Sunday, October 15, 2017

Grassroots Work During the Fires

Grassroots Work During the Fires
by a local Sonoma County wobbly and DSA member

----

On short notice I can only talk about of my own views, rather than speak for any of the horizontally structured groups I organize with.  I am extremely heartened and inspired by the passion and direct action of my comrades within the International Workers of the World (I.W.W.) and the Democratic Socialists of America (D.S.A.), who immediately stepped up and started organizing both direct aid to people in need and supply chains from such places as San Francisco and the East Bay.  To some extent this has meant giving supplies and volunteer time to officially sanctioned relief shelters in Sonoma County, but more notably it includes "filling the cracks" by helping the marginalized and vulnerable members of our community who spend most or all of their time living on the streets and in outdoor camps; people constantly and directly subjected to the horrible air quality, and who must additionally suffer the neglect of both widely recognized relief and recovery organizations and those which normally provide them services but are currently prioritizing privileged members of the community only /recently/ displaced by natural disasters and the deficiencies of our political-economic system.

We have been scrambling to collect lists of needs expressed both by shelters and those outside of them, and to find ways to fulfill those needs by utilizing both direct fundraising and donations to our organizations and the emergency supplies so generously provided by organizations like the Salvation Army.  We have visited Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Guerneville, Bodega Bay, Windsor, and nearby native communities to gather lists of requested supplies from shelters, camps, occupied areas, and reservations, and to fulfill those requests.  I have been personally amazed and inspired by the level of support, connection, and organization within the communities we have been visiting. There aren't many housed neighborhoods with a dedicated medic, or in which people can tell you off the tip of their tongues the shoe sizes and immediate needs of people five doors down in either direction!

It should be noted that, despite platitudes such as promises that people will not be deported directly from within the boundaries of shelters or asked for proof of citizenship or legal residency as a condition of shelter, many undocumented residents have expressed apprehension about the shelters, and have chosen to avoid them in preference for joining and building safer communities outside.  And we should obviously sympathize with such sentiments given:
  • the horrendous history of persecution of people deemed "illegal" by the state,
  • the constant presence outside shelters of the National Guard, replete with assault rifles, military fatigues, and combat vehicles,
  • direct involvement of the Department of Homeland Security under its guise as the "Office of Emergency Services."

Signs I saw that services provided by organizations such as the Red Cross and law enforcement were not sufficient included:
  • a representative in an official Red Cross vest at the Elsie Allen shelter indicating intention to discriminate based on economic status by telling us (direct quote) "this is not a homeless shelter,"
  • politicians and law enforcement representatives in "town hall" meetings ignoring the community and side-stepping direct answers to questions about curfews and disclosure of the obvious law enforcement involvement of the National Guard (did they simply forget to explain how assault rifles help fight roaring flames?),
  • the fact that Red Cross involvement was confined to shelters, with no obvious outreach to existing communities of homeless residents directly affected by the disaster,
  • direct testimony of people living on the street to the effect that services they had previously been offered in terms of meals and delivery of supplies had ceased,
  • immediate appearance of several portable toilets in Courthouse Square to serve the recently-displaced middle class (despite literally /years/ of attempts to get such facilities available to the homeless population), coupled with the continued absence of such facilities in locations immediately accessible to large communities of people living in camps and on the streets.
The more privileged members of the working class doubtless feel quite well-supported given the degree and immediacy of the aid they have received from the Red Cross and the state. However, they would do well to remember that many of them are now homeless, and possibly only a hair's breadth from suffering the same kind of political, economic, and social discrimination that their brothers and sisters outside on the streets have experienced for a very long time.  This—and the weeks, months, and years of recovery to come—should act as a wake up call, reminding us all that /an injury to one is an injury to all/.  Watch in the coming days as the flames and evacuations die down and the state-provided and state-sanctioned relief evaporate in the wind.  Shelters will quickly shut down, as they have already begun to do even as the fires still burn and evacuations continue. Businesses which haven't already will return to their usual profit-driven operation.  Unless there is tremendous intervention of activists from the community, housing will be in more dire need than ever and vulture developers, landlords, and other capitalists will swoop in.  Insurance claims will be denied in frightening numbers, and "low-interest loans" will proliferate the amount of personal debt residents must contend with.  FEMA will deny help to people who cannot demonstrate their "legality" to the state, despite their being as victimized by this disaster as anyone else. People who cannot afford or do not want corporate, for-profit recovery services will be kept from their property, denied both the necessary services and the training, supplies, and freedom to do it themselves.

