Japanese Homeless Go to Fukushima

NOTE BY NORSE:  In this story, the scandal is homelessness as a jobs-and-housing crisis that allows for the exploitation of workers.  Contrast Santa Cruz where local bigots inveigh against the homeless as lazy, crazy, druggies, or exploiters.   And in the last year, thanks to Take-Over-Santa-Cruz infiltration and lobbying, the Task Farce Stimulating Public Hysteria (or Task Force on “Public Safety” as it calls itself), the homeless are being rebranded as criminals for survival behavior that would be perfectly legal inside a house (sleeping, sitting, drinking alcohol).

On Pacific Avenue,Mayor Rattlesnake Robinson’s Raiders have begun to strike. SCPD’s CSO Barnett has already driven away Kate the scarfmakker and jewelerymakers David and Crystal with harassment and threats of ticketing.  Struggling to squeeze themselves within the new Sidewalk Constriction Ordinances passed to discourage and thin out street performers, they were nonetheless confronted in hostile manner by Barnett and his yellow-jacketed Hostle-patility Patrol minions.  The ticket fine would have been in the hundreds of dollars.  Driving crafts people to panhandling, Barnett is apparently presenting a foretaste of Rattlesnake’s New Year’s gift to struggling poor people.  They have discovered old laws that, they say, prohibit selling or displaying for donation crafts more than 5 times in a six month period under the previously unused ordinance MC 5.04.080(11) which otherwise requires a “peddler” to pay $72 a day for a license.  Display for donation has not been criminalized…up to now.It’s ironic that a decade ago when an earlier group of City Council homeless-ophobes, confronted with increasing complaints about police abuse and selective enforcement (and hearings by the City’s then-active Citizens Police Review Board)–passed laws expanding forbidden-to-sit zones to cover 95% of the sidewalk for sitters and panhandlers.  Street performers and vendors tried to separate themselves from the “riffraff” and were only banned from 75% of the sidewalk.  But the wheel spins, and having come for the homeless and the beggers, the authorities went after street performers and artists last fall…and now vendors.  Solidarity with the riff-raff is not such a bad idea, after all.

In Santa Cruz some liberals are proposing that homeless “prove their worth” by doing shit work (similar to what folks on welfare are required to do in terms of seeking non-existent jobs).  What’s needed, of course, is broader solidarity between workers, renters, homeless people, and unemployed folks.  Otherwise they slice folks off, one group at a time.

Special report – Japan’s homeless recruited for murky Fukushima clean-up

By Mari Saito and Antoni Slodkowski

SENDAI, Japan Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:04am IST

(Reuters) – Seiji Sasa hits the train station in this northern Japanese city before dawn most mornings to prowl for homeless men.

He isn’t a social worker. He’s a recruiter. The men in Sendai Station are potential laborers that Sasa can dispatch to contractors in Japan’s nuclear disaster zone for a bounty of $100 a head.

“This is how labor recruiters like me come in every day,” Sasa says, as he strides past men sleeping on cardboard and clutching at their coats against the early winter cold.

It’s also how Japan finds people willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong.

Almost three years ago, a massive earthquake and tsunami leveled villages across Japan’s northeast coast and set off multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Today, the most ambitious radiation clean-up ever attempted is running behind schedule. The effort is being dogged by both a lack of oversight and a shortage of workers, according to a Reuters analysis of contracts and interviews with dozens of those involved.

In January, October and November, Japanese gangsters were arrested on charges of infiltrating construction giant Obayashi Corp’s(1802.T) network of decontamination subcontractors and illegally sending workers to the government-funded project.

In the October case, homeless men were rounded up at Sendai’s train station by Sasa, then put to work clearing radioactive soil and debris in Fukushima City for less than minimum wage, according to police and accounts of those involved. The men reported up through a chain of three other companies to Obayashi, Japan’s second-largest construction company.

Obayashi, which is one of more than 20 major contractors involved in government-funded radiation removal projects, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But the spate of arrests has shown that members of Japan’s three largest criminal syndicates – Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai – had set up black-market recruiting agencies under Obayashi.

“We are taking it very seriously that these incidents keep happening one after another,” said Junichi Ichikawa, a spokesman for Obayashi. He said the company tightened its scrutiny of its lower-tier subcontractors in order to shut out gangsters, known as the yakuza. “There were elements of what we had been doing that did not go far enough.”

OVERSIGHT LEFT TO TOP CONTRACTORS

Part of the problem in monitoring taxpayer money in Fukushima is the sheer number of companies involved in decontamination, extending from the

major contractors at the top to tiny subcontractors many layers below them. The total number has not been announced. But in the 10 most contaminated towns and a highway that runs north past the gates of the wrecked plant in Fukushima, Reuters found 733 companies were performing work for the Ministry of Environment, according to partial contract terms released by the ministry in August under Japan’s information disclosure law.

Reuters found 56 subcontractors listed on environment ministry contracts worth a total of $2.5 billion in the most radiated areas of Fukushima that would have been barred from traditional public works because they had not been vetted by the construction ministry.

The 2011 law that regulates decontamination put control under the environment ministry, the largest spending program ever managed by the 10-year-old agency. The same law also effectively loosened controls on bidders, making it possible for firms to win radiation removal contracts without the basic disclosure and certification required for participating in public works such as road construction.

Reuters also found five firms working for the Ministry of Environment that could not be identified. They had no construction ministry registration, no listed phone number or website, and Reuters could not find a basic corporate registration disclosing ownership. There was also no record of the firms in the database of Japan’s largest credit research firm, Teikoku Databank.

