BearCat Buffoonery Bumbles On: Santa Cruz Police Policies & Planned Protests

Latest Update to the SCPD Policy Manual including Use Policy on the Bearcat
by Robert Norse (and the SCPD) ( rnorse3 [at] )
Friday Feb 27th, 2015 10:38 PM

After several requests and considerable delay, assistant City Attorney Reed Gallogly finally coughed up the recent additions to the SCPD Policy Manual. I previously posted the full manual as of 2011 at and the new one as of November 2014 is posted below as well as a January 2015 addition, included the day after the City Council meeting where Mayor Lane gave special time to Police Chief Vogel to read his policy.

An updated list of SCPD Officer names and numbers as of November 2013 can be found at .

Chief Vogel insisted at the January 13th Council meeting that he would not make this policy statement public It was, of course, available on video and audio–especially for those who (“illegally”) recorded it as I and John Malkin did.

Vogel read off his description of the policy at the end of the Oral Communications period pmn 1-13 in the special time allowed by Mayor Lane apparently designed to deflect and calm the concerns of the largely anti-BearCat crowd that tried to speak. Vogel’s apparently created this “policy” without any input from critics or the community generally. It’s been included in the SCPD Policy Manual by Vogel’s fiat. With no dissent so far from anyone on the Council.

Lane, however, did not allow the public to conclude its input nor invite any critics to express their concerns at that meeting.

Nor did he direct Vogel to respond to questions about the supposed “deadline” date which he and Deputy Chief Clark falsely claimed required accepting the Bearcat before the end of 2014. Members of the audience who shouted out these questions were hushed into silence. Decorum, after all, must be preserved.

Instead of marching to the police station, sitting in at the City Manager’s office, or taking other forceful direct action, SCRAM (Santa Cruz Resistance Against Militarization) deferred any protests, originally scheduled for the February 24th meeting. Food Not Bombs did not provide food at the event–which had previously been scheduled. The purpose of ducking the meeting seemed to be to avoid offending middle class police patrons who were attending a round of SCPD glorification with yet another memorial to former cops Baker and Butler. These two are well-known in the homeless community for their abusive behavior towards the poor.

Meanwhile the struggle for the cash being collecting using the Butler and Baker deaths as fund-raisers is chronicled in the rapidly-shrinking Sentinel at .

There is however, I’m told, a march against police brutality being scheduled by UCSC students on Wednesday afternoon from the Quarry to the SCPD station against police violence as oart ofthe 96 Hours of Action around tuition hikes and such.

HUFF continues to urge a broader attack on local police abuse, as described at …and … . Sending back the BearCat and refusing License Recognition software as well as establishing an NDAA-free zone in Santa Cruz seem to sell more tickets than stopping the SCPD attacks on poor and minority people, demanding transparency from the SCPD, and dislodging the SCPD from its privileged position in the political process.

For a reminder that I’m not the only one concerned about these issues, see “Police Injury of Homeless Man Still Unresolved” at and “City Bicycle Program Dysfunction Continues” at –stories suppressed by the Good Times but posted by writer Steve Schnaar. Schnaar has also written “Santa Cruz Police Department: Political Smears, Unfair Profiling, and Harassment” at .

For some reason I was unable to download the individual page describing the BearCat Policy in the updates I received, so I’ve copied it below:

706.2.7 BearCat Rescue Vehicle

The BearCat rescue vehicle is specialized equipment designed for specific purposes. The vehicle is not intended to be used for routine patrol or day-to-day operations. Only properly trained and certified personnel may operate the BearCat rescue vehicle.

The Santa Cruz Police Department is obligated to make the BearCat rescue vehicle available to other law enforcement agencies upon request. Any request ofr use of the BearCat rescue vehicle requires review and approval from a police manager. In the event the request is approved, the Santa Cruz Police Department will provide our own personnel to safely operate and deploy the vehicle.