I am committed not just to immediate relief but to long-term solutions, and I am confident that the individual activists and grassroots organizations I am organizing with share that commitment: while the state has been trying very hard—particularly in the midst and wake of disasters such as this one—to co-opt the term "mutual aid" for its own oppressive and divisive services, we will fight hard in our communities to ensure that the /real/ mutual aid practiced by their members for each other in horizontal and altruistic fashion is recognized, preserved, and strengthened; we will reinforce our ties to organizations that provide information and aid directly and through sites like https://sonomacounty.recovers.org; we will continue to provide aid ourselves, and encourage others to self-organize mutual aid networks of their own; we will continue the tradition of building intersectional support and solidarity across the whole working class, and build a society we can /all/ be proud of and benefit from.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

101 Encampment

Alicia   
 Tesla had already been counting, as per Victoria, so she has gotten 54 every night for the last 7 nights.  One lady has had a spinal tap and she is having issue with flys on her bandage.  Another elderly gentleman was dropped off last night by cab from the hospital.  He has his leg in a cast and uses a walker.  I am going to have to do a APS report there on monday.
 
Also she wanted to let us know that the cops were stopping by at 3am  for the last couple of nights and harassing the guys across the street about the bikes, taking down numbers and all, trying to pin a theft charge on them.  
  Report for Saturday, 10/30/17     Anita


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Talking with those living at the 6th Street 101 Underpass.


Last Thursday, at the Homeless Action meeting held at the Palms Inn, William volunteered to tak to those living at the underpass at 6th Street and 101 in Santa Rosa.  Here is his report:


William:
As my msg said 20 surveyed
 
I asked: "how long homeless"....
(some extrodenary #s... )
Some with housing vouchers... 
Some vets...
 
I asked: "why this particular location (under the bridge) the proximity to CC and Mission Topped the list..
Followed by Safety and community.
 
I asked also :"do you have a safe dry place to go if the area is swept away more purmanantly...
 
The answer was mostly NO... Most said they guessed they would find another place... But did not really know where...
 
Aditional comments were things like...
"They were not a "group", they were individual Human beings"
 
People fealt community/peer support huddled under the bridge. 
Women fealt safer... 
Men mostly clearly PTSD.
 
Not All were dual diagnosed... 
But mostly...
 
Some NOT into drugs or alcohol...
Some were there to use and score...
 
ALL had mental heath issues... 
(I directed several to the rocksy shuttle to wellness center.)
 
My observation was that for the most part it was totally clean.
No trash or butts.
Although one camp had ALOT of bikes and stuff blocking the sidewalk...
Out into the bike lane...

We thank William for his visit and report, and look forward to more of what he learns.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Promises

My name is Patrick Brewer, and I have been homeless for three years this November.  I am disabled, and unable to work.  I receive money from Social Security which is not enough for me to afford to rent or live in.  I barely have enough to survive.  I have talked and have asked various organizations that are supposed to work with homeless to better their situations, to which nobody has done anything to help me so far.  Many people have promised to help me.  Talk, talk, talk, always promise a lot. They don't follow through with.

Catholic Charities is the main entity which has breached their verbal contract to house me.  The police have victimized me multiple times.  I was convicted of a misdemeanor (shoplifting), and was placed on probation.  But they added a search and seizure clause that I can be search anytime, anywhere without probable cause.  I am a former paralegal, and have studied this topic, and have concluded that that the law says that I have waived my rights to privacy, and gave permission to whomever wants to search me.  Since being placed on probation, I have been searched over 20 times, to which I have been charged with 12 more misdemeanors and 2 felonies.  Each time I was searched, I was searched with no probable cause or reasonable suspicion.  It was only because they know I'm homeless, and am subject to e=search and seizure.  Most of the time, I have been as my bicycle rider, doing only business traveling to someplace, involved in no crimes or broken any traffic laws.  I have had them totally intrude and butt in on me in the place I used to stay at without any warning.  They poke their heads in, rip the door open, and pulls guns on me.  Every time they would trashed my place, my belongings they treated with no regard, breaking or damaging many things that I owned my possessions.  They ripped things apart, breaking objects, opening them up, dumping liquids from bottles and caps and containers, pouring liquids out and upon my things, not caring if it destroys my things.  They step and stomp upon my things no considering their actions.  They feel they the right to harass and intimidate and coerce me to injure my sense of freedom.  I feel I am in a concentration camp.  I am in fear and constant anxiety.  I realize I agreed to the terms of the probation, but only under duress.  They gave me no choice.  They basically made me agree or they would incarcerate me for the maximum time they could.  I have had to bail out three different times, and caused me great trouble and grief.  If not for the probation terms, I would not have received one charge.  I would have been charged with criminal conduct or breaking the law at the time of the conduct.  Not one time when the cops see, they automatically tell us  to stop, hands on head, turn around, and search me.  I am a I V drug user.  I am a heroin addict, and have to have heroin every day or I will get violently sick.  So I most of the time have heroin on my person.  Which they know this fact, and act upon it to abuse me and violate my rights as an American, as a citizen of the United States of America.    I am supposed to be protected.  It's my birth right, my God-given right.  But in Sonoma County, I feel I am slave, a non-citizen with no rights.  I pray every day for deliverance from this situation and relief from this plight.  Someone please help me, please.




