Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Supplies needed at the Roseland Encampments


Note from Carolyn Epple:

Please folks do not bring anything to the camp except for the following wool socks warm gloves space blankets the foil ones, we need six fire extinguishers we need 45 to 50 gallon garbage bags 3 mm thick we need water jugs. Do not bring us bedding. If we could just hold off please and let Susan Chunco and I post what’s needed I think it will go a lot more smoothly. It’s so great the people have the energy and are trying to help out we’re going to make things much harder for those of us who are out there all the time if we do that. We will have a coordinating meeting next Wednesday the 20th at the peace and justice center at 5:30 PM for purposes of coordination. Again I really appreciate people trying so hard but just slow down the wonderful enthusiasm A smidge. Thanks everyone Carolyn

The efforts below are just info.  Please follow Carolyn's direction above.  Gregory

Following up on our agreement at Monday's Homeless Action! meeting, Gail and I visited the Roseland Encampments this morning, and here are the supplies that they requested (and those we supplied) that camp leaders identified:

  • Cold supplies, medicinal, Nyquil, Ibuprofin
  • Emergency blankets - foil
  • Yoga mats, mattresses
  • Batteries and Flashlights
  • Sanitary supplies
  • Cleaning gloves (S-L, 4 each-GF) 
  • Hand sanitizers (10-GS)
  • Bandages, dish soap, condoms
  • First-aid kits (2-GF)
  • Garbage bags (146 industrial bags-GF)
  • Water Jugs - large bottles - Alhambra?
  • Ice chests, ice packs
  • Storage boxes and lids for food
  • Paper plates
  • Aluminum pans
  • Zip lock bags - all sizes
  • Cereals and snacks
  • Rat traps and milk cover crates to keep other pets from being trapped (10 large Victor traps-GF)
  • Gift cards from Wal-Mart, Starbucks
  • Backpacks
  • Brooms and dust pans (3 each-GF)
Gail and I are going to obtain some of these.  Two women who stopped by donated $20 to support  our costs.    I invite others to do what they can.  We should keep asking each week.

Rob and *John Paul (Last Chance) and Rose, George, Charles, and *New York (Rememberance) seem to be this week's contacts.   

* took delivery


Monday, December 4, 2017

Homeless Receiving Infractions and Misdemeanors in Santa Rosa


The Santa Rosa City Council is currently in the process of arming its police department with City codes carrying misdemeanor charges for what they define as "serious and repeated" Quality of Life criminal offenses.  Obstruction, loitering, trespassing, and camping seem to be the key offenses, and Homeless Action! believes that criminalizing these behaviors when no housing is available constitutes violations of basic constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment.

Seeing no evidence presented by the City to support the Police Department's assertion that homeless were ignoring repeated infractions issued for the more serious of these offenses, Homeless Action! decided to investigate police records.  We submitted a Public Records Act request on September 5th for the infractions issued for these offenses from January 1, 2016 to the present.  Initially, the Department refused to provide us with the necessary records.  Upon appeal contesting their legal authority to withhold the records, the Department sought a legal opinion.  The City Attorney advised that compliance was necessary, and the records were supplied on November 28, 2017.

We have examined the database of infractions supplied us, and extracted 716 records which were given for obstruction, loitering, trespassing, and camping.  We integrated those into our own database of California state misdemeanor charges issued by the Department for similar offenses (144 since Jul 15, 2017).     We found 19 individuals who had been given 4 or more City infractions in the past nearly two years.  We found seven individuals who had been given 2 or more state misdemeanors in the last five months.   Only one person received both a City infraction and a state misdemeanor charge.

So these 26 people must constitute the "serious and repeated" offenders, upon which our department is seeking to charge the offenses as City Code violation misdemeanors.  To be clear, they have not charged anyone in the City for these offenses as misdemeanors since the Council discussion in early August.

Our next step will be to research the disposition of these infractions and misdemeanors to determine if the charges were prosecuted, and what the court outcome was.