Use of the BearCat rescue vehicle is restricted to those situations where the utility and capability of the vehicle are necessary and when the capabilities of other department vehicles are insufficient for those situations as determined by the chief of police or department designee. This includes, but is not limited to public safety emergencies, where life threatening conditions exist, the extraction of persons at risk, the need to insert police, fire, and emergency medical services into a dangerous environment, ballistic or projectile protection, high-risk vehicle stops, high-risk warrant service, active shooters, unsecured crime scenes.

This policy recognizes that it is not possible to catalog or anticipate all situations where the BearCat rescue vehicles capabilities are necessary and/or appropriate. This policy acknowledges that it is not the intent that the BearCat rescue vehicle be used in an offense manner where no threat to the public or first responder personnel exists. such situations would include, but are not limited to parades and peaceful demonstrations where violence is not threatened towards the public, property, or law enforcement personnel.

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HUFFing Again 11 AM Wednesday 2-26 at 703 Pacific

For the last two weeks, Sub Rosa has been closed, and HUFF has relocated to the Bagelry on Cedar between Laurel and Maple.  That may happen again.  On the agenda:  Further progress on Small Claims Against the Sleeping Ban,  Recycling Runaround, Focus on SCPD’s Privileges and Abuses, Progress of the Right to Rest Struggle, and…more

HUFF in Winter resumes its Koffee Klatching 11 AM 703 Pacific Sub Rosa 2-18

HUFF scurries to find out who’s being Stay-Away-ed under the new Drive-Em-Away-Without-Benefit-of-Trial law as well as discussing the Right to Rest bill and protests, the ever-looming attacks on Encampments, the Stay Away Lawsuit,  those pesky Mosquito noise-making devices designed to drive away homeless “pests”, Recycling Ripoff–the City’s Latest Theft from the Homeless & the Community, & More–all doused in hot coffee or a beverage of your choosing!!

Be sure to catch the homelessness marathon on 101.3 FM ( and other stations around the country, running from 4 PM  PST Tuesday 11-17 to 6 AM Wednesday 11-18.

Free Radio Santa Cruz will also have a session with Steve “Posturepedic” Pleich with possible long-distance call-in’s on the Right to Rest, the Camp of Last Resort, & Stay-Away’s.   6-8 PM Thursday at 101.3 FM and  Call-in 427-3772.

17th Annual Homelessness Marathon


Free Radio will be streaming and broadcasting the Marathon, Tuesday starting at 4 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. at and 101.3 FM.

> Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:45:22 -0500
> From:
> To:
> Subject: 17th Annual Homelessness Marathon
> The 17th Annual Homelessness Marathon is set to air. If you’ve never seen or
> heard it, it is, literally, like no other broadcast in the world (except for
> our daughter broadcast, the Canadian Homelessness Marathon). This is the world
> turned upside down and looked at from the perspective of the
> poorest-of-the-poor, and featuring their voices as they speak for themselves.
> The broadcast will start tomorrow (Tuesday the 17th) at 7p.m., eastern time,
> and it will run for fourteen hours until 9a.m., eastern time, on Wednesday the
> 18th.
> A list of stations where it can be heard, all or in part, may be found here:
> (check local listings for exact hours of carriage).
> The entire broadcast will be televised on Free Speech Television’s website at
> And from 1-5a.m., eastern time, on the morning of Wednesday the 18th, the
> broadcast will also be televised on channel 9415 of the Dish Network and
> Channel 348 on DirecTV.
> A schedule of the topics to be covered may be found here:
> (but bear in mind that this is a live broadcast that is always full of
> unscheduled twists and turns).
> This is not a charity event or a pity party. Homeless advocates have been
> warning for decades that the same economic factors causing homelessness would
> affect more affluent Americans too. Now that just about everybody in America
> is struggling, maybe it’s time to learn what the poor have known all along.
> The great secret about homeless people isn’t the percentage that are mentally
> ill or addicted. It’s that almost all of them are American citizens. The
> government should not be in the business of demonizing whole classes of
> people, herding them around like cattle and jailing them for the crime of
> being poor just like in Dickens’ time. But nonetheless, we’ve created a
> society where there is no legal place to be free, once you’ve lost your
> housing.
> For this broadcast, we’ll focus on the criminalization of homelessness,
> and remember, the number one thing that homeless people say is, “I never
> thought it could happen to me.” If you don’t want it happening to YOU,
> tune in.
> Jeremy Weir Alderson
> director, Homelessness Marathon

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HUFF does another Wednesday at Sub Rosa 11 AM 703 Pacific

HUFF reappears a its usual spot as the Stay-Away Orders begin….Review of the sorry City Council meeting;  …Small Claims Demands Reach Council…Homelessness Marathon to Do It’s Annual Flurry from Florida Next Wednesday…and Recycling Rabbledybabble!   Come, learn, and drink lots of coffee.

