Saturday, August 5, 2017
Dear Mayor Coursey, Council Member Schwedhelm, Council Member Rogers, Council Member Combs, Council Member Tibbetts, Council Member Oliveras and Council Member Sawyer,
At this week’s meeting you’ll consider increased criminalization of homeless people with a change of certain minor crimes from “infractions” to “misdemeanors.” If you pursue this course, these offenses will be penalized with fines up to $1000 and six months in jail -- offenses that currently receive fines of up to $250. and no jail time.
Five of the nine categories of offense are rarely committed by the housed, including obstructing streets, panhandling and camping (aka sleeping) in public. Although many of you call for evidence-based policy, in this case you are being given no evidence. What is the benefit of this change? Where is the evidence?
The Santa Rosa Police Department is already involved in more aggressive enforcement efforts, making more arrests and giving more citations to homeless people. This change would give them another instrument of control. We know that arrests, high fines and jail time cause incredible harm to those without homes, as these things become a major barrier to accessing rental apartments.
In your previous discussion of this policy we heard rhetoric about equal enforcement of the laws and that this will be enforced in a careful (even kind and gentle) way. But, these laws will not be enforced against friends drinking wine with a picnic or a young man who forgets to use the bathroom before leaving a bar. They will be used against those suffering in the heat and stigma of homelessness.
Santa Rosa is considering formalizing another level of discrimination, and constitu-tional violations of the 4th and 8th amendments. We count on you to oppose this measure.
The Homeless Interest Group of Redwood Forest Friends Meeting