In parallel, we submitted a Public Records Act Request on November 9th for a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which the City Attorney told the Council at their August 9th meeting was being developed by her office for submission to the District Attorney to define the responsibilities of each in the process of implementing these new misdemeanor charges.  The City supplied  this document on December 1, 2017.

The document indicates that the District Attorney expects the City Attorney's Office to be a full participant in its implementation.  The document requires that infraction cases/files (supplied by the City) "must be transmitted with a proposed written disposition and all discovery.  Later acquired discovery should be promptly provided to all law clerks."  This begins to answer the questions raised by the Council in August concerning who would be making decisions concerning possible jail diversion, restorative justice utilization, and community service uses.  Homeless Action! is interested in knowing how the City Attorney's Office staff will become qualified and capable of supplying this information.

The document also explains that, while the first month of its execution would be at no cost to either party, that in the following month, the parties would determine the financial terms of the year long agreement.  Failing this, the agreement would be terminated.

Homeless Action! believes that the MOU needs to include the partners identified by the City Attorney in her discussion with the Council in August.  While we oppose the increased criminalization of our homeless residents, we do not believe that the proposed program can work without the full participation in the MOU development of the Public Defender, Probation, Homeless Court, and homeless service providers.  We urge the Council to schedule an agenda item to discuss these issues with the City Attorney in order to develop an effective implementation of the Quality of Life Ordinances.

Sanctioned Transitional Villages

Thank you very much, councilmembers, for your impassioned, detailed discussion of homelessness during the 11/21/17 city council meeting. Attached are the short excerpts mentioned on successful West Coast homelessness approaches, culled from a Homeless Action! paper mentioned on the subject. (they're also copied below this note for convenience.) The short version: governments and their police departments are succeeding with cost-effective, sanctioned transitional villages: what's needed is strong leadership and coordination, a long-term view, and a stakeholder-based approach. 

As seems obvious to all of us, Inequality in Sonoma county and broader social issues will make it politically and economically intolerable to maintain a scattering approach to homelessness for the unsheltered. The activist community, nonprofits, the police, and the residents of tent encampments need to work closely with city and county leaders and staff to design the array of diverse and dispersed solutions needed in our districts to serve the unsheltered, in the spirit of this coming success story in west county, and CDC's effort to staunch the bleeding at the camp just created by those you scattered from the underpasses. 

The homeless create camps for practical reasons. As individuals or families, they're scattered easily by law enforcement. A camp is also an expression of our basic nature as a community-based species, where we can feel as stable and assisted a home experience as possible. We can’t begin to fathom how tenuous, yet significant, those community ties are. It's a terrible myth that there are many homeless people who don't want housing, or that those who truly want housing will go to a shelter. Virtually all, whether they're outside or are in shelters, would accept real housing in an instant. Many can't go into shelters, whether they have non-approved pets, too many goods, suffer from PTSD, or they have any of a dozen other natural obstacles that must be respected in any approach that faces reality maturely. We all oppose the environmental and health risks of many camps, but a lack of realistic options makes our current strategy a cycle in which a surreptitious, desperate community moves, a temporary enforcement delay is agreed upon, and they are eventually scattered.  

Of more importance than the environmental effects is the oft-unacknowledged damage of this scattering policy to the residents. We– activists, volunteers, family, friends,  nonprofits, government– can't act well to face the deadliest challenges the residents face: physical health risk; mental stress from uncertainty and conditions; water; safety; paths to housing; sanitation; mental health treatment and tracking; drug and alcohol treatment; job and education; access/communication with family and services; nutrition; and service coordination through case workers and experts. This access problem caused by scattering is on top of the natural problem government has under the best conditions to integrate many disparate services by many organizations. Homelessness and health services, for instance, don't mix naturally because health organizations aren't managed to involve housing in their approach or budgeting, despite it being the largest determining factor of the health of the poor. 