Yo, HUFFsters!   Sub Rosa won’t be open, so we’ll be moving to the Bagelry a block or two away (Cedar just off of Laurel).  See ya there!    11 AM this morning.

Taking the Santa Cruz SleepBusters to Small Claims Court

Speech by Robert Norse to Community and City Council 2-10-15

Three homeless people have filed four claims against the City for being awakened at night and given citations for sleeping between the hours of 11 PM to 8:30 AM at night. This in a city where homeless camping is not only effectively illegally but regularly persecuted with seizure of homeless survival gear, tough treatment of homeless sleepers, and a habitual refusal to acknowledge basic human rights for the poor outside without options. Thnere has been a massive expansion of such citations. In two days the city’s additional Stay Away penalizations will be intensified against homeless people sleeping where they must—in the many areas overseen by Dannette Shoemaker’s Parks and Recreation Department…

…We will be helping victims of this law sue for sleep deprivation damages.   The four current claims request $2500 per incident of sleep deprivation.  Each time an officer violates a homeless person’s privacy, health, and safety–we shall help them hold the offender responsible.   If at first we failm, we will try again and again.  We’ll be there until it is no longer necessary and you have repealed this inhumane and abusive law, which materially injures people…


Upcoming Events and Last HUFF Meeting Minutes

HUFFsters:  If you’ve looked over the e-mails of the last week, let me know what you think.  I’m wondering what we should focus on as an action this week.    HUFF will, of course, be huddling Wednesday 2-4 at 11 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe at 703 Pacific.  Coffee and caffeinated tongues will flow freely!

Recent proposals for action have included a HOMELESS CLEANUP (to buff up the homeless image against anti-homeless propaganda), a PERFORMANCE PEN CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE PROTEST (outside the bracketed color zones),

I favor prep for an action around STAY-AWAY’S (perhaps a protest to the staff or Terrazas’s Public Safety Committee), a follow-up on DISABLED  DISPENSATIONS on Pacific Ave. and elsewhere, and/or  SMALL CLAIMS COURT publicizing around the Sleeping Ban.

Other prospects are a STRIKE 4 AT THE SCPD (demanding the release of Azua’s citations, so we can check racial categories),  FINAL HOUSING FOR VETS (Becky’s proposal to unite anti-war, pro-vet, and pro-dignity-for-homeless sentiment by demanding a more local vet cemetary), SIMPLE HOUSING (some follow-up on Elisse/Raven’s proposal of last fall), VIDEO DEFENSE FOR THE HOMELESS (against violence and police harassment), VOLUNTEER OUTREACH (Major focus on getting more volunteers)… MAPPING THE MOSQUITOS I could go on and on.
If someone wants to volunteer to spearhead this (Pat has been sick), we could add Cafe HUFF to any of these.

Food Not Bombs continues to need volunteers–at its Saturday and Sunday meals 4-6 PM near the Main Post Office.  HUFF fliers are there–and we need activists to sign up people for SMALL CLAIMS COURT there.  As well as at the Monday Red  Church meal 6-7 PM at Cedar and Lincoln.  Sin Barras (the anti-prison group):  Check their facebook page at or .