“As a general matter, in cases like this, we would have to start by looking at whether a company like this is real,” said Shigenobu Abe, a researcher at Teikoku Databank. “After that, it would be necessary to look at whether this is an active company and at the background of its executive and directors.”

Responsibility for monitoring the hiring, safety records and suitability of hundreds of small firms involved in Fukushima’s decontamination rests with the top contractors, including Kajima Corp(1812.T), Taisei Corp(1801.T) and Shimizu Corp(1803.T), officials said.

“In reality, major contractors manage each work site,” said Hide Motonaga, deputy director of the radiation clean-up division of the environment ministry.

But, as a practical matter, many of the construction companies involved in the clean-up say it is impossible to monitor what is happening on the ground because of the multiple layers of contracts for each job that keep the top contractors removed from those doing the work.

“If you started looking at every single person, the project wouldn’t move forward. You wouldn’t get a tenth of the people you need,” said Yukio Suganuma, president of Aisogo Service, a construction company that was hired in 2012 to clean up radioactive fallout from streets in the town of Tamura.

The sprawl of small firms working in Fukushima is an unintended consequence of Japan’s legacy of tight labor-market regulations combined with the aging population’s deepening shortage of workers. Japan’s construction companies cannot afford to keep a large payroll and dispatching temporary workers to construction sites is prohibited. As a result, smaller firms step into the gap, promising workers in exchange for a cut of their wages.

Below these official subcontractors, a shadowy network of gangsters and illegal brokers who hire homeless men has also become active in Fukushima. Ministry of Environment contracts in the most radioactive areas of Fukushima prefecture are particularly lucrative because the government pays an additional $100 in hazard allowance per day for each worker.

Takayoshi Igarashi, a lawyer and professor at Hosei University, said the initial rush to find companies for decontamination was understandable in the immediate aftermath of the disaster when the priority was emergency response. But he said the government now needs to tighten its scrutiny to prevent a range of abuses, including bid rigging.

“There are many unknown entities getting involved in decontamination projects,” said Igarashi, a former advisor to ex-Prime Minister Naoto Kan. “There needs to be a thorough check on what companies are working on what, and when. I think it’s probably completely lawless if the top

contractors are not thoroughly checking.”

The Ministry of Environment announced on Thursday that work on the most contaminated sites would take two to three years longer than the original March 2014 deadline. That means many of the more than 60,000 who lived in the area before the disaster will remain unable to return home until six years after the disaster.

Earlier this month, Abe, who pledged his government would “take full responsibility for the rebirth of Fukushima” boosted the budget for decontamination to $35 billion, including funds to create a facility to store radioactive soil and other waste near the wrecked nuclear plant.
To read this story in a PDF, click link.reuters.com/duv65v

Graphics
Web of contractors link.reuters.com/wet65v
Recruiting the homeless link.reuters.com/cem65v
Skimming wages link.reuters.com/dem65v

‘DON’T ASK QUESTIONS’

Japan has always had a gray market of day labor centered in Tokyo and Osaka. A small army of day laborers was employed to build the stadiums and parks for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. But over the past year, Sendai, the biggest city in the disaster zone, has emerged as a hiring hub for homeless men. Many work clearing rubble left behind by the 2011 tsunami and cleaning up radioactive hotspots by removing topsoil, cutting grass and scrubbing down houses around the destroyed nuclear plant, workers and city officials say.

Seiji Sasa, 67, a broad-shouldered former wrestling promoter, was photographed by undercover police recruiting homeless men at the Sendai train station to work in the nuclear cleanup. The workers were then handed off through a chain of companies reporting up to Obayashi, as part of a $1.4 million contract to decontaminate roads in Fukushima, police say.

“I don’t ask questions; that’s not my job,” Sasa said in an interview with Reuters. “I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That’s it. I don’t get involved in what happens after that.”

Only a third of the money allocated for wages by Obayashi’s top contractor made it to the workers Sasa had found. The rest was skimmed by middlemen, police say. After deductions for food and lodging, that left workers with an hourly rate of about $6, just below the minimum wage equal to about $6.50 per hour in Fukushima, according to wage data provided by police. Some of the homeless men ended up in debt after fees for food and housing were deducted, police say.

Sasa was arrested in November and released without being charged. Police were after his client, Mitsunori Nishimura, a local Inagawa-kai gangster. Nishimura housed workers in cramped dorms on the edge of Sendai and skimmed an estimated $10,000 of public funding intended for their wages each month, police say.

Nishimura, who could not be reached for comment, was arrested and paid a $2,500 fine. Nishimura is widely known in Sendai. Seiryu Home, a shelter funded by the city, had sent other homeless men to work for him on recovery jobs after the 2011 disaster.

“He seemed like such a nice guy,” said Yota Iozawa, a shelter manager. “It was bad luck. I can’t investigate everything about every company.”
In the incident that prompted his arrest, Nishimura placed his workers with Shinei Clean, a company with about 15 employees based on a winding farm road south of Sendai. Police turned up there to arrest Shinei’s president, Toshiaki Osada, after a search of his office, according to Tatsuya Shoji, who is both Osada’s nephew and a company manager. Shinei had sent dump trucks to sort debris from the disaster. “Everyone is involved in sending workers,” said Shoji. “I guess we just happened to get caught this time.”

