The show broadcasts at 101.3 FM, streams on the internet at freakradio.org. It will archive at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/
NOTES BY NORSE: San Jose Jungle Survivor and Santa Cruz Freedom Sleeper Robert Aguirre isn’t the only sensible voice in this latest snapshot report from the San Jose area Water Distrct Jaw-a-Thon. The obvious solution of providing trash pick-up services rather than destructive camp dismantling actions is hard for the NIMBY (Not-in-my-back-yard) mentality to grok. The even more obvious financial assessment that would likely show the economic futility and stupidity of these raids is hopefully on the horizon. This kind of assessment in cities regarding police and emergency services for “disappearing” the homeless, had led–on paper at least–to Smart Solutions, 220-220, Housing First!, and Downtown Accountability projects.
MORE COMMENTS AND LINKS AT http://www.mv-voice.com/news/
by Kevin Forestieri / Mountain View Voice
Santa Clara Valley Water District board members agreed to sign onto a county-wide effort to reduce homelessness in Santa Clara County, which could include housing homeless people on district-owned land.
The regional water district may seem like an unlikely ally in the effort to shore up housing for the roughly 6,500 homeless people in the county. But encampments and trash pile-ups along several creeks and waterways have posed a chronic health and safety problem that drains the water district’s resources, officials say.
Over the last four years, the water district has cranked up efforts to dismantle homeless camps along waterways through its cleanup program. In the 2015 fiscal year, water district staff collected 1,209 tons of trash from encampments, more than the last two years combined. Costs for cleanup over the last three years has totaled nearly $2.7 million, which has been funded by the district’s 2012 Measure B parcel tax.
The decision by board members to work with county officials and housing agencies like Destination: Home could mark a big change of pace for the district, which has been focused on tearing down creekside encampments rather than on providing homeless services. This has resulted in an adversarial relationship between district staff and the homeless people living on water district property.
At the Jan. 26 board meeting, Liz Bettencourt, president of one of the district’s three employee associations, said conditions along the creeks have “deteriorated at a crazy rampant rate,” and the threat of violence employees face when cleaning out homeless encampments is a big concern. Bettencourt urged the board to consider added safety measures for district staff, including bullet-proof vests and assistance from the county sheriff’s office, during clean-up operations.
Robert Aguirre, who is no longer homeless but who used to live in the infamous “Jungle” encampment in San Jose, said the water district has largely done a bad job working with the creekside homeless population. When district staff come in to clean out encampments, Aguirre said there’s no opportunity for the homeless to separate their belongings, and that one person had a backpack physically taken off by a district staff member and thrown into a trash compactor.
“If you continue harassing the people who are homeless, they are going to continue to harass you back,” Aguirre said, in response to Bettencourt’s comments.
Despite the feelings of animosity, Aguirre said homeless people are willing to work with water district staff to keep the area clean, provided they’re given the opportunity. The problem, he said, is that there’s no trash pickup service when you live on the creeks, and naturally the garbage and refuse is going to build up.
“If people didn’t pick up trash in your neighborhood, it would start to accumulate and it would start to become a health hazard as well,” Aguirre said.
The encampment cleanup policies also have flaws that keep county waterways covered in trash. Richard McMurtry, a member of the Santa Clara County Creek Coalition, showed the board photo after photo of heaps of trash left by district staff immediately following an encampment cleanup. That’s because the cleanup program is intended to dismantle encampments, and any trash more than 30 feet from tent sites is left on the ground, McMurtry wrote in a letter to the board.
And taking down encampments doesn’t prevent homeless people from taking up residence along the creeks either, McMurtry said. If anything, he said, homeless people are simply uprooted and pushed to a new location along the same creek.
“There are many homeless who, despite having their sites being dismantled 10 times in the past two years, are still living within 200 yards of their original campsite,” McMurtry wrote to the board.
Moria Merriweather, a resident near Coyote Creek, said taking down encampments doesn’t really work, and that the district should be focused on providing toilets, trash collection and other sanitary services. Taking these steps, she said, will help to avoid the bacterial outbreaks, disease and trash build-up that are all too predictable as people live along the creeks.
A housing solution
The board agreed last week to put together a committee and find out what the water district can do, working with county officials, to better provide homes and services for the homeless in Santa Clara County. The move comes after the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution last month calling on local agencies to do their part and reduce homelessness in the county.
The water district does have authority to support housing initiatives, including the use of district-owned land for temporary or permanent housing for homeless people, according to board member Gary Kremen, who represents North County cities including Mountain View and Palo Alto. He said using the district’s resources to build housing will be a much more cost-effective solution to homelessness along the county’s waterways.