Privacy Viiolations

September 11th, 2017
Santa Rosa, Ca

Tessala Mayer, am 55 years of age.  I am a resident of Santa Rosa.  Today, I witnessed or engaged in the following actions (actions taken in response to notice or police conduct.  Only what you saw, did, or experienced directly.  I have been homeless since July 2nd, 2017.  I am a survivor of domestic violence, and I am a disabled Vietnam veteran. 

Saturday morning, I was approached from a few of the people whom reside under the 6th Street where I stay, they informed me that an SRPD officer was unzipping all of the tents, not announcing himself, not asking anyone to wake up, get up, etc., nothing was said.  When I arrived, the officer was sitting in his car with one foot outside his car on the street.  I then informed all of the campers what he had done was illegal, and I went around and zipped all of the tents back up.  Most of them were still asleep, and had no knowledge of what had conspired.  The officer released the lady in his car, and drove away.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Empowerment

Greetings!

How would you feel if the money that supports you were given directly to your landlord, your doctor, your grocer, and your local bus system?  Would you feel like your independence and control were compromised?

I would.  I like the fact that I can chose where my money goes, and what I do with it.

So I'm going to propose we turn the financing of homeless service programs into what we all expect for ourselves.  What if we issued debit cards to everyone we serve, filled them with the funds we provide to our service organizations, and equipped the organizations with payment acceptance devices which additionally provided our system with the important service management information necessary for quality improvement.

Serving our customers and allowing them to provide the kind of feedback that incentivizes private businesses toward excellence, would seem a more effective means of insuring client-centered and focused services.  Additionally,  it moves us significantly forward in unifying our reporting systems to improve collaborations.

The technology is already here todo so.  Smart phones with charge cubes process credit cards for all of us, and backend databases analyze our movements and support our needs.  I'll bet there's a silicon valley startup which could be harnessed for this social benefit.

But that's not the key question.  Is the homeless service community ready and wiling to respond to their homeless clients in the same way that the rest of the world responds to us?


Gregory

Friday, August 25, 2017

S.R. City Council Agenda Item 14.2 California Voting Rights Act

Greetings!

14.2 REPORT - RESOLUTION - CALIFORNIA VOTING RIGHTS ACT

BACKGROUND: The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (the “Education Project”), through its attorney Kevin Shenkman, has submitted a certified letter challenging the City’s at-large election of council members. The Education Project alleges that racially polarized voting within the City has combined with the City’s at-large election system to impair the ability of Latino voters to elect candidates of their choice or to influence the outcome of an election. The Education Project thus alleges that the City’s at-large election system may violate the California Voting Rights Act, and it threatens litigation if the City does not voluntarily transition to a district-based election system. Attorney Shenkman has submitted similar claims against cities, counties and school districts throughout California. The City Attorney recommends that the Council give direction as to the appropriate response to the allegations.

RECOMMENDATION: It is recommended by the City Attorney that Council state its intent to respond to a legal challenge, brought under the California Voting Rights Act, to Santa Rosa’s at-large voting system. Council action may be by: 1) Motion directing staff to research and defend against claims that the City’s at-large election system violates the California Voting Rights Act; 2) Resolution stating Council’s intent to place a measure on the ballot in June 2018, or as soon thereafter as is practical, proposing an amendment to the City Charter to transition the City to a district-based election system, and directing staff to undertake associated actions; 3) Resolution stating Council’s intent to transition to district-based elections by ordinance adopted pursuant to Elections Code Section 10010 and Government Code Section 34886, and directing staff to undertake associated actions; or 4) Motion directing staff to seek declaratory relief in Superior Court.