Osada, who could not be reached for comment, was fined about $5,000. Shinei was also fined about $5,000.

‘RUN BY GANGS’

The trail from Shinei led police to a slightly larger neighboring company with about 30 employees, Fujisai Couken. Fujisai says it was under pressure from a larger contractor, Raito Kogyo, to provide workers for Fukushima. Kenichi Sayama, Fujisai’s general manger, said his company only made about $10 per day per worker it outsourced. When the job appeared to be going too slowly, Fujisai asked Shinei for more help and they turned to Nishimura.
A Fujisai manager, Fuminori Hayashi, was arrested and paid a $5,000 fine, police said. Fujisai also paid a $5,000 fine.

“If you don’t get involved (with gangs), you’re not going to get enough workers,” said Sayama, Fujisai’s general manager. “The construction industry is 90 percent run by gangs.”

Raito Kogyo(1926.T), a top-tier subcontractor to Obayashi, has about 300 workers in decontamination projects around Fukushima and owns subsidiaries in both Japan and the United States. Raito agreed that the project faced a shortage of workers but said it had been deceived. Raito said it was unaware of a shadow contractor under Fujisai tied to organized crime.

“We can only check on lower-tier subcontractors if they are honest with us,” said Tomoyuki Yamane, head of marketing for Raito. Raito and Obayashi were not accused of any wrongdoing and were not penalized.

Other firms receiving government contracts in the decontamination zone have hired homeless men from Sasa, including Shuto Kogyo, a firm based in Himeji, western Japan.

“He sends people in, but they don’t stick around for long,” said Fujiko Kaneda, 70, who runs Shuto with her son, Seiki Shuto. “He gathers people in front of the station and sends them to our dorm.”

Kaneda invested about $600,000 to cash in on the reconstruction boom. Shuto converted an abandoned roadhouse north of Sendai into a dorm to house workers on reconstruction jobs such as clearing tsunami debris. The company also won two contracts awarded by the Ministry of Environment to clean up two of the most heavily contaminated townships.

Kaneda had been arrested in 2009 along with her son, Seiki, for charging illegally high interest rates on loans to pensioners. Kaneda signed an admission of guilt for police, a document she says she did not understand, and paid a fine of $8,000. Seiki was given a sentence of two years prison time suspended for four years and paid a $20,000 fine, according to police. Seiki declined to comment.

UNPAID WAGE CLAIMS

In Fukushima, Shuto has faced at least two claims with local labor regulators over unpaid wages, according to Kaneda. In a separate case, a 55-year-old homeless man reported being paid the equivalent of $10 for a full month of work at Shuto. The worker’s paystub, reviewed by Reuters, showed charges for food, accommodation and laundry were docked from his monthly pay equivalent to about $1,500, leaving him with $10 at the end of the August.

The man turned up broke and homeless at Sendai Station in October after working for Shuto, but disappeared soon afterwards, according to Yasuhiro Aoki, a Baptist pastor and homeless advocate.

Kaneda confirmed the man had worked for her but said she treats her workers fairly. She said Shuto Kogyo pays workers at least $80 for a day’s work while docking the equivalent of $35 for food. Many of her workers end up borrowing from her to make ends meet, she said. One of them had owed her $20,000 before beginning work in Fukushima, she says. The balance has come down recently, but then he borrowed another $2,000 for the year-end

holidays.

“He will never be able to pay me back,” she said.

The problem of workers running themselves into debt is widespread. “Many homeless people are just put into dormitories, and the fees for lodging and food are automatically docked from their wages,” said Aoki, the pastor. “Then at the end of the month, they’re left with no pay at all.”
Shizuya Nishiyama, 57, says he briefly worked for Shuto clearing rubble. He now sleeps on a cardboard box in Sendai Station. He says he left after a dispute over wages, one of several he has had with construction firms, including two handling decontamination jobs.

Nishiyama’s first employer in Sendai offered him $90 a day for his first job clearing tsunami debris. But he was made to pay as much as $50 a day for food and lodging. He also was not paid on the days he was unable to work. On those days, though, he would still be charged for room and board. He decided he was better off living on the street than going into debt.

“We’re an easy target for recruiters,” Nishiyama said. “We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and we’re easy to spot. They say to us, are you looking for work? Are you hungry? And if we haven’t eaten, they offer to find us a job.”

(Reporting by Mari Saito and Antoni Slodkowski, additional reporting by Elena Johansson, Michio Kohno, Yoko Matsudaira, Fumika Inoue, Ruairidh Villar, Sophie Knight; writing by Kevin Krolicki; editing by Bill Tarrant)

In the Heart of the Mean Season: Chris Nunez op-ed Dec 28 2013

NOTE TO READER: Chris Nunez is right-on in his questioning of the connection between high property crime rates, violent crime rates, and homelessness. The Public Safety Task Force heard that these crimes are committed by the “sons and daughters of the residents” and not by homeless people in any statistical way. Instead, homeless people are characterized as “criminals” when they break a series of laws passed, apparently, just for them. These include laws which outlaw the act of sleeping at night, the use of a blanket, sitting on a sidewalk, asking for food after dark, BEING in a public parking lot or garage longer than 15 minutes, or sitting on a park bench longer than 1 hour. When a homeless person gets a $162 citation for sleeping when they couldn’t afford a $75 a night motel room, they are further criminalized for not paying the fine. Our jails are full of homeless people with little effect on public safety. This is truly a Mean Town in a Mean Season. —Becky Johnson of HUFF

Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom
309 Cedar St. PMB 14B
Santa Cruz, Ca. 95060
(831) 423-HUFF

Chris Nunez : In the heart of the mean season

By Chris Nunez

Special to the Sentinel

Posted:   12/28/2013 03:37:45 PM PST


Chris Nunez

It’s the “mean season” — and just in time for the cold and gloom of winter, a killing winter.
Responses to the recent Sentinel article about homelessness reinforce what has been shaping up for the better part of a year now. But what was not said shapes this communal discussion as much as what was stated in this article and the comments that followed.
At one of the Public Safety Task Force meetings, the director of the Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center pointed out that all across the country 80 percent of the homeless population is made up of locals who actually had a residence in the very cities in which they are now homeless — they are our neighbors!
But readers of this newspaper article or of the comments would never know it. The homeless have become nameless and faceless and expendable — responsible for their own poverty. Yet the very fact that homelessness is spread all across the nation should make it abundantly clear that there is something larger at work here — there is a systemic problem beyond the control of those caught in the untenable position of being without shelter, without an address — perhaps employed but still without shelter, others without jobs or prospects.
There is a seeming connection being made between high property crime and violent crime and the high rate of homelessness. Correlation does not necessarily mean “causation” but there is also a strange and implied “guilt by association.” Is it accurate to equate property crime with violent crime, or is this playing fast and loose with unrelated facts? What is this kind of logic that throws a community into a panic?
These are straw man arguments, smears and slurs that allow no opportunity for response from the nameless individuals or group(s) being attacked. And the arguments impute ugly characteristics to these individuals and group(s) — laziness and arguments about the supposedly undeserving poor — knowing nothing about any of the nameless individuals being attacked.
Some in the community seem to think that bringing back the chain-gang type of penalty with hard labor is the way to handle what is essentially a problem of homelessness. This is where the failure to distinguish between those who break the law and those who are merely without shelter makes for bad logic and poor decisions about the community’s options. To equate all homeless with criminals and criminal behavior does not make sense. We’ve never had chain gangs in California that I’m aware of, so I must wonder where such ideas come from.
There is an assumption that “spending piles of money on services” alone will end homelessness and frustration that it hasn’t. Jobs are needed by the homeless, the underemployed and unemployed. And the “job makers” of this nation have failed or refused to invest in creating jobs — yet it’s the jobless who are blamed for the situation. One of the realities is that over the past 35 years while the economy has been sliding down distancing the difference between the working middle class and the top 1 percent, that those candidates for election or re-election have used “get-tough-on-crime” campaigns to garner votes. Candidates of both parties do this — the Bushes and Bill Clinton, and Joe Biden did this — and it worked — that’s why they do it. Fear is truly our enemy, but fear also paralyzes and panics individuals and communities. Fear makes groups susceptible to “moral panic,” the fear of the unknown or of the vaguely suspicious because “they are different from us.” It’s the mean season, and we have ceased to be good neighbors and there are consequences for that — we have ceased to be the commonwealth our founders intended us to be — are we destroying the dream of a democratic nation?
“Each man for himself” is not something our founders would have said.
Chris Nunez of Santa Cruz has a master’s degree in theology from the University of San Francisco, and is a fellow in the graduate program in pastoral ministry at the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University.

San Jose Encampments in a Super-Rich Community

NOTES BY NORSE:  The winter (summer, spring, and fall) destruction of survival encampments has become a growth industry in Santa Cruz under Mayors Bryant and Robinson–with persistent, arbitrary, and destructive raids on the privacy, property, and well-being of those outside with no shelter.

         The pretexts are age-old:  environmental protection (but not the human environment), public health (but let’s not build any 24 hour bathrooms), drug “crimes” (how’s the prohibition war going for you?), and, the latest and most trumpeted but least substantial–”public safety” (gee, Martha, all those police calls and tickets for sleeping, sitting, and being in a park after dark–they’re willfully violating laws that our police department advised the  City Council to make!…and creating…a crime wave!).
The growing number of homeless people are a symptom of housing, jobs, war priority, and bankster fraud, it’s become easier and more profitable to discover or attribute flaws, faults, and failings in homeless people themselves to explain away rent profiteering, job flight overseas, and a bloated corrupt and overpriced  health care system.    But let’s just call them drunks, addicts, crazies, and lazies.  Sort of what’s always been done when you wish to dismiss legitimate basic survival demands and sub-humanize folks.
The city can’t even see its way clear to two decent mass meals for homeless people per year (Thanksgiving and Xmas).  Food Not Bombs has stepped in to feed on the sidewalk near the main post office today.   Nor has there been any official provision for warming centers as the temperatures drop.

  Hard Times USA

The Jungle: Thousands of Homeless People Live in Shantytowns at the Epicenter of High-Tech, Super-Rich Silicon Valley

Residents of Silicon Valley’s largest homeless encampment illustrate the widening divide between the nation’s haves and have-nots.
Photo Credit: Evelyn Nieves
December 15, 2013  |

By mid-morning on Thursday, the sun was shining hard enough to dry wet blankets and the residents of the Jungle began surfacing, letting each other know they were still alive.
Six straight nights of freezing temperatures had tested their tenacity, not to mention their tarps and tents. It was so cold that the raccoons that raid the trash bins every night disappeared, a first. Ditto the crows, squirrels and feral cats. Life in the Jungle, 75 wooded acres off Interstate 101 in San Jose that comprises Silicon Valley’s largest homeless encampment, came to a standstill.