“We need to house these people. That’s the best return on investment,” Kremen said.
Board member Tony Estremera agreed that a committee could give water district officials a good idea of what options are on the table for helping to reduce homelessness, and that it’s time for the water district to acknowledge that the high cost of living is forcing people to live along county creeks.
“I know in the past that our attitude has been, ‘We don’t want to attract folks (and) we don’t want to make it easy to camp,’” Estremera said. “However, we don’t have a choice about this economy, so we need to take a look at that.”
The April 8, 1999 show featured a strong debate between former Mayor Mike Rotkin and homeless activist David Silva on the killing the Sleeping Ban. The next show on April 11, 1999 had Santa Barbara Homeless Coalition writer and organizer Jane Haagstrom discussing the preiously successful Santa Barbara struggle, Edward de Bolt on police mistreatment, Silva sparring with host Norse, the Biotic Backing Brigade’s pie-ing of Mayor Willie Brown, and David Silva reviewing his Rotkin debate.
Call-in with comments at 423-4833 which will be mentioned in later broadcasts.
Leave comments about the below story at https://www.newsreview.com/
The homeless protest inched closer to City Hall’s front entrance this past Friday.
PHOTO BY MICHAEL MILLER
With tensions frothing between Sacramento city officials and the local Right to Rest protest movement, SN&R decided to tackle some of the most common—and insulting—misconceptions about the current debate.
Myth No. 1: This is about camping.
We remember camping: Mom smearing us with mosquito repellant, dad wrestling with tent poles—the city of Sacramento’s “unlawful camping” ordinance has nothing to do with that.
“This makes it against the law to live outdoors,” explains Paula Lomazzi, a former homeless woman who runs the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee. “And when there’s not [another] option for everyone, that’s like saying you can’t exist.”
As written, city code 12.52.030 prohibits camping on any public or private property—so, everywhere—unless it’s for temporary recreation or events. In other words, it’s OK to sleep outside unless that’s your only choice.
And if it is, be prepared to pay a $1,000 fine and spend six months in jail, because the city has couched its ordinance under the state’s public nuisance law. Violating it is a misdemeanor, which means a criminal record, though most violations are reduced to infractions.
“Making it a crime to live outside doesn’t keep anyone from living outside,” says Niki Jones of Wind Youth Services, the area’s only service-provider for young people experiencing homelessness. “It just makes it harder to change your situation.”
Myth No. 2: There’s enough shelter to go around.
Not even close, says Joan Burke, Sacramento Loaves & Fishes’ advocacy director. “The most important fact about the emergency shelter system in Sacramento is that the shelters do not have enough beds for everyone seeking shelter and routinely turn away people for lack of space,” she says by email.
All totaled, there are 1,033 slots scattered across more than two-dozen shelter or motel programs in Sacramento County, “each with its own intake procedures and target populations,” Burke says. “The process of getting into a shelter is anything but user friendly or efficient.”
By the city’s own low-ball estimate, 2,659 people experience homelessness on any given night in Sacramento County. (There are actually way more, but we’ll get to that later.) That right there shows there aren’t nearly enough beds to go around.
A Loaves & Fishes survey of 336 guests who arrived for lunch one day revealed that 63 percent of them had slept outside the previous night. The wait-list for Wind’s 12-bed shelter, meanwhile, includes more than 100 people, says development director Sarah Mullins.
The city likes to wave a 5 percent vacancy rate to prove that there’s still room at the shelters, but that’s fuzzy math of the most disingenuous order. Burke says people sometimes don’t show up at the last minute for reservations. Then there are the homeless people with mental and developmental disabilities, physical ailments or substance addictions (it’s often a cocktail) who Burke says simply can’t function in a communal shelter setting. There are few, if any, crisis-placement options for them.
“This handful of unfilled beds is what permits the powers that be to proclaim that our shelters have vacancies,” she says.
Myth No. 3: There are “only” 2,659 homeless people in Sacramento.
That number comes from a biennial tally called the point-in-time, or PIT, survey, and is accepted as the standard when it comes to quantifying how many people experience homelessness on any given night in Sacramento County.
It’s also a massive understatement, say homeless-service providers.
First off, PIT surveys occur every two years on a single winter night when homeless residents are even less likely to dwell in heavily trafficked areas due to the weather. They don’t account for anyone who’s couch-surfing, staying in a motel or sleeping in a car. These massive undertakings are also undercut by planning shortcomings and inadequate training, say two service providers who participated in them.