Staff Report
Attachment 1
Resolution 1
Exhibit A Resolution 1
Resolution 2
Exhibit A Resolution 2





Census Data from 2000 & 2010

Greetings!

Reviewing the research gathered by Heather Bromfield and Eli Moore, of the Haas Institute, in their important new study entitled "Unfair Shares: Racial Disparities and the Regional Housing Allocation Process in the Bay Area", I pulled out some interesting facts on Santa Rosa's population and number of housing units built, and expected to be built, over a span of 23 years:


Demographics tot Pop White Black Hiisp Asian
Santa Rosa 2010 167815 100126 3660 47970 8521
Santa Rosa 2000 147595 104521 3177 28318 5675
Change 20220 -4395 483 19652 2846
Permits # of Mod+ # of LI-
Units 2014-2022 (Proj) 3134 1528
Units 2007-2014 1746 804
Units 1999-2007 563 61
Total 5443 2393


Santa Rosa Political Earthquake Coming

Greetings!

This Tuesday's Santa Rosa City Council Agenda's last item is an earth-shaker.

"14.3 REPORT - RESOLUTION - CALIFORNIA VOTING RIGHTS ACT

BACKGROUND:  On July 17, 2017, the City received a claim alleging that the City’s at-large election of councilmembers is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act.

RECOMMENDATION: It is recommended by the City Attorney that the Council, by resolution, state its intent to respond to claim regarding the City’s compliance with the California Voting Rights Act. "

We might as well declare a political emergency, and admit that everything else the City is doing is now on the back burner.  The City has 90 days to act if it wishes to avoid the payment of large legal fees, and the imposition of district election boundaries by a judge.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Santa Rosa Plans for Updating their Housing Action Plan

Greetings!

Santa Rosa's efforts to update their Housing Action Plan will involve many opportunities for the public to voice their opinions on the ideas presented, and to suggest ideas for consideration.  The City's Planning and Economic Development Website now contains a list of the elements of the Update, and a description of the upcoming process:

Housing Action Plan

Please check it out, and join us in making the City's latest housing development work a success.  if you have questions, or just want to follow along as the process unfolds, contact Homeless Action!
at 707 795-2890.

Gregory Fearon

Sunday, August 20, 2017

SR Council Lobbying

To Do
Listen to City Council video and take notes about what the council people said – Gregory
·       Rogers – Diversion supported for mental health and substance use, Portapotties, Disruptive not homeless, Impact on Jobs & youth.  Smoking, graffiti – Yes.  Sleeping in cars?  Alcohol & Drugs – services!  Restorative – SF QOL, More nuanced manner.
·       Coursey – Homeless Court?, not the only tool being used, housing not jail, use it sparingly, alternative outcomes.
·       Sawyer – Police Training?, Portapotties, What have we accomplished?, data quarterly.
·       Tibbetts – Bench Warrants for Infractions, Parked Cars, Restrooms, CHAP for residential,
·       Combs – Concerned about costs, Homeless Court, Data – Impact on Homeless, Beds Available, especially for ADA, PTSD, DV, MH.  Concerned about arresting for use of public spaces hen no private paces are available.  Trouble charging for sleeping, urinating when no facilities available.  Concerned for 12yr old boys, PTSD, DV, MH, Fathers w/Daughters.  No total costs, diversion, and data.
·       Olivares – Coordination being accomplished lately, prevention, authorized tool, tracking, transparency, point of contact for referrals,
·       Tom – Rules help us share the space, good police, caring, ending instead of just managing

E-mail Kelli and David to ask if they are going to write a better report for the next council meeting or simply present the MOU, what is the timeline for this to return to the council – Eileen

Analyze the City’s Press Release on Homeless Hill – Adrienne

Detail the money spent by the city on homelessness – Gregory
·       (Costs of Homelessness by SR Report, drawn from the 2017-18 Homeless Service Contract – HOST, 2017-2018 Homeless Service Contract – Sam Jones Shelter & Winter Shelter, adopted by the City Council on June 10,2017, and the First Amendment to the Sam Jones Shelter contract, - proposed for adoption on August 29th)