Amid all these obstacles, there is fantastic news: we have a couple of decades of both mixed and overall success, especially of late, that allows you to safely set up one proven solution for the unsheltered, with relatively low risk and cost: sanctioned transitional villages, with a mix of tents and tiny home solutions. Here, in a complete opposite profile, most of the above challenges of homelessness can be dealt with incredibly cost-effectively on a per-person basis, usually much cheaper than within shelter and transitional housing services. And successes elsewhere show that transitional villages integrate very well into Housing First approaches, because the unsheltered are no less motivated to reach a final solution to homelessness than those in the shelters. Sanctioned camps work for both the unsheltered and the government, by providing a transitional home where the homeless can live, services can be delivered cheaply and well, and residents can be supported to find permanent housing.

Jennielynn Holme's revelation that 27% of the recently sheltered were fire victims dovetails well with activist discussions with those scattered from under the downtown bridges, about a third of whom said they were fleeing the fire. These are voiceless victims of a disaster that has captured the heart of us all, unfairly shunted aside despite America's enthusiasm to get our formerly housed back on their feet. Can funding sources for fire relief be tapped to create stability and safety for the unsheltered, especially now, this winter? Councilmember Sawyer made a valid point as we spoke after the council meeting, that solution funding cannot be set up to fail through inadequate or short-term or schizophrenic funding patterns. The post-fire timing is an opportunity, especially given that the city's 10 year plan (with its 'logic model'), CHAP and the Continuum of Care approaches have done almost nothing to get those not lucky enough enter shelters into housing. 

The incredible cost-effectiveness of sanctioned transitional villages provides us an opportunity to break the back of the most intractable tranche of homelessness in Sonoma county. Based on programs working elsewhere, a $5 million dollar funding allocation can provide sanctioned and managed camps, in each city and county district, that provide safety and effective Housing First access for over 350 homeless people for five years, along with managed safe parking solutions for hundreds. And much of the investment can be clawed back through federal and state programs for individuals benefitted and service providers. For the cost of a modest Fountaingrove estate rebuild, we can provide over 2,000 person-years of safety, stability and transition services for our homeless neighbors, the equivalent of over 40 average lifetimes of those in camps, while allowing those in cars the stability they need to climb out of homelessness. Other services further down the housing pipeline would also require additional support, but that's the good news: we can give our brothers and sisters the chance to use services they way they should, on the way to permanent housing.

Please ensure that city and joint task force staff institute a formalized, consensus approach with our other stakeholders, under your close and public supervision, so that we may fully exploit our collective expertise, energy, and good will toward our poor, and get emergency- and long-term solutions in place.

Kind regards,

J. Scott Wagner
Homeless Action! member

Sanctioned Transitional Villages –
West Coast Examples and Lessons Learned

At any given moment in time, 3 million Americans (1% of the population) are homeless. During the year between 5 and 8 million Americans experience at least one night of homelessness. Eighty percent exit homelessness within one month, but 10% are homeless for two or more months, and another 10% are chronically homeless. Since the Reagan years, the U.S. has been undergoing deinstitutionalization, a 30–year long process of closing down state mental hospitals throughout the country, while housing subsidies and mobile health services were cut by about 75%. Women and children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. A night in a shelter ranges from $11 per day to $28 per day. A night in jail costs from $53 to $94 per day. Many homeless clients are arrested more than 5 times per year. Booking a homeless person 5 times in one year would pay for a whole year of shelter. A day in the hospital for a homeless person costs taxpayers an estimated $1,278.

As far as advocates are concerned, anti-camping laws are a huge obstacle to ending homelessness. Someone who spends their day worrying about finding a place to sleep or a safe place to store their things is less likely to find a job or stay healthy. Someone repeatedly ticketed for camping can amass a criminal record that makes renting an apartment in a hot real-estate market, all but impossible.
In communities overwhelmed with lack of housing, sanctioned transitional tent villages share a place at the table with RV and car camping, shelters, and transitional housing to provide poor citizens a safe place to stay and a path to permanent housing. Here are examples of where it’s working.