On the more “appeal to the conventional” side….A City Council meeting is coming up Tuesday 2-9.  Phil Posner has a “Camp of Last Resort” forum 7 PM at Louden Nelson on Wednesday 2-4.   The BEARCAT public forum (not at City Council but at Louden Nellson) is coming up 2-10 7 PM–I think.  On 2-5, Brent Adams’ Warming Center Project is holding a beer benefit Thursday at 402 Ingalis St. 11:30 AM – 10 PM;

I’m also including HUFF notes from the last meeting below.  These are fragmentary and rough.
11:20 a.m.  Sherry, Gail, Jacks, Cal, Kip,  Kevin…(Janice, Becky, David, Gail, James-in-the Rain and Elisse joined later—not everyone was there all the time)…   Kip has a few ideas:KIP’S IDEAS ON THE AGENDA:  PERFORMANCE PENS (at top of  the Agenda)…HOMELESS CLEAN SWEEP…to  counter what  they’ll counter… Kevin–they let him  sleep i the park, and a park  worker said this good morning…Harvey West Park…he  was alone…VAN CAMPING…Sherry got notice from Rainbow Gathering Hawaii–kitchen person arrested and given 24 hours…because they do’t have a permit and gathering…annual state…    Cal wanted to know gender pronouns:    U.S. Foresty 800-832-1355.. Say you disagree with forestry service,  under constitution right to publicly assemble.  Sunday night about 8 outside Grafix on Pacificc Ave…boy and a girll and non-lifethreatening inuries, both shot…hand and shoulder–bartender at Poet  and Patriot…Brent and Tampico heard pop pop…

Kip  notes he sees vans and paddywagon mornings…   Jacks seems them on Westcliffe now where not seen …harassing street performers waiting for their hour to be up…security guards and cops, Kip notes.  Trying to get people to  understand…. Cal notes Peaceful Warrriors Seminar in Berkelley on the 7th…for Direct Action….  Cal  did a march fromFruitville to Oakland—MLK’s speech protesting violence–Oscar Grant… FNB, HNJ, Housekeys not Handcuffs…all peace…Chris arrives.

Cal  remembers police arassment:  friend hanging out on a beach–druk friend arrested for prowling—2 weeks ago…

PERFORMANCE PENS:  How to properly demonstrate against the ordinance…need numbers–timing is important…shows on the 8th and the 15th who will be showing up to town….Wants to see the community too come out and exercise their right to ask for things…any request for anything…a Hug is considered aggressive panhandling–statement…sign cannot have a question regarding a request.

David Silva has arrived. with Tickets book….on particular days collectively outside the box–play music, requesting things that are technically illegal  to request, the more ludicrous these requests the better…  If  with more than one person unless you’re playing music….fliers would be good…police likely to leave it alone and enforce after the crowd hasdied down..  Not sure oof how to engage with the commuity…   Instruments being confiscated…need the media…

Elisse shows up…  with goodies…Spang Outside the Box  Protest…  FNB 4  PM on Saturday meeting…

Homeless Clean Sweep…Kip notes something to counter anti-homeless:  document that nothing is changed by Stay-Away orders…mess is there,  and cleaning it up…  Hard to present information so that it’s very clear to the public…  Follow-up to City Council…

Becky arrives..  Follow someone around with a camera….Brent said bathroom was totally clean…  Getting together with environmenalists..

Elisse: 70%  of the homeless born here or grown up here–removed from their homes by economic pressures.   1000 people: simple housing….for  folks with debt–funded by …  Becky says HUFF position is anyone moved around be given a motel voucher..

I move we do the Small Claims Court..   Becky notes show the dollar and cents stuff to compare the cost…  David and Becky stopping by FNB after 5 PM…can do a 15  minute at 5:15  p.m.    Janice    Resolution to support Small Claims Court stuff passes…

Ellisse asked why River St. Shelter people did gates etc.–so many drugs sold on the property–they couldn’t do anything about that… Janice notes they never tried to sell drugs to her…  Janice–got to stop making people its permanent clients.  I propose tabling and polling out there.   Cal might be interested;  Elisse  will think about it.    Cal  has no  car.

12:40 p.m.  Van Camping:  Kip  friend sleeps in her car fed up with it….  Becky says insist on a voucher if harassed… Janice: why not a public parking lot where you don’t have to move around…designated…have it in Paso Robles–public parking lots…in Los Angeles County…

Becky:  HUfF position is calling for a nighttime carpark and  campground.