Expense Categories HOST Sam Jones Wntr Shltr Total
Salaries & Benefits 184,000 745624 0 929,624
Utilities 52000 0 52,000
Program Support Fees 110862 110,862
Technology & Communication 1000 4000 0 5,000
Supplies 99425 0 99,425
Food 0 0
Storage Costs 6000 0 6,000
Transportation 0 0
Conservation Crew 20000 20,000
Safe Shelter 200000 200,000
Insurance 5000 5,000
Miscellaneous Expense 26803 0 26,803
Administrative Support 10000 0 10,000
Trailer Workers 29700 29,700
Trailer Csts 21750 20000 41,750
Total 466,450 1,069,714 0 1,536,164
Sam Jones includes 188-beds & Mobile Shower  
 


Read the Homeless Collective Report and the WRAP report and take notes -- Pat
Santa Rosa Homeless Collective Notes
After reviewing the SRHC web page, and their following documents:  Overview, Workgroup 5 Accountability report of 3/29, and the Work Group 4 and 5 meeting notes posted (this is the only documentation available I could locate), I have the following questions:
1.    Although the Overview lists Public and private agency stakeholders, there is no indication of who is on the Steering Committee, or who is representing each agency.  Can we get this information?  Although the Overview mentions that SRHC is a grassroots organization, there appears to be no participation by the homeless, homeless advocacy groups, other citizens, or neighborhood organizations.  Can we get clarification on current citizen and organization membership and participation?
2.    What are the charters and current status of work of Workgroups 1-3 and the ongoing agendas for Workgroups 4 & 5? See below for Workgroup summary.
3.    What is the “continuous communication” plan indicated in the overview? And how can interested stakeholders and citizens follow the work of the group?

Goal 5 of the Overview speaks to: Develop processes of system accountability consistent with Goals 1-4. The Accountability Workgroup 3/29 Reports that The purpose of the Accountability Workgroup was to research, analyze, and recommend best practices to hold the service system accountable to ensuring that frequent utilizers of the criminal justice and emergency response system are served, and to identify the portion of those who are service resistant and how their actions might negatively impact the community, including others who are experiencing homelessness.
1.    There is no indication of authorship of the Workgroup 5  3/29 report. Who participated in this report?  Why was the focus changed in the way it was to focus on criminal justice responses?
2.    There was no documentation of “best practices” or evidence-based  research to support the recommendations in the 3/29 report.  Can it be produced?
3.    Will the Workgroup continue to develop policies and procedure recommendations for the Jail, District Attorney, Probation, City Attorney, etc. to address this population?
4.   Is the Accountability Workgroup going to work on accountability as described in their Overview? 
  
SRHC Goals and Workgroups:

GOAL 1 – Support Every Individual in Acquiring Permanent Shelter

GOAL 2 – Support the Development of Individual Financial Capacity to Acquire and Retain Permanent Shelter

GOAL 3 – Build a Strong Collaborative That Supports and Enhances All Efforts on Behalf of the Homeless

GOAL 4 - Disseminate Accurate, Detailed Information on Factors Leading to, and Best Practices to Eradicate, Homelessness and its Impacts

GOAL 5 – Develop processes of system accountability consistent with Goals 1-4
·       Workgroup 1: Permanent Housing for those who are experiencing homelessness
·       Workgroup 2: Homelessness Diversion and Housing Retention
·       Workgroup 3: System Collaboration and Coordination
·       Workgroup 4: Public Education and Communication
·       Workgroup 5: Accountability

Make the first round of appointments – Pat

Set up teams of 2-3 for each appointment.  One person should mostly take notes.


Talking Points – Questions
We will focus our conversation in these areas, without trying to get all these questions answered. Different questions are a better fit for different council people.

1.  Accountability for this change
--Determination to get specific cost and efficacy—do the Council members have that now and/or want it after this change is passed?
--What is the measure of success?  What are your expectations if you pass this measure?  What problem are you trying to solve?  What evidence have you gotten that this change will solve these problems?  What impact will this have on homeless people?  We need a survey of their reaction to this proposal?