The Seattle Police Department is “100 percent on board” with sanctioned transitional camps, said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb.
“Anytime we have an authorized encampment there are fewer safety concerns, incidents of crime compared with unauthorized encampments,” he said. “Complaints go down with authorized encampments and it’s easier to deliver services to them.
Nickelsville is one of several roving tent cities in Seattle. Christened in a deliberate slam against Seattle’s former mayor, Greg Nickels, whose administration regularly cleared homeless encampments, it has relocated about 20 times since its creation in 2008. Various churches vouch for them and allow them to stay with city permission for a limited time; then they must move on.

“We’ve demonstrated that tent cities are viable as a crisis response,” says Sharon Lee, of the Low Income Housing Institute. “Tent cities can be safe. They can house hundreds of people we can then move quickly into stable housing.”
From a homeless person's perspective, living in a legal encampment with food, water, toi-lets, a kitchen, security, tiny houses (with doors that lock) and case management services is a far cry from trying to survive alone on the street. We now have a year's experience with the three city-sanctioned sites that have been operating in Ballard, Interbay and Othello. They house 160 people at any time, including singles, couples, seniors, vets, families with children and people with pets. Thousands of other people have been helped in the short term as they pass through, staying for a night or a week before moving on.
Each location has a city mandated Community Advisory Committee (CAC) comprised of neighbors, businesses and church groups who monitor progress, give feedback and lend support. Each site has social workers helping families and individuals connect quickly to housing, employment and education so that living in a tent or a tiny house is not a dead end.
Tiny houses are a preferred option over tents for many reasons. They provide better protection, they are insulated, some have heat, light and electricity, you can lock the door and windows, and you can get a good night's sleep without worrying about safety. They're also cheap, costing only about $2,200 to build. They are constructed onsite, or built elsewhere and brought on a flatbed truck.

Portland /Dignity Village
Its 60 residents pay $35 a month to cover operating costs, with remaining expenses covered by mico-business revenue and private donations. After a 60-day probationary period, residents can stay for two years, and possibly longer if they can show they are actively seeking employment, education or housing.
Camp features include toilets, showers, communal cooking and refrigeration, gardens, emergency transportation and basic first aid. Residents have access to the internet, tele-phones, television, education, counseling and scheduled medical and veterinary care. Villag-ers must work at least 10 hours per week on community chores.
Like many camps, it has rules against bad behavior, violence, theft, alcohol or drugs. Chil-dren are not allowed, because background checks are not a requirement to stay
Camp R2Dr founder: Even the business association that didn’t want us there at first supports us now.
Portland’s new mayor, Ted Wheeler, has said he wants to move away from tent encamp-ments and instead build enclaves of tiny houses on public property, an idea advanced by his predecessor Hales.
On March 8, residents of the Kenton neighborhood in North Portland overwhelmingly ap-proved a pilot enclave of 14 tiny houses for homeless women. The little cabins will be 8 feet by 12 feet with storage space, shared restrooms, common space and a garden.

Rest Stops- the city is home to six rest stops, each hosting 18 to 20 people in tents or 60-square-foot Conestoga huts designed by the nonprofit Community Supported Shelters. The organi-zation also manages four of the six rest stops, which in 2016 served 171 people.

One rest stop prioritizes people with disabilities; another serves veterans; one primarily handles young adults, and another is for single women.

Opportunity Village- self-governed and managed. A village council of five to seven elected residents holds weekly meetings and maintains order.

For the Eugene Police Department, crime has not been a problem. “We don’t consider Opportunity Village to be an area of concern for our policing,” said po-lice spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin. “There have only been five arrests since it opened in 2013. Opportunity Village has worked successfully.”

