Kathy Anderson of People For A Human Rights Sanctuary
a tent is affordable housing
Eureka City Council Mtg.
Sept. 21, 2010
Dear Council members:
Article 1: Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
As a council that has publicly stated that you, therefore Eureka, supports The Universal Declaration of Human Rights I need to ask you how the conscience of the city can continue using decades old attempts to “handle” the homeless problem that have failed. You have sunk millions of dollars into sheltering, policing and jailing people yet homelessness is on the rise.
20+ years ago and most every year since, you’ve had homeless activists/advocates talk to you about a campground and you always refuse. Then John Shelter comes to you with his New Directions Program that you funded. According to the program description, once John OK’s people to camp, they need not worry about becoming a criminal with a camping violation.
Last week a couple who lives in the marsh with an agreement between them and John was violated by a police officer who threatened to arrest this couple for trespassing and “maintaining a public nuisance”.
Can you imagine having an officer come to where you live telling you that you must leave by tomorrow or you’ll go to jail? Does that sound dignified? The officer (M.Harpham) also added insult to the threat and cut the ropes to their tarp and destroyed the door that keeps out the rain. I’ve taken many complaints from people in my neighborhood who have had the cops slash and otherwise destroy their belongings.
Where do homeless people go to when their agreements with the New Directions Program have been violated? Are you still employing New Directions, if not, when are you going to tell the public?
For more than 20 years you’ve been told of the necessity for a campground set up to provide basic sheltering and sanitation for those in housing poverty. We’ve told you that housing for every income need must be supplied to our communities or suffer with homelessness indefinitely. Today we have a saturated rental market because those who used to own are renting and those who rented are homeless because the owners were foreclosed upon and no low income housing is slated to be built this year. So where are people living? In the forests and the bushes along the bay and you have hired the police to take care of our housing shortage by criminalizing people in poverty and despair!
The welfare department recognizes that people need tents and sleeping bags and will refer people to Saint Vinnie’s for free ones if they have some donations. There are hundreds of others who have voiced their approval of a campground and who would volunteer to set up and support when they are needed.
I ask that the city work out a way to secure “common space” for people without housing to set up camp as transitional housing until the housing needs of the area become stabilized. Please don’t look to professionals to quantify needs, homeless people and activists are far more logical and realistic than are those who have financial interest in these things.
Today, September 22, 2010, I was called by Maria within the hour after I helped them relocate to a new camp spot telling me that the cops were “raiding” again and she was afraid. After calling Verbena to report the raid I went to the marsh and walked with James, Maria and dogs, down to where the patrol cars (2) were. We spoke with Murl Harpham and an unknown officer. I asked Harpham why he threatened to arrest this couple when they had an agreement with John Shelter. He said because it is illegal to camp here. I asked why did the city give $20,000 to New Directions, and he said it was so that John Shelter could teach people how to camp respectfully and clean up the marsh. I asked why the city would pay John $20,000 to teach campers how to camp if camping is illegal. Officer Harpham then told me that he would have to tell John to stop doing that. My understanding of what he was saying is that EPD has jurisdiction and therefore what New Directions was hired to do is ineffectual to the “campers” and a waste of money to the city.
We need and must provide a Human Rights Sanctuary to give relief to people like Maria who worry everyday about her belongings and staying out of the rain.
We need quiet retreats where the mind can heal from too much noise and too many people.
We need a few acres in the woods where a garden can flourish from the care of hands that once were in handcuffs.
We need jobs available to people who can sculpt and build fascinating driftwood benches and art made of recycled materials found in the marsh along the path that will be built from a million dollar grant that was just awarded to the city of Eureka. I’ll bet we could get more grant money to employ people who would live and work in the marsh while building the trail. It could be fashioned into a project like what The Conservation Corps did during the Great Depression.
We need the cops to leave people alone.