Janice’s Concern:  JD Miini Storage and 41st Ave….with them quite a few years…Loitering banned, only allowed there for 20 minutes, no-smoking areas (she lit incense), pets in vehicle,  hallway and unit doors must be open at all times…Janice harassed   Only she got that letter… was there  in a golf cart…she was looking at her fluids, considered “working on her van…”  new management…Becky: they can’t put in new conditions……got letter last Saturday…..Becky and Janice may get together if Janice looks over lease with specifics.

MHCAN Concerns–Sherry: positive people need ot be there so that outside problems in the neighborhood don’t happen…1051 Cayuga.  across the street from the Fire Station on    New restrictive proposals: …They’ll  cut one of her days off and close off where they  …people who give her occasional use permit–  they were going to have a Board meeting on Monday  but woman was sick….   Janice back 3 months and is still on the waiting list.  Elisse wants to collect data on how  many beds .

Janice 61-year old woman having problems with mechanics..

Elisse will meet with Micah on Friday–wants to start to do some organizing heself–get  his opinion…wants to build a group for homeless and poor–working to organize themselves and start dialogues with people whoa re housed and willing… Continue reading

Audio Idiocy and Bearcat B.S. Update from Santa Cruz


NORSE’S NOTES:  Indybay reporter Alex Darocy published an informative and well-illustrated account of the Santa Cruz City Council meeting of January 27th where, for a third time activists gathered to protest the Council’s surrender to SCPD pressure.  On 12-9 Council voted–in spite of overwhelming opposition–to get a turretless tank for Santa Cruz, or–in the words of manufacturer Lemco, a Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck.  Alex’s  story “Activists Say Santa Cruz Police Lied to Secure Armored Vehicle Purchase” is at .

I include here a few notes on what happened to me there regarding the right to record as well as the search for my records. I record for these written reports as well as my twice-weekly Free Radio Santa Cruz show Bathrobespierre’s Broadsides at 101.3 FM and Thursdays 6-8 PST and Sundays 9:30 AM to 1 PM.   More info there, and in archived shows at .

Nervous Norse in the Front Row

by Robert Norse

Friday Jan 30th, 2015 1:54 PM

Thanks to all the folks who showed up at the rally and Oral Communications session.

City Council audio equipment was, as usual, spotty. Accordingly I sat up front near but not technically “attending” my trusty tape recorder (because not within arms length). I advised Sgt. Bush, the sergeant at arms, that the uncertain nature of the equipment meant I’d be making my own recording, not dependent on the city’s speaker system and decision when to keep it on and when to turn it off.

In the past, Bush has arrested me for leaving a tape recorder there and replacing it when he removed it. That “disrupting a meeting” charge, filed by Mayor Robinson, was never filed by the D.A. Last fall I filed a claim for damages against the City for false arrest, which was denied. I now have until April 1 to take Robinson personally to Small Claims Court, which I’m hoping to do.

For many meetings following, Bush would confiscate my recorders, requiring me to squat next to the tape recorder while it was on in order to comply with Robinson’s (and now Lane’s) “decorum” rules. Lane made squatting next the tape recorder a violation of the new “decorum” rules, so on January 27th I sat in the first row–not quite “attending” the machine, but near enough to it to grab it if some officious cop should attempt to grab it.

Which is what Bush several times tried to do. Bush informed me he’d be removing my recorder if I left it there. I did so anyway, and when he moved to take it, I intercepted it and retrieved it. When he resumed his sentry position by the side door, I replaced the machine. He again moved to take it. I again intercepted. This time he advised me that he’d take it from me. I told him that to do so he’d have to arrest me.

For the rest of the meeting, I nervously had to keep one eye on Bush and one eye on the tape recorder. After two assaults on the helpless machine, Bush took no further action Still, I was unable to make notes, move about the room, or speak with others, cause I felt I had to be ready to spring up and seize the machine before it could be confiscated–if that were tried again. I was able to hold up a sign visible on the TV (“Tanks, No Thanks!”) along with many others in the audience.

Still I must admit that having to guard my tape recorder from a cop on pain of exclusion from the meeting and arrest for “disruption” (as provided for under Lane’s new decorum rules– See “Council Armors Up” at specifically, ).

