Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Boulder Model & Update on Berkeley


Berkeley Update
Here's info about what happened in Berkeley.

The two legal papers , a Complaint and also a Memorandum of Points and Authorities were filed on Oct 26 in U.S. District Court for Northern California.  On Oct. 31, a judge denied the temporary injunction but said the case could go forward.

Then, a few of the campers moved to city hall, others moved to Aquatic Park and the camp was emptied.  Below are the newspaper articles.


The homeless encampment at the “Here There” sculpture in South Berkeley could be disbanded later this week, per a Tuesday federal court order. Judge William Alsup in San Francisco denied the encampment’s request for immediate protection from eviction, but ruled that BART, which owns the land, must give the group a 72-hour warning before kicking the campers out.

The order came a couple hours after the Tuesday morning hearing, but Alsup indicated in court that he would deny the motion for preliminary injunction.

“Judges are sworn to uphold the law,” he said, apologetically, to the homeless residents and supporters in the room. “I wish sometimes the law was more generous to the poor than it already is.”

Although initial relief was not granted, the “Here There” group’s lawsuit, which alleges that BART and the city of Berkeley are violating the campers’ civil rights by forcing them onto the streets, will go forward. Alsup asked both parties to provide him with more information about the campers’ backgrounds and the other options available to them in Berkeley.

Read the entire article here:

Some other campers who left the Here There site on Adeline Street this weekend moved to Aquatic Park. The group, which considers itself a protest camp and has gone by the names First They Came for the Homeless and the Poor Tour, is splitting in half based on who is able to continue protesting, members said. For the past 11 months, the 20-30 members camped together at the Here There site which is on the Berkeley-Oakland border.

Boulder, Colorado
Sonoma County's ahead of Boulder in many of the changes they are proposing to remodel their homeless system, ahead of them and facing the same problems in implementation.  The Boulder City Council approved their new “Strategic Framework: Emergency Homeless Services & Systems Analysis in June.

It follows the same general concepts we are trying here (coordinated entry, VI--SPDAT, Housing First). It has the same flaws -- not enough money and high expectations of getting people into permanent housing without investment in building new units or having many vacancies in the community.   They have not ended homelessness and don't claim to have even decreased it yet.

They have about 1/2 the number of homeless people as we do in Santa Rosa.
-- Coordinated entry with use of VI-SPDAT  (Mention of Housing First).
-- Add 5 new units of permanent supportive housing yearly, 10 in the county at large plus 20 new units of "rapid rehousing" and 50 such units in the county.
--Coordinate County/City with a central oversight group "Homeless Systems Management Executive Board."
-- Using statistics of people in shelter/transitional housing and the January Homeless Census, they try to get better numbers than the Census alone.
-- They talk about Data-Heavy system but are weak in knowing what that is or what it will entail to get one going.
--Get housing for the people who use the shelters most often and make room for people who use shelter beds infrequently.*
--They hope to add more housing units and decrease need for shelter.  But right now, they only have 100 shelter beds and 165 transitional beds for a homeless population of over 2,000.  In 6 years they want to decrease their shelter demand from 177 to 89.  The numbers don't make a lot of sense.
--They want to divert 1200 people from becoming homeless and are looking at a Seattle model.  No figures about how successful that was.  They don’t talk about how they will fund this.
--They are looking for a data management system and considering HMIS or OneHome.  (Someone should tell them how poor HMIS is.)
--They say Napa is a good example they are following, but Napa has no figures of success.

Exhibit B is a criticism of the rest of the paper and it's pretty spot on.  The overall plan makes unsubstantiated claims, doesn't have the money to make the changes and will take more time and effort to put in place than is shown.
*"...only about 20% of the emergency shelter population is using over 80% of the capacity and resources.  The completed local data mapping efforts confirmed that about 80% of individuals utilizing emergency shelter were averaging 8 nights per year or less in shelter, while about 20% of individuals accounted for the heaviest shelter utilization, with the highest users averaging more than 190 nights in shelter per year."

(This is not what I would expect to find in Sonoma County, but it's a question I've never asked.) Perhaps some of this is "tourist" homeless, people who leave Boulder like many other tourists do, after a short stay.  Or perhaps their data is off.

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; 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.