Click to enlarge.
Photo: The entrance to the Jungle. 

With the hard ground thawing, the Jungle looked as if spring had sprung. People strolled the dirt paths, rode their bikes and walked their dogs. Everyone in the Jungle—200 men and women, give or take—looked ready to celebrate surviving the earliest, coldest cold snap on record.
“We were lucky,” said Troy Feid, a former carpenter, squinting into the bright sky. “Not everyone was.”

Click to enlarge.

Photo: Troy Feid, a former carpenter who suffers from depression, has lived in the Jungle on and off for six years. He ended up homeless after he lost his job when he went to jail for nearly a year for owning a motorcycle he didn’t know was stolen. Now he lives in an elaborate encampment he built out of scrounged wood and plastic with his cat, Baby.

Four homeless men in Silicon Valley did not make it through the season’s first bout of sub-freezing temperatures. Over the last two weeks, three of them froze to death on the streets of San Jose, not far from the Jungle.
That people live and die on the streets of Silicon Valley is no news to the poor, of course. With more than 6,500 tech companies in all, Santa Clara County is home to the biggest stars in the tech universe, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, eBay and Apple. But the land of high-tech milk and honey is also a prime example of the widening divide between the nation’s haves and have-nots.
For all its stock-option millionaires, the San Jose/Santa Clara County region (pop. 1.8 million) also has the nation’s fifth largest population of homeless (after New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Diego), according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The main culprits? Budget cuts that have frayed the safety net and sky-high housing costs. These days, a three-bedroom, one-bath starter home in San Jose, the county seat and one of its most affordable cities, costs a cool million. Rents for a two-bedroom apartment go from $2,000 to $5,000 a month, and those on the low-end are scarce.
While homelessness remains off the radar of the Silicon Valley titans, it keeps getting worse, up 20 percent in two years. More than 7,600 people sleep on the streets every night. Dozens of encampments dot the landscape, and thousands of people live in temporary quarters—shelters, motels, friends’ homes. Several private and public organizations in Santa Clara County are dedicated to helping the unhoused receive medical care, supplies and assistance in finding shelter. But funds and available units to move homeless people into permanent housing are meager.
For now, emergency shelters remain the only immediate option for those on the streets. But shelters prohibit pets and loads of possessions. Most people in the Jungle have both.

Click to enlarge.
 Photo: The Jungle is a place of many signs. Signs mark people‘s territories, give instructions as to where to put trash for pickup (the city picks up trash placed in trash bags it provides Jungle residents), welcome visitors, or more often, warn them away.

In fact, calling the Jungle an encampment hardly describes it. A shantytown of tents and shacks made from doors, tarps and whatever else people could find, the Jungle sits on county land along Coyote Creek just below street level from Story Road, a commercial hub anchored by a Walmart.

“I rode my bike to the hospital,” she said. “The doctors told me I was very lucky.”

Click to enlarge.
Photo: Yolanda Gutierrez, 39, recently suffered a stroke. She rode her bicycle to the hospital, where doctors told her she was lucky to be alive. She has lived in the Jungle for about a year and is trying to get out.

“Lucky” is a word residents of the Jungle seem to use a lot. Jose, a 46-year-old handyman, has asked for his last name not to be used because it “might embarrass his family.” He said he considers himself lucky for the encampment he shares with his 90-pound pitbull puppy, Rocky, and a bunch of chickens that tend to wander through the Jungle. Always poor, he said, he chose to move to the Jungle after quarreling with a roommate. Like so many others here, he has designed a space that feels more permanent than not. A cactus garden adorns the front of his camp, and he has created different rooms out of found objects. Even Rocky has his own house, with his own twin-sized mattress.
“He eats better than I do,” Jose said, adding kibble to Rocky’s bowl.

Click to enlarge.
Photo: Jose is teaching himself how to play a keyboard.

Residents of the Jungle have no shortage of food. Church groups from all over San Jose come on Sundays. A month ago, a handful of co-workers from a local LED light company began showing up on Tuesdays with food and supplies. Last Tuesday, they brought a U-Haul truck full of sleeping bags they bought after collecting donations from friends and others who heard about their treks to the Jungle. Individuals show up to give out food and blankets as well.

Click to enlarge.
Photo: Birdman and his Blue Amazon, Natasha. Birdman, a San Jose native, spiraled into homelessness after spending five years in prison for trying to build a homemade gun. He has lived in the Jungle for three years.

The Jungle has its own volunteers, who collect donations—mostly food—from local businesses and dole them out. City and county officials say the Jungle has had its share of crime, including a murder last year. Fights break out. But the Jungle has peacekeepers, too; self-appointed mediators who broker truces, or if deemed necessary, ask troublemakers to leave.
“Most people are okay,” said Troy Feid, who regularly allows his neighbors to use a camp shower he has hooked up in the elaborate camp he shares with his cat, Baby. Feid, who suffers from depression, manages a smile when he gives a tour of his home, a warren of tidy rooms. “I’ve got plans for this place,” he said. “I just hope we last the winter here.”
Winter remains weeks away. But for a little while, the weather will be kind enough.
Photos by Evelyn Nieves.