The same day I filed this Public Records Act request with the City:

From: rnorse3 [at]
To: npatino [at]
CC: kvogel [at]; citycouncil [at]
Subject: Public Records Act: re SCPD Contracts with Other Agencies
Date: Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:15:09 -0800

Nydia: Please make available for viewing or (preferably) in e-form (as usual) all contracts the SCPD has made with any other agencies since 2010 that involve the delivery or furnishing of goods, services, or money.

Thanks, Robert

The point was to determine whether the SCPD has been getting equipment and money indirectly from federal war enthusaists like Homeland Security, but doing so through third party agencies, It apparently did this in the case of the Bearcat through the City and County of San Francisco (see “Public Records Released by the SPCD on the Bearcat” at; specifically: ).

I encourage Bearcat opponents and those concerned with militarization and SCPD abuse more generally to parse the documents–both those already posted and those which I may obtain in the coming days. They’re supposed to respond by February 6th or thereabouts, if I understand the 10-day rule correctly.

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Merced Mercycrushers Move on Homeless Camp

NOTES BY NORSE:   In Santa Cruz HUFF began turning in damage claim forms demanding $2500 from city sleepbusters.  The first claim forms were presented to the City Clerk’s office during the protest Tuesday night against the SCPD’s  rescue-n-riot Bearcat Armored Personnel Vehicle.   The restitution is demanded for each instance where a ranger or police officer has wakened a homeless person and demanded they leave–invariably without giving them a legal place to go and often with a $157 citation. Bring your sleeping and camping tickets to the Food Not Bombs tables on Saturday and Sunday at 4 PM near the main Post Office in downtown Santa Cruz.
      We don’t know how Small Claims Court “judges” will treat these lawsuits, but at least homeless folks and their advocates will get a chance to face their abusers.
       However, the attacks on homeless survival encampments in Santa Cruz are not likely to stop.  The hyperpolicing of parks and other greenbelt areas continues with no increase in shelter, no warming centers opened, and no acknowledgment of the misery and injustice caused by these sweeps.
       The new “Stay-Away” law in the parks and other large swaths of Santa Cruz goes into effect on February 12th or thereabouts.  Read about these new “Homeless–Disappear or Go to Jail” laws at    Specifically, the text of the monstrously expanded Stay-Away law is at and the older City Hours of Operation and abusive “Disorderly Conduct” laws are at  

Merced Homeless Threatened

by Mike Rhodes ( mikerhodes [at] )

Sunday Jan 25th, 2015 4:37 PM

Caltrans says this homeless encampment is on public (State of California) land. If these homeless people can’t live here (on the people’s land), where can they live?

A group of 25 (+ or -) homeless people living in an encampment near highway 140 and Baker street in Merced are being threatened with eviction by Caltrans. Notices were posted on Friday, January 23 for the Monday, January 26 at 8 a.m. eviction. The notice posted by Caltrans says that “all personal property and camp debris is to be removed by the time and date noted below.” The notice continues “any personal property left at this site after this time will be considered abandoned.”

The residents in the encampment, some of whom have lived there for over a year, don’t have any place to go. There are no safe and legal camp sites for the homeless in Merced. Several of the residents are elderly and some are sick and unable to move their property, even if there was some place to take it.

Marilyn showed me inside her shelter today and it is obvious that she is not going to have her property moved by tomorrow morning. The notice does say that “any personal property not disposed of will be stored for ninety (90) days.”

Supporters of the homeless will be at the encampment on Monday morning to video the Caltrans operation and make sure that homeless people’s rights are not violated.

She is unable to move her property to another location.

§Some of the homeless shelters are very well maintained

by Mike Rhodes Sunday Jan 25th, 2015 4:37 PM

§This is a view of a couple of the shelters in the camp

by Mike Rhodes Sunday Jan 25th, 2015 4:37 PM

§Some Shelters had some landscaping

by Mike Rhodes Sunday Jan 25th, 2015 4:37 PM

Caltrans clears Merced homeless camp

By Thaddeus Miller

01/26/2015 9:54 AM

01/26/2015 6:16 PM

The California Department of Transportation on Thursday posted notices at an encampment near Kelly Avenue and Highway 140 on the east side of Merced ordering the homeless illegally camping there to leave before crews clear the area Monday.