“It was really sloppily done,” says one.
Yet the city swears by these figures, saying on its website that the PIT survey “is the community’s best way to estimate the number of people experiencing homelessness, including those in certain subpopulations, such as transition-age youth.”
Worse, we in the media often repeat the PIT figures without qualification, as if they accurately reflect the scope of our housing problem. They don’t.
To put it in perspective, the 2015 PIT count found 291 homeless youth under the age of 24. But the Wind drop-in center for homeless youth served 918 different individuals from this age group last year. “Youth experiencing homelessness are grossly under reported,” Mullins says.
Get ready to have your mind blown. According to an analysis of federal enrollment data—which does include couch-surfing and sleeping in cars or motels—the California Homeless Youth Project determined that nearly 12,000 local school children lacked permanent housing during the 2012-13 school year. And that’s just kids.
Reconnecting this to the camping issue was PS7 elementary school teacher Erica Talbott, who put the matter in stark relief at a recent city council meeting. “I find it absolutely tragic that the students in my classroom … are unable to learn during the day because they are unable to sleep at night, all due to the camping ordinance that’s in place. Because of this law, my 8-year-olds are criminals,” she told council members. “I respectfully ask you where they are supposed to sleep tonight.”
The council didn’t have an answer. But it’s always been better at counting votes than counting constituents.
Myth No. 4: “Homeless protesters” are the only ones complaining.
Teachers and labor activists. Medical and nursing students. Religious leaders from Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. Members of the LGBTQ community and Black Lives Matter movement. And, yes, homeless residents and activists. This is the rapidly expanding coalition that is demanding the repeal of the city’s anti-camping law.
What a real fringe group.
Ever since the occupation outside of City Hall began December 8, 2015, officials have tried to diminish the Right to Rest movement as a small band of agitators who rebuff the city’s attempts to help. But officials are losing that PR battle.
While homeless protesters do make up a majority of those who have camped on City Hall’s front porch for two months now, the coalition goes beyond those without shelter. California Homeless Youth Project director Shahera Hyatt explains this has as much to do with common interests as it does compassion. “The privatization of public space affects us all. The militarization of our police affects us all,” she says. “It’s just that they’ve felt the effects first.”
As the Right to Rest coalition has expanded, its opposition has dwindled in size, if not power. At a recent city council meeting, special-education teacher Trina Allen pointed out the disparity in allies, with politicians, cops and connected business interests on one side, and everyone else on the other. Or, as she put it, “basically the people your policies, your police and your ideology currently and have historically subjugated.”
Myth No. 5: Repealing the anti-camping ordinance will increase public defecation.
Type “Sacramento homeless” into Yahoo’s search engine and the first thing to pop up, thankfully, is “Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee.” But the second result is “Sacramento homeless defecate.”
Disappointingly, poop has become the central talking point for public officials clinging to their increasingly unpopular policy. At a press conference last month, both Councilman Steve Hansen and Deputy Police Chief Ken Bernard offered variations on this theme. Here’s Hansen: “We can’t allow people to camp in alleys, to urinate and defecate wherever they want.” And Bernard: “We want to solve this problem, but we can’t allow people to camp in alleys, camp on the side of houses, urinate and defecate wherever they want to.”
This confused us. Does having the legal right to sleep cause someone to lose control of their bowels?
No, it turns out.
“They have a demented urge to dehumanize people by painting them as one-dimensional barbarians,” says Omar Sahak, who belongs to a group of UC Davis medical and nursing students that’s joined the Right to Rest coalition. “They could rather think about how to meet basic human biological needs. There is a great prototype toilet already developed for the Tenderloin in S.F.”
Hansen and Bernard made what’s called a false equivalency. The city’s argument for keeping the camping ban is riddled with them. Other members of the council, including mayoral candidate Angelique Ashby, keep saying that repealing the ban would somehow mean that they’ve accepted homelessness as the city’s status quo.
Two points: (1) That ship has already sailed. Thank Oprah’s 2009 visit to Tent City. (2) Decriminalizing people’s ability to sleep outside doesn’t mean the city can’t still pursue the permanent housing solutions it’s outlined. In fact, it’ll have more resources to do so since it will spend less on citing, arresting, booking and jailing people for the crime of making us uncomfortable.
“We can work on solutions while honoring somebody’s human dignity and allowing them to sleep,” says Wind’s Jones. “People are going to be going to the bathroom either way. What’s going to affect that is whether there are accessible public restrooms, and there aren’t.”