TO MAKE AND READ COMMENTS GO TO:

http://www.alternet.org/hard-times-usa/jungle-thousands-homeless-people-live-shantytowns-epicenter-high-tech-super-rich?page=0%2C2

Free Holiday Meal on Christmas Day, 2 p.m. Post Office

 

  • Free Vegan Meal Christmas Day!!!
    Wednesday, December 25, 2013
    Starting at 2:00 PM in front of the Downtown Post Office
    850 Front Street, Santa Cruz, California
    In celebration of this season of peace Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs invites the community to join them for a free vegan dinner, live music and pleasant conversations outside the Downtown Post Office. The public is welcome to help cook on Christmas morning starting at 9:00 AM at the Front Street Kitchen, 504A Front Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. The Front Street Kitchen is donating their facilities and equipment insuring that the holiday meal will be a huge success.
    Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry will participate in the Santa Cruz celebration. He reports that many Food Not Bombs groups will be sharing vegan meals on Christmas this year responding to the increased need across the United States because of new cuts in food stamps and the extreme reduction of access to food during the holiday season.
    Sponsored by
    Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs
    www.santacruzfoodnotbombs.org
    831-515-8234

The Hungarian Regime Takes a Cue from the City of Santa Cruz–Bans Sleeping Outside

NOTES BY NORSE:  Looks like Take Over Santa Cruz*–has its friends and allies in Hungary.   A similar  attack on recycling fouled the air at City Council last month in a preliminary “investigation” of the two recycling centers (which found nothing) and passage of measures to heighten scrutiny, encourage the state legislature to empower local bigots to move recycling to out-of-town areas and ban new ones.   The Santa Cruz [Homeless] Sleeping Ban has been in place for decades and its enforcement is now on the upswing.   Similar to Sundown Town laws that drove blacks out of town in the mid-West (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunset_towns ), Santa Cruz’s MC 6.36.010a is an absurd, costly, and arbitrary “tool” used by police to drive the homeless (and often disabled) out of town.

                            As Sgt. Le Moss reportedly said to David the Street Performer, when he phoned in to file a complaint that Officer Aguilar and others were harassing him on the street a week ago, “why don’t you just leave town?”.  Le Moss is the sergeant who broke the arm of a vehicular-housed woman in her 60′s some years ago for which the city paid out settlement money, but retained the assaulter on the force (See “60 Year Old Homeless Wolman Says Police Broke Her Arm”  at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/05/10/18498341.php ).  So far David has not received a call back from the SCPD (though he reports the harassment has stopped.
Meanwhile as temperatures in Santa Cruz dip again towards freezing, Mayor Rattlesnake Robinson may be attending the Homeless Death Memorial today (10:30 AM at 115 Coral St.), but she hasn’t opened up any public buildings to prevent death by hypothermia.  Brent Adams’ Sanctuary Camp/Warming Center group (https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/12/12/18747693.php?show_comments=1#18747702) will meet again Sunday the 22nd to see if its letter-writing campaign has opened up any doors.  There are rumblings of an emergency gathering on the nights of predicted freezing with tents and heaters, but so far nothing tangible has taken shape.  Some that warmth seekers ignore the newly-posted “No Loitering” signs in the (supposedly public) Metro Transit Center.    Frosty times ahead.*A rebranding of the Take Back Santa Cruz’s name in the interests of truth in advertising.

‘They Want Scapegoats’:Hungary Cracks Down on Homelessness

By Keno Verseck

Photo Gallery: Hungary's Tough New Law on Homelessness Photos
AFP

The conservative Hungarian government has repeatedly targeted the homeless with its recent policies. Now a new ban on sleeping outdoors is drawing outrage and accusations of scapegoating.


Has she ever resorted to begging? No, that would be undignified. “I have never done that,” says Zsuzsanna Lakatos indignantly. The 58-year-old Hungarian woman has been homeless for two decades. She lives with her husband Bertalan on the outskirts of Budapest in a tiny dilapidated building they have fixed up, and the couple earns money doing odd jobs such as renovations, gardening and helping people move.

ANZEIGE

A large source of their income used to come from collecting discarded household items, which they would clean, repair and resell at markets. But now they’ve become more cautious, thanks to the trash law that has been in place since January in Hungary.

According to the regulations, large discarded items in public places are the property of those officially in charge of their removal. Those who are unauthorized to do so face fines and jail time — a rule that targets the many homeless trash collectors in the country.

But now things have gotten even worse for Hungary’s homeless. On Monday evening, the parliament in Budapest passed a law banning the homeless from sleeping outdoors around certain public places, though the law’s criteria remains vague. The law applies to all of Hungary’s World Heritage Sites, as well as any other homeless-free zones designated by local city authorities. Those who violate the ban face fines, community service and even jail time for repeat offenses.




Not Enough Shelters

The new law is actually an amendment to one passed last year that was subsequently struck down by the Constitutional Court. To avoid another rejection by the court, the national conservative government under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán passed an amendment to the Hungarian constitution earlier this year that makes it difficult to declare the law unconstitutional again.

A number of Hungarian human rights organizations are now protesting the new law, calling on the country’s president, János Áder, not to sign it. “The criminalization of the homeless violates basic rights and is unacceptable,” declared a joint statement by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and seven other civil groups.

“The new law basically makes homelessness a punishable offense,” says Tessza Udvarhelyi ofThe City Is for All, an initiative that champions the rights of the homeless. “Many don’t know what to do now. The government has promised that all homeless people will be accommodated in shelters, but there are no spaces available in the shelters.”

According to estimates by aid organizations, between 10,000 and 15,000 homeless people live in the capital of Budapest, a city of some 2 million. But there is lodging in shelters for only about 6,000.