2.  What are the questions you want answered by Staff?
--The “Justice” question.  If you want diversion and restorative justice to be the main outcomes of this change, how will that be implemented?  What will you do to monitor that that outcome?
--The “money” question:  How do you reconcile housing 50 people at a cost of $1.2-4 million, and then putting 700-950 people in jeopardy.  (950 reflects research that shows approx. 25% of Californian homeless people are uncounted)  What are you willing to spend on this new enforcement effort?
--The “Data” question:  [Gerry says we need transparent baseline data before we can measure any success—find out what he means specifically]  Are the number of infractions for so called homeless offenses changing over time?  Increasing?  Decreasing?
--The “Contract” question:  Look at the past quarterly reports from Catholic Charities. ($3 million for housing 100 people)  Ask if they are willing to have ‘outcome-based contracts, rather than ‘process-based’ contracts and, if so, how will they ensure that happens.
--The “Success” question:  Is there evidence that increased fines and jail time will make any positive change?  If you pass this change, what measure of success are you looking for?  What kinds of reports will you ask for?  How often?
--The “Integration” question:  How does this “Quality of Life” issue integrate with the “Emergency Declaration” and other actions the city is taking related to homelessness?  (The Homeless Action Plan?)  Does it serve any function in getting people into housing?
--The “Who is Pushing This” question:  Does this primarily come from the Homeless Collective?  If so, who specifically sat on the ‘Accountability Committee’?  What self-interest, if any, was involved?

3.  What about the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) & domestic violence victims?
Are there open shelter beds to serve people with disabilities, both physical and mental?  People with PTSD and other mental health needs that are triggered by crowded settings?  Victims of domestic violence who can’t be around their abusers and/or men at all?

4. Inadequacy of Sam Jones Shelter
Increased enforcement illegal without having shelter available?  Housing First.  No evidence the folks from Homeless Hill will get housing until Jan and then it’s preliminary.  Crowded.  Old building…  Questions of fairness:  Is it fair for someone who is “committing a crime” to step ahead of a person who might be 100th on the wait list?
Do you know what the waiting list time is at the various shelters?


5.  How are you implementing the Vulnerability Index part of Housing First?
How many on Homeless Hill were the highest priority on the Vulnerability Index?

6.  Sept 26 joint meeting with County and City.
What do you want to get out of that?


Meeting on the 26th has been changed to be a Study Session where the City Council hears a presentation from Homebase (the consultant hired to review the system of governmental decsion-making concerning homeless services, and its compliance with Housing First and HUD principles, and make recommendations).  The joint meeting of the City and County has been put off until November.

Specific Questions to Specific People

Business People
Cost to County and City
Cost to downtown district

Supervisors
--Enforcement will increase the visible numbers of homeless people around the county as people attempt to get away from Santa Rosa cops.
--Make September 26 meeting meaningful.  1) take joint control of continuum of care.  2) Plan shelters around the county and lower enforcement measures

City Staff (Sean, David and Kelli)
--What has the Council requested of you in regards to a Memorandum of Understanding through the District Attorney’s office?
--What are the important issues for the County, District Attorney and jail?
--How much increased police activity cost?  Where will the increased funding come from?
--How does the role of the Homeless Court fit into this “new” model?
--How would “diversion” affect current homeless services including shelter beds.
--Questions of fairness:  Is it fair for someone who is “committing a crime” to step ahead of a person who might be 100th on the wait list?

Police Chief
--“more services attract more homeless people”  (we had some proof that this is not true but I forget what it was)
--How will fines or jail times be tracked and will this data be available to the public?
--Will restorative justice be utilized and, if so, how would that be defined and accomplished?
--How does Homeless Court fit into this “new” model?

Jill Ravitch & others at the County
Does the MOU have to go to the Supervisors before it comes to the City Council

Georgia Berland
Update about homeless court.  How much is it doing?  What is the demand for it (backlog, waiting list)?  What are the most frequent agencies or case workers who refer people to homeless court? Will you write a letter and/or testify against this change?


Monday, August 14, 2017

Homeless Hill is Cleared

Hi Everyone,

Sometime between 8 am and 11:30 am this morning, the police and Catholic Charities staff threatened between 14-22 residents of Homeless Hill with arrest if they did not leave their homes.  By noon, when members of Homeless Action! arrived, this micro-village was destroyed.

We were told that there were no arrests.  One man who didn't make it entirely easy, but most complied with police instructions.  Everyone went either to the Sam Jones Shelter or were given motel vouchers*. We will check with people who were there to confirm this.  Between 9 and 11 Hill residents had already moved to Sam Jones over the last couple of weeks.  There were 42 residents on the Hill originally. Some people left before the police came and scattered.

We saw a very sad scene with most of the tents collapsed and various household items strewn about. The camp looked as though it had been abandoned in the face of a natural disaster.  We did not see the most personal items among the wreckage, so we're hoping that people had prepared themselves with a back pack or a few bags.  There was an altar of flowers, a cross and a grieving plaque near the top of the hill.