The Oakland City Council voted unanimously 10/3/17 to move ahead with devel-opment of "safe haven" sites around the city where homeless residents can camp securely and access resources to seek housing, drug treatment, employment, and other services. Similar to the Compassionate Communities pilot that was spearheaded by Coun-cilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, the safe havens will include portable toilets, wash stations, and regular garbage pickup. They could also include temporary structures such as Tuff sheds to allow Oakland's homeless residents to shelter themselves from the wind and rain.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf supports the council's action, saying in a statement is-sued yesterday that it "allows us to move people off sidewalks and into safety and services." She envisions sanctioned camps housing up to 40 people in Tuff shed structures, with showers, toilets, and services available to them. "This is the 'right now' part of the plan," said Schaaf.

Tent cities allow residents who want to look for work or go to the doc-tor a place to store their belongings during the day without worry and freedom from the stress of trying to find a new safe place to sleep every night. They can, depending on loca-tion, give social service providers, who often must search for clients or patients, a central-ized location to do good work. They offer, if well run, a safer option for women and seniors living outdoors.

San Diego
The first city-sanctioned homeless encampment opened in October of 2017 in a public works yard near Balboa Park with tents, security, food, showers, restrooms and social services for more than 200 people, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other officials announced Wednesday. “These are extraordinary times and it requires extraordinary actions,” Faulconer said.

The homeless situation also has been considered a crisis in recent months as a deadly hepatitis A outbreak spread, county Supervisor Ron Roberts noted.

“As of yesterday, we identified another 20 cases, which brings us to 481 total cases in San Diego,” he said, adding that there have 337 hospitalizations, up 22 from last week, and 17 deaths. The crisis mostly affects the homeless population and heavy drug users, and moving people off the streets and into a more sanitary site with restrooms and hand-washing stations is one of the steps being taking to stop the outbreak.“This is what unsheltered San Diegans need,” he said. “This is what our city needs. Homelessness is our number-one social service issue now.”

"As the homeless population grew in Vancouver, we'd been hearing lots of concerns about trash in the neighborhood," said Amy Reynolds, director of programs for the nonprofit that runs Share House. "Now what we're hearing is, 'Somebody is defecating in my yard. People are undressing outside my house. People are having domestic disputes, getting in screaming matches and physical fights, next to my parked car.' It doesn't seem like it's working for the people in the tents. It's not working for neighbors. It's not working for businesses. It's not working for anyone."

The encampments embraced by governments and advocates for the poor are well-organized, situated away from residential neighborhoods and equipped with an adequate number of showers.
"From my perspective, on the front end, the lion's share of the homeless problem has fallen on the shoulders of police," said Vancouver Chief James McElvain. "One of the best things to come out of this situation is that we're all in it together now. People in Vancouver under-stand that we can't expect law enforcement to solve these social-service problems alone, that it's going to take a large team."

San Francisco
Amy Farah Weiss, founder of the nonprofit Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge and a 2015 mayoral candidate, has led the effort to gather support for city-approved camp spaces, which she calls “sanctioned transitional villages.” These villages would operate within the system for people unable to find permanent housing after a 30-day stay in a navigation center. Instead of tents, residents would sleep in wooden structures that accommodate two people each and are big enough to stand up in. The tiny structures would cost $650 to make and include storage space, a lock and a rain tarp.

“We teach people how to advocate for themselves, provide workshops, speaking engagements,” said Mubarak, who is board president of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, an umbrella group that includes the Coalition on Homelessness. “Residents are around their peers, they build community, feel safe and figure out what they need to do to become successful. It works.”


In February, 2017, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to fund 100 prefabricated micro-units for homeless people, but it has not settled on whether they would be for “temporary/short term/transitional or long term habitation.”

San Jose
In January, San Jose began soliciting proposals to build the state’s first “Bridge Housing Communi-ties” — interim housing for homeless people on city-owned or leased property in all 10 city council districts. The city’s plan for “tiny homes” and other “unconventional housing structures, made possible by legislation enacted in October, allows it to temporarily suspend the state’s restrictive building codes after declaring a “shelter emergency.”

A community is expected to house 20 to 25 people in “emergency sleeping cabins,” portable structures accommodating one or two persons each and be equipped with electrical power and lighting. Each community would have restrooms, communal space for cooking and dining, an on-site property man-ager and off-street parking.