Gábor Iványi, a prominent Methodist pastor who has been ministering to the homeless for some two decades, says his soup kitchen and homeless shelter at a church in Budapest’s 8th district are frequently overflowing. “The new law against the homeless is deeply un-Christian, as is the approach by officials,” he says. “They are constantly sending patrols to the shelter and harassing people, even when they are simply waiting for food.”
Government representatives reject such criticism. “It is sheer nonsense to call it the criminalization of the homeless,” says Gergely Pröhle, a senior Foreign Ministry official. “We just don’t want the homeless to live in certain public places that are heavily visited by tourists, and that is totally legitimate.”




Distracting from Other Issues

Tessza Udvarhelyi disagrees. She says that the policies are part of a wider hostility toward the poor by Orbán’s government. “They need scapegoats to distract from the poor social situation in the country, and therefore use the poorest of the poor, the homeless, Roma and refugees,” she says. While past governments have also taken aim at the homeless, their approach was not as systematic, she adds.

“Before the Constitutional Court ruled last year that the law against homelessness was unconstitutional, it was valid for eight months,” says Udvarhelyi, “and in these eight months the equivalent of €130,000 in fines were imposed against 2,000 homeless people in Budapest. With this, policy on homelessness took on quite a new quality.”

The Lakatos moved from eastern Hungary to Budapest in 1992. Zsuzsanna Lakatos had worked as a bookkeeper at a steel combine in the city of Miskolc. Her husband had been a day laborer on a farm. In 1991 they both found themselves unemployed and then homeless. They now live on a private estate on the southwestern outskirts of Budapest. The owner of the land has allowed them to repair the ruins of an old building and live in it. This way they are not as vulnerable to the police, who have long been clearing the homeless out of huts and camps in many public wastelands, even on the outskirts of the Hungarian capital.

But despite the relative privilege of their living situation compared to other homeless people, the Lakatos are afraid. In recent years they’ve been increasingly subjected to police checks. Sometimes Bertalan, who is Roma, is insulted as a “dirty gypsy.”

“I hope we don’t face any fines or prison sentences,” says Zsuzsanna. “When the new law comes into force, we will do our best to go underground.” Isn’t that exactly what the government wants? “Yes,” she answers.



To make or read comments and to see more photos, go to http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/new-hungarian-law-discriminates-against-homeless-a-925822.html .

Associated Press

By PABLO GORONDI January 17, 2013 6:33 AM
In this photo taken early morning Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, homeless women sleep with their teddy-bears in a shelter called 'The Heated Street' in Budapest, Hungary. Hungary considers constitutional change to allow authorities to force homeless off the streets. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)
.View gallery
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Homeless men and women huddle on street corners amid Budapest’s majestic domed palaces, shivering under old blankets and cardboard boxes in frigid winter weather.

It’s an image that critics say Prime Minister Viktor Orban doesn’t want the world to see. And if he has his way, the homeless could be fined and even jailed for sleeping outside — even though some of the country’s homeless shelters are already overflowing and short of beds.

 

Orban’s punitive ideas for the homeless have set him up for his latest clash with the constitutional court and civil rights groups as he tries to reshape the country in a conservative image by centralizing power. Since winning power in 2010, Orban and his party have undermined independent institutions and democratic standards in a nation that was once an icon of democratic struggle for throwing off communism in 1989.

Now Orban is carrying out an informal referendum at town hall meetings around the country to gauge support for a constitutional amendment that would enshrine punishments for the homeless in the charter itself.
Hungary’s homeless policy has revived accusations by human rights groups that Orban’s ruling Fidesz party cares little about the country’s disadvantaged. In just one recent controversy, one of the party’s founding members, journalist Zsolt Bayer wrote in a newspaper column that many of the country’s Gypsies, or Roma — an impoverished minority that faces entrenched discrimination — “are animals” and “unfit for coexistence.”
Fidesz refused to distance itself from the column, saying it understood citizens’ anger about crimes committed by Roma and called on those demanding Bayer’s expulsion from the party “to refrain from standing on the side of the criminals.”

View gallery

In this photo taken early morning Friday, Jan. 11, …

In this photo taken early morning Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, a homeless man sleeps on the floor in a she …

 

The homeless issue has been brewing for several years. At the end of 2011, Orban’s ruling right-wing Fidesz party used its overwhelming parliamentary majority to make the punitive regulations first introduced earlier that year by the Fidesz-backed mayor of Budapest — including fines of up to $650 for repeat offenders and the threat of up to 60 days in jail — applicable nationwide.
“This is a method to demoralize or intimidate us,” said Gyula Balog, 53, who has been homeless for nearly 20 years. “No one was jailed but quite a few had to pay fines. It’s frivolous to fine those who have nothing.”

At the time, even the United Nations expressed concerns, saying the obligation to provide shelter “cannot serve as an excuse for the criminalization or forced detention of homeless persons.”
“By a wave of the legislative pen, the Hungarian Parliament has labeled tens of thousands of homeless people in Hungary as potential criminals,” said a statement from two U.N. human rights experts. “Moreover, the law has a discriminatory impact on those living in poverty.”
At least 1,500 homeless are believed to be currently living rough in Budapest, even as temperatures are expected to remain below freezing in coming days and dozens of homeless are found frozen to death each year on the streets.