The notice went up on the same day that volunteers assisted the county’s Continuum of Care in counting the homeless in Merced County, a count required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Though the official numbers from the count aren’t expected to be released until next month, the Continuum of Care member heading the tally said there are more homeless people in the county than last year at the same time.

Those living in encampment near the Bradley Overhead, an overpass maintained by Caltrans, said Thursday they may have been able to find other shelter if they’d been given more notice.

Gail Henslee, a 60-year-old woman who’s lived in the encampment for two months, said a few days is not long enough to move. “We have nowhere to go, and they don’t care,” she said.

The notice says the area will be cleared because of illegal camping and dumping. Homeless advocates estimate that 25 people call the encampment home.

Henslee said she’s called a lawyer to study her options, but in the meantime admits she won’t have any choice but to leave before the camp is cleared out beginning at 8 a.m. Monday. She said she didn’t know about the plans to clear the camp until a Caltrans employee warned her earlier this week.

Entering a local shelter, such as the one D Street, is not an option for her, she said, because staff there would not allow her to bring her 11-year-old dog.

Being forced from one place to another is nothing new, said Brent Shirley, who has lived in a makeshift structure near the overpass for about six months. “There’s no closure for all of this – none,” the 52-year-old said. “It’s just a vicious cycle we’re all living in.”

A handful of tents and makeshift shelters make up the encampment, which can be seen by drivers who travel the highway to and from Yosemite National Park.

Caltrans spokeswoman Angela DaPrato said the California Highway Patrol will assist in the removal early next week, when crews will throw out anything left behind. Those in the encampment can identify possessions they plan to come back for, according to the posted notice, and Caltrans will store the items for up to 90 days.

Representatives from the Merced County Human Services Department were on hand Thursday to speak with those living near the overhead after the notices were posted.

Renee Davenport, who headed up the tally for Continuum of Care, said she appreciated that Caltrans held off from destroying the camp until after the count. She said several people in the camp are elderly or suffer from medical conditions that keep them from working.

Davenport said she is doubtful that many of them would get housing relatively soon, because the system does not work quickly.

Moving them from the encampment is not a long-term solution, she said. “They’re just going to go somewhere else in the street.”

The encampment has been there for about two years, Davenport said. It started to receive extra attention after the $41.2 million Bradley Overhead project was completed in November.

There were 768 homeless people in Merced County, including 21 children, based on the 2014 Homeless Count and Survey.
Davenport said this year’s count found more homeless people, but she declined to report the exact numbers. Urban Initiatives, the nonprofit that oversees Continuum, said it expects to be able to report the numbers in February.

Volunteers will continue with a homeless survey Friday. The questionnaire is an attempt to better track the demographics of the homeless, with questions designed to find out how many of them are men, women, children, veterans, HIV positive, mentally ill and so on.

Those leaving the camp will have to find a place to stay other than the warming shelter that’s been used during the past couple of winters. The Merced County Rescue Mission said this month that it was not planning to open the shelter, which is essentially a tarp tent filled with beds and space heaters.

Also this week, during a regular meeting, the Merced City Council instructed city staff members to look at the cost of opening a public building or taking over control of the city’s warming shelter. About $7,200 in Department of Housing and Urban Development money during the past two years has gone toward the purchase of the tent and the equipment inside, as well as paid the utility costs, according to the city’s Housing Department.

City staff members said a report could be ready in the coming weeks.


Caltrans clears Merced homeless camp

By Thaddeus Miller

01/26/2015 9:54 AM

01/26/2015 6:16 PM


Plans to clear a homeless encampment came to fruition Monday morning, as Caltrans workers used heavy machinery to begin clearing the camp near Highway 140, where an estimated 25 people lived in tents and makeshift buildings.

The work started shortly after 8 a.m. in the mud and grass field near where Kelly Avenue meets the Bradley Overhead. Caltrans posted notices on Friday that ordered the homeless to leave the area by Monday morning.