Attached are photos by Gregory Fearon from this morning.  I've labeled them "before" and "after" so you have some sense of what was destroyed.  For more:  https://goo.gl/photos/4ds3qhszLEVaGiDH9

Many use-able tents, bedding, sleeping pads, clothing and other household items remain.  Our experience with other "clean ups" is that everything will be dumped into large trucks and taken to the landfill.   The Homeless Action! team had hoped to help people move out carefully, folding and storing some of the use-able items.  Instead, we were threatened with arrest for trespassing and escorted off by uniformed cops.

Our ally, Michael Anthony, was there from 7-8 am but we all missed the moment in terms of being able to witness the destruction in process.

Thanks to you all for being willing to step up and defend some of the most vulnerable humans among us.  I'm very sad.  Perhaps it seems over-blown to name this a micro-village; perhaps the trash seems to justify this trauma.  But, I think that this place was a home for 42 people, who lived together and tried to make each other more secure.  I think of the trauma and emotional suffering of those who have lost so much of what they built and I honor them.

In June of 2016, California cities led the nation in enacting and enforcing anti-homeless laws. (see attached chart) Santa Rosa with its liberal image has the same number of anti-homeless laws as conservative cities like City of Orange in Orange County, Ventura and Redondo Beach.

(*The motel vouchers are, at most, for two weeks.  Where will these people go then?)

Adrienne
Homeless Action!
795-2890 my home landline, no texts please
Before- Homeless Hill Destruction.jpg

Friday, August 11, 2017

Making Bricks Without Straw

Quality of Life Ordinances Give Quality to None


On Tuesday, Aug 8, 2017 the Santa Rosa City Council, staff and Police moved forward with increased penalties for offenses frequently charged to people who are homeless.  The offenses were labeled “quality of life ordinances.”  Although citizen outrage was strong and loud, 6 of the 7 councilmembers agreed.  

Quality-of-life ordinances are seen to be strong medicine. Advocates for the homeless found it to be an effective emetic.

The phrase "Making bricks without straw" * comes to mind hearing how much is being taken away from those who are homeless, making their lives more miserable, despite homeless advocates' protestations. What is becoming my only hope in this situation is that the courts will deliver, "with a strong hand and an outstretched arm", the justice we cannot seem to.

When did the police become a "tool in the toolbox" of the city council? How has that point of view become prevalent among them? What in the make up of the council allows this bias towards the use of police force to solve social problems? Where does this easy coziness come from? The police are to serve the law and justice, not to be the strong arm of a weak council.

It will not work. Though these are called quality-of-life ordinances they are clearly aimed at the homeless as a group. Why else the need for increased enforcement? Are there more tourists crapping in alleyways and storefronts? Are more college students sleeping on park benches and in underpasses? Are grandmothers panhandling again? Of course not. It is that other group. These are plain old vagrancy laws from the 1930’s. This time the sign 'No bums allowed. Keep moving', is not posted publicly. The homeless are not vagrants. 86 percent of them are Sonoma County residents on hard times.

When there are so many other possible courses of action, why would the city council choose the one with so much legal risk attached to it? Why do they call upon themselves the "strong hand and an outstretched arm" of the courts? How much better it would be if they chose to just be nice and neighborly? It is so much more cost effective. Who has given them this poor and questionable legal advice to follow a path that will only lead to court? And has not that outcome already been decided when in Boise, Idaho, 2015, the Justice Department warned that local laws criminalizing homelessness could violate the Constitution's protections against cruel and unusual punishment? And the more recent 2016 9th District Court case, Cobine vs. Eureka Police Dept., where among other things it was found, "The Court recognizes the public interest of protecting the public health and safety as well as preserving the environment and affording the City the benefits of a nature trail. The Court also, however, recognizes the public interest in maintaining the protections afforded by the Constitution to those most in need of such protection.  The Court finds the public interest weighs in favor of Plaintiffs." Referencing another case they said, “Unlike monetary injuries, constitutional violations cannot be adequately remedied through damages and therefore generally constitute irreparable harm.” You can see the rabbit hole we are about to go down if we follow this transparently discriminatory city policy.

Look, the business owners are right, it is wrong and a shame that in Santa Rosa people must defecate in alleys, parks, and store fronts. The homeless are right when they say nobody wants to do that, but in extremis where else is there? And when does that act become a protest to an outrageous state of being? Civil rights activist Bayard Rustin said, "When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him."

This situation was not created by the homeless. This is what happens when a city council fails to respond adequately to a serious social crisis. This friction, this conflict, is in large part of their making. We did not blame the victims of Katrina in 2005. We rightly held our ineffectual public servants to account.