Case in point: The city recently padlocked public restrooms in city parks and inside of City Hall. It justified the decision on its website by saying the restrooms were being used for illegal activities and had “become filthy.” But that’s misleading. According to a cost analysis document from the city, people were using the restrooms to sleep and bathe.
The camping law prevents public defecation the same way that the city’s public nudity ban erases genitalia: by pushing the crap out of sight.
HUFF will continue through out Robert’s Temporary Absence due to Medical needs. While he will be missed, we are going to be meeting at the same Bat Time and same Bat place.
> Join us at Subrosa (across from Saturn & Walgreen’s parking lot on Pacific)
> 11:00 am – 1:00pm Free Coffee to all attendees.
> Possible Agenda Items will be current updates on Freedom Sleepers, Keith and Abbi’s trial and tribulations with SC city, SCPD and county DA court appearance, Monday’s Koffee Klatch and other homeless, disabled and poor people’s civil rights issues.
> The rest of the agenda will go with flow and vibes of the attendees.
> Pat Colby
|Title:||Waking Up the Slumbering Conscience: Freedom SleepOut #29|
|TIME:||5:00 PM – 5:00 AM|
|City Hall Sidewalk at 809 Center St.|
|Event Type:||No type given|
|Contact Name||Toby Nixon|
|Email Address||tobynixon [at] gms.com|
|Becky Johnson of HUFF [Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom]–a Freedom Sleeper supporter as well–will speak at City Council at 5 PM during Oral Communications after yesterday’s Koffee Klatch Call-Out to Mayor Cynthia Mathews (See http://www.indybay.org/
Around the same time HAAC activist Toby Nixon will begin another night on the concrete drawing attention to the City’s medieval law making the act of sleeping a crime after 11 PM at night outside, in a vehicle, or in any non-residential building.
Yesterday HUFF activists gave out coffee and brownies in front of City Council offices as well as making forms available for complaints to document the City’s organized legal persecution of poor people outside.
Last week activist Nixon documented harassment by First Alarm Security guards against a homeless man trying to sleep out of the wind under the eaves of the Civic Auditorium.
Phorographer and journalist Alex Darocy documented last week’s Freedom Sleep-Out (#28) at http://www.indybay.org/
Freedom Sleepers Keith McHenry and Abbi Samuels are facing related harassment charges in court today at 10 AM. See ” Food Not Bombs Co-Founder Keith McHenry Faces New Criminal Charges for His Work to Defend the Rights of the Poor ” at http://www.indybay.org/
Last Friday a visiting judge found Freedom Sleepers Phil Posner and Louise Drummond guilty of “being in a park after closing hours”, the grabbag charge being used to disperse and discourage protest at City Hall for the last six months. Posner suggested he prefered jail to paying a fine or doing community service, but was turned down.
Coffee usually shows up during the night for those hardy enough to spend the night. Visitors and donations are welcome. Freedom Sleepers regularly assess the night’s events at the morning HUFF meeting 11 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe at 703 Pacific Avenue, where yet more coffee flows.
|Title:||Mathews Monday: Koffee Klatch Invites Mayor and Homeless To Talk Turkey|
|START DATE:||Monday January 25|
|TIME:||1:00 PM – 3:00 PM|
|At the City Hall Fountain in the Courtyard in front of the Mayor and City Council Offices at 809 Center St.|
Tired of Harassment from Rangers, Cops, and Security Thugs?
Fed up With Politicians Packing with Bigots and Ducking Issues?
Sick of Folks Freezing and Getting Ticketed in Winter?
Disperse the Myths by Speaking Truth to Power !
Mayor Mathews has refused to respond to requests for:
In response, HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) is inviting Cynthia Mathews, her Council, and the Community to a public chat:
Join Us to:
• File Human Rights Violations with The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
The Freedom Sleepers will continue their weekly protest on Tuesday the 26th with Freedom SleepOut #29 at 5 PM.
Coming up will be interviews with Homeless Action and Advocacy Coalition activist Toby Nixon about Freedom SleepOut #28 last Tuesday, Alexis on bad conditions at Page Smith Community House, Louise Drummond and Phil Posner on Upcoming Trials for Being Outside City Hall “After Hours”, “Mad Mike the Wonder Dog” Balderos fresh out of prison, and Steve Pleich with the latest on Don Lane’s Sleeping Ban Repeal organizing. Broadcasts at 101.1 FM, streams at www.freakradio.org , archives at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/