Tuesday, December 25, 2018

'Twas the Night Before New Year's

‘Twas the night before New Year’s,
And throughout the village,
Our people were bunkered
In a cold winter’s stillage.

The houses we’d lived in
Were now memories,
Like squirrels and birds,
And life in the trees.

The terrible fires
Had long since gone cold,
With silence  replacing
The stories we told.

But a village adapts
Responding to need,
A regenerated
Place up from seed.

The people provide
Whatever they could,
Some skills and some resources,
Metal and wood.

Homes were imagined,
No regard for the past,
Without the restrictions
Of how long they’d last.

And families assembled,
What is and what will,
Binding together
With love as the fill.

The villagers knew
That care and not fear,
Was the best resolution
To renew every year.

by Gregory Fearon

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Sweeps are not working, the city and county should consider safe zones

Safe Zones are emergency encampments where homeless individuals can sleep at night without risking arrest or violence.  They serve the same purpose as emergency shelters run by Catholic Charities or other nonprofits.  

The County previously funded a Safe Zone for up to 25 tents for three years.  The encampment was run by the residents of the encampment.  The County paid approximately $500.00 per month to fund portable toilets, washing stations, garbage services, and for minimal electricity.  No rent was paid for the land because it was public property.  If someone had an issue with criminal activity, police were called just as in any other neighborhood.  Unfortunately, the County shut the encampment down after the City swept folks from other encampments and the encampment swelled to over 120 residents making the encampment unmanageable by encampment residents with the minimal resources provided.  

What we learned from the County encampment is that smaller encampments of less than 25 tents, tiny huts, vehicles, or RVs can be properly self managed for a minimal amount of money and resources.  

The County and City should each consider having Safe Zones in each City Council and Supervisorial District consisting of no more than 25 tents, sheds, tiny huts, cars, or RVs.  These encampments can be a mixture of elderly and younger residents or limited to seniors in some and younger residents in others.  The Safe Zones can also for example, be specific to those living in vehicles or those living in tiny huts.  

These alternative emergency housing options are in addition to warehouse type shelters and not meant to replace them.  Just as warehouse shelters are needed, Safe Zones are needed to temporarily house folks who either can’t get into the limited shelter spaces available (because every night the County is short over 1,800 shelter beds) or because of other barriers preventing them from entering into the warehouse type shelter, while they look for permanent housing options. 

To be sure, we don’t need to request government documents showing all monies spent on law-enforcement, prosecution, and jails to know that encampments would be a better use of taxpayer money.  

Also any claims that there is no money for these alternative housing options is inaccurate as the county will soon receive over $12 million that must be spent on homeless emergency services, which can include Safe Zones, portable toilets, washing stations, and portable showers.