There are many more fair and just solutions that will relieve both sides of the dispute. Public toilets are an obvious start. Yet former mayor Sawyer said of them, “We'll have to look into that at a future date. I don't even know where we would find the room for them”. With such a flippant, inconsiderate attitude to such a longstanding issue there will be no solutions forthcoming from this city council. They have proved themselves clearly inadequate to the task. Short of a true conversion on their part the courts will need to be summoned to bring justice to this targeted class of citizens. Justice will not come from the Santa Rosa Police Department, the city's choice tool. Let the following be a hint of the undesired, costly, and time consuming outcome for the city and police. In the case of Cobine, remedies included:

a. Defendants must provide emergency shelter, not at the City-owned parking lot located at the corner of Washington and Koster Streets, for all eleven Plaintiffs beginning on Monday, May 2, 2016.  Such provision is not indefinite and Plaintiffs' stay at any emergency shelter within the City of Eureka shall be subject to the rules and limitations of such shelter.

b. Defendants must abide by the following procedures with respect to Plaintiffs' personal property and belongings:

i. 96-gallon tote(s) shall be provided for each individual Plaintiff to use for the purpose of storing their personal belongings, with said totes to be provided in sufficient numbers for Plaintiffs to store all of their personal belongings;

ii. Each tote container, once packed, closed, and labeled, shall be locked with a padlock or lock of similar quality provided by Defendants, unless Plaintiffs wish to provide their own locks for securing their individual tote containers;

iii. Defendants shall provide identification tags to Plaintiffs for each 96-gallon tote and each larger item stored outside of a tote to allow Plaintiffs to label their belongings for later retrieval from storage;

iv. In the event that certain items belonging to Plaintiffs can be placed inside a 96-gallon tote, but are too large to permit the tote to be closed and locked, Defendants shall wrap or cover the tote and any protruding items with plastic or similar material before labeling and storage;

v. Defendants shall permit Plaintiffs to maintain custody of all items they require for their daily lives (e.g., clothing, toiletries, books, items of sentimental importance, etc.) and wish to bring with them to their emergency shelter accommodations, as well as their pets and/or service animals (to be housed on-site at the temporary shelter at which Plaintiffs will be accommodated in accordance with shelter rules) and shall not confiscate, impound, store and/or destroy such items;

vi. Defendants shall refrain from discarding or destroying any items belonging to Plaintiffs for any reason, unless Plaintiffs fail to claim and retrieve such items after they have been stored by Defendants for 90 days;

vii. Defendants shall transport all of Plaintiffs' personal belongings (including but not limited to all items stored in 96-gallon tote containers and all larger items unable to fit in 96-gallon tote containers) to the location where they are to be stored; and

viii. Defendants shall store Plaintiffs' personal belongings, packed and labeled in accordance with the provisions of this Paragraph, in one or more locked Conex storage containers to be located in the North 40 parking lot at the Bayshore Mall or at the City of Eureka Corp Yard.
The Conex storage containers in which Plaintiffs' personal belongings are stored shall be used only to store items belonging to Plaintiffs, and not any other persons residing at the Palco March on May 2, 2016.

ix. Plaintiffs' personal belongings shall be stored by defendants for a period of no less than 90 days, at Defendants' expense, unless Plaintiffs request to claim and retrieve those items sooner.  At the expiration of this 90-day period, subject to any further orders of this Court, Defendants may dispose of any items that remain unclaimed by Plaintiffs.

There are so many other better, kinder, and more acceptable answers to our problems.




* from Wikipedia: Bricks without straw


In Exodus 5, Moses and Aaron [homeless advocates], meet with Pharaoh [city council] and deliver God's message, "Let my people go". Pharaoh [the city council] not only refuses but punishes the Israelites [the homeless of Santa Rosa]  by telling his overseers [SRPD], "Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves", but still requiring the same daily output of bricks as before. The Israelites [homeless] complain to Moses and Aaron that they have now made things worse for them, and Moses in turn complains to God that every time he has gone to Pharaoh [the city council] on behalf of the Israelites [homeless], things have gotten worse for them. God replies to Moses [ homeless advocate] that the time will come when Pharaoh [the city  council] will actually drive the Israelites [homeless] out of Egypt; and that on behalf of his covenant  with the Patriarchs [Founding Fathers], God [the courts] will redeem the Israelites [homeless] "with a strong hand and an outstretched arm", so that they will know him.