PM in the afternoon were actually trying to follow the law.

Present in the audience watching this farce were Mayor Rotkin, Councilmember Robinson, Julie Hende, and no doubt a number of other notable bigoted bureaucrats. Boy, bigotry is bad, but stupidity when mixed with bigotry is even more ludicrous. And making a public spectacle out of this makes them all a laughingstock. Which, given the abuse they’re trying to bring to homeless people, is what they deserve.

For more background go to http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/03/15/1… and http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/03/18/1… .

Those interested in real solutions should consider how much cheaper it would be to set up a campground and acknowledge the clear and present reality the immense shelter deficiency in Santa Cruz puts the City in very vulnerable spot legally and wretched position ethically.

TIME FOR ANOTHER KIND OF INJUNCTION?

The one positive thing to come out of this case (other than exposing the incompetence and/or corruption of the police and city attorney) is the revelation that police are now (perhaps under instruction from their supervisors) misusing section c of the camping ordinance–which says folks can be ticketed anytime if they’re “setting up a campsite with the intent of remaining overnight”.

This means there is no “safety zone” as Vice-Mayor Coonerty insisted several years ago, that allows homeless people to sleep during the day and so makes our city different from Los Angeles, San Diego, Laguna Beach, and other places that have had courts overturn their Sleeping Bans.

It may be time to go back to court with a lawsuit–and this time the Injunction will be against the City and the Police, and not against homeless sleepers.

COMING UP SOON: SINISTER SONGSTER CITATION TRIALS

Two homeless activists, a homeless musician, and an innocent passerby were falsely given $445 citations last January for singing political songs in front of the Bookshop Santa Cruz. Officer Shoenfeld refused to say herself whether the singing she heard at 3 PM on a Wednesday afternoon, was “unreasonably disturbing”. Because the singers refused to move, but did agree to sing more quietly (and stopped singing at Shoenfeld’s request), Sheofeld apparently orchestrated the citizen’s arrest from a resident of the St. George—Simon Reilly by falsely informing Reilly that the singers refused to sing more quietly.

Some of the story is told at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/01/20/18635743.php (“Sinister Street Singers Cited on Sidewalk”).

On March 25th at 1:30 PM in Dept. 10 (the basement of the County Building) the innocent bystander, a teacher named Michelle, will go to trial in the court of Commissioner Kim Baskett.

On March 26th at 10 AM, activist Becky Johnson will go to trial in Dept. 1 (first courtroom to your left as you pass the metal detector) in front of Judge Symons.

On April 27th, Robert “Blindbear” Facer is due to go to trial at 1:30 p.m. Dept. 10.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship &; Freedom) will likely be sponsoring an outdoor meal to encourage the community to have a bite to eat and then witness the proceedings in the hopes that these ridiculous charges will be dismissed, encouraging the police not to use citizens as catspaws.

Judge Volkman at the Injunction Contempt Hearing commended the audience for coming and the presence of the audience may have had a positive effect in helping him hold the line against a lawless city attorney whose main concern seems to be running disfavored homeless people out of town or out of sight.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 33 other followers