California Highway Patrol officers, who were on hand to provide security, said the people in the camp peacefully complied with the notice. One man who lived in the camp was taken away by an ambulance after he complained of chest pains.

Many of the residents of the camp were still packing up when the crews arrived. Steve Mentz, 51, hurried to secure his dogs and try to save as much of his structure as possible.

As he left the camp, he said he didn’t know where he would spend the night, as he’s been run off before. “They’re making it where there’s nowhere to go,” he said.

A resident of the camp for about eight months, Mentz said he’s legally blind and hoping to get disability benefits soon. He was aware of the looming destruction of the camp, he said, but didn’t have anywhere else to go because the shelters in town don’t allow pets.

Renee Davenport, a member of the Merced County Continuum of Care, said many of those living in the encampment have stories similar to Mentz’s. She said some have drug problems or suffer from mental illness, but several of those living in the camp are elderly or disabled and can’t work.

She said the breaking up of the camp highlights what she sees as a lack of services for homeless people in Merced and the county. “To do this in the middle of the winter – and there’s no warming shelter – there’s no excuse,” she said.

Davenport was in the camp Monday morning helping people pack up.

People who left the camp would have to find alternate housing from the warming shelter that Merced County Rescue Mission opted not to open this year. About $7,200 in Department of Housing and Urban Development money during the past two years has gone toward the purchase of the tent and the equipment inside, as well as paid the utility costs, according to Merced’s Housing Department.

Merced City Manager John Bramble said his staff is still looking into the cost and feasibility of opening a public building or taking over control of the warming shelter tent.

That same day, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro announced groups that work with the homeless throughout the central San Joaquin Valley received about $10 million to help those without shelter. Merced County’s Continuum got seven grants worth $579,193.

Back in Merced, Caltrans crews took down some of the makeshift structures in the camp by hand, folding up tarps and bagging trash. The buildings made with wooden pallets snapped and splintered as they were knocked over by heavy machinery. Some of the homeless got help moving from friends with cars, while others pulled their belongings on a cart behind a bicycle.

A handful of people arrived to the camp with signs saying the homeless there were being “persecuted.”

According to the last year’s homeless count by the Merced County Continuum of Care, there are 476 homeless people in Merced. Continuum conducted the 2015 count this month, but has not reported the numbers yet.

Caltrans agreed to store possessions for up to 90 days for those who lived in the camp. Anything else left behind was destined for the dump.

Angela DaPrato, a spokeswoman for Caltrans, said the department had been planning to clear the camp for a few months but waited until after the holidays and last week’s homeless count to go through with the plans.

She said the cleanup would continue Tuesday and crews were not certain how many more days it would take. “They didn’t anticipate how much work it would be,” she said.




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Striking Back at the Stay-Away in Santa Cruz


In a preview of protests scheduled for the next Council meeting and thereafter, “Push-Back” Pat Colby and fellow HUFF activists set up a table with coffee, brownies, petitions, orgami paper cranes and fliers on Pacific Avenue on Martin Luther King Day. This was the first in a series of demonstrations raising awareness of poor people being turned into criminals at night for sleeping, smoking, being in parks, sitting down near a building, recycling, playing a guitar for donation outside the bracketed performance pens on Pacific Ave, gathering in a group along the levee, etc.

Three flyers on the issue

§Moving Beyond Tokenism

by Robert Norse Tuesday Jan 20th, 2015 10:16 PM


In other cities, activists continued “Black Lives Matter’ demonstrations blocking freeways and demanding an end to police business as usual. See

§Bringing It Home to Santa Cruz

by Robert Norse Tuesday Jan 20th, 2015 10:16 PM


The obscene abuse of those without shelter outside continues in the dead of winter. Neither Lane nor Posner have anything on the agenda to address this for next Tuesday. Nor have they agreed to direct the staff to confirm the stats that Raven Davis presented, he declined to do that as well showing no public safety concerns of any substance in the parks and the focus of the attack being against homeless survival behavior.  Instead they intend to “wait until next September” to view alarming figures that are already available and have been carefully analyzed.

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