View gallery

In this photo taken early morning Friday, Jan. 11, …

In this photo taken early morning Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, a homeless man sleeps on a mattress in a sh …

 

In the winter, many head to the warmest spots they can find, usually the entrance halls of subway stations, sometimes quietly holding out a paper cup for money from passersby or by selling street newspapers.
Authorities recently inaugurated two more shelters in the capital and the government spent 8.5 billion forints ($38.4 million, €28.9 billion) on the homeless in 2012, with a similar figure planned this year. But some of the most popular refuges, like the “Heated Street” run by the Hungarian Evangelical Brotherhood, are full far beyond capacity, with many people sleeping on mats on the floor.
The issue of the fines re-emerged in November when the constitutional court struck down the punishments, saying homelessness was a social issue that should not be handled as a criminal matter.
There are no exact figures on the number of homeless in Hungary, but the U.N. last year put the figure at between 30,000 and 35,000. A survey carried out each year on Feb. 3 in Budapest and the larger Hungarian cities by NGOs, counted 8,641 in 2012, up from 7,199 in 2011.

Many cities across the United States also ban activities such as “urban camping,” panhandling, “lodging” outdoors and similar actions, often resulting in fines or jail time for offenders.
The Hungarian government argues that it is simply acting out of concern for the dozens of homeless people who freeze to death every year, implying that fines are meant to push the displaced to seek refuge in warm shelters.
“There are more places in heated shelters than there are homeless living in Hungary,” Orban said last month in Parliament. “So no one … is forced to survive winter under the open sky.”
But social workers and the homeless themselves accuse the government of caring only about the country’s image.
“They simply want to clean up the areas frequented by tourists,” said Balog, speaking outside the department store where he sold Commodore 64 computers during communism, before losing his job and family because of his alcoholism.

Comment at http://news.yahoo.com/hungary-homeless-face-winter-fear-return-fines-074819834.html

Albany Evictions Near Berkeley

NOTES BY NORSE:  Albany is a smaller town next to Berkeley in the East Bay.  Activists, artists and houseless residents there have been struggling to continue to use the Albany Bulb.  Street Spirit, one of the monthly homeless publications in Northern California, has described this struggle, and I reprint Continue reading

Palo Alto Vehicle Habitation Law suspended; 9th Circuit Spanks L.A. City Attorney

NOTES BY NORSE:  The audio of the 9th Circuit Court hearing which punches the L.A. City attorney in the chops in the case of Cheyenne Desertrain, et al v. City of Los Angeles, et al,   can be heard at http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/view.php?pk_id=0000012040  It’s a rare opportunity to hear the slitherings, slippings, and slidings of a city attorney directly challenged–not by the defense lawyer Carol Sobel, but by the actual judges themselves who pin the tail squarely on the donkey by clarifying the specifically anti-homeless focus on the enforcement actions.

                Santa Cruz has used a variety of devices to muffle, buffer, and mask the anti-homeless intent–in the process creating potential criminalization for everyone in the interests of appearing impartial.  So it’s not just panhandlers, but anyone with a sign who faces a ticket and potentially jail for standing on a median or roundabout with any kind of sign (including a constitutionally protected sign).  The night-time curfews in the parks, around the library, at the City Hall complex, and around the police station are designed to frighten homeless people away, but also impact everyone, particularly political protesters.    The infamous only-in-Santa-Cruz (at the time of passage in 2003) “Move Along-Every-Hour” law targeted seated panhandlers, but had to be framed more generally so that it took in political protesters, voter registrars, musicians, performers, and anyone with a “display device.”
This year, the cover for homeless-o-phobia is “public safety” with anyone who challenges security thugs in the parks (1 day stay away or up to 1 year in jail).  The notorious Sidewalk Shrinkage law which expanded the 14′ forbidden-to-sit zones “protecting” benches, buildings, crosswalks, kiosks, phone  booths, sculptures, trash compactors, and trash cans (to name only some of the new sacred items) does seem to be a broader aesthetic attack on performers of all sorts (Morgami the colorful accordionist and Mr. Twister the balloon clown excepted–though that’s not written into the law).  However since many of those performing, displaying artwork, or showing crafts are unhoused or poor people struggling to make it, the intent of the law is pretty clear.
The expansion of smoking bans this year and in prior years to cover situations when people aren’t complaining is another example–homeless people smoke at about 3 to 4 times the rate of housed people.  Most recently, the new Public Assembly Constriction laws, requiring costs for street closures and permits for smaller numbers of people, makes it more difficult for poor people and spontaneous protests.   Many of which have been homeless-themed in the past, considering the City’s abhorrent Sleeping and Blanket Bans (as well as its other laws and practices targeting the visible poor outside).
Meanwhile Palo Alto activists are rightly celebrating the City’s delay in enforcing the “live in van, go on the lam” law, but the majority of those outside there have no such luxury.  Laws passed shortly after the vehicle habitation ban criminalized being around community centers at night–the traditional sleeping spots of many ground sleepers.  When I asked Palo Alto activist Chuck Jagoda if action against that law was on the activist agenda, he said no.
In Santa Cruz, some are organizing to address the lack of warming centers on cold weather winter days–and good for them for doing so!–but the broader and deeper issue is the destruction of homeless campsites, the seizure and trashing of homeless property, and the reduction of homeless people to the status of trash–that goes on 365 days a year here.

 http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2013/12/17/car-camping-ban-put-to-bed-for-a-year

Car-camping ban suspended for a year

Legal concerns prompt Palo Alto to delay enforcement of controversial law

by Gennady Sheyner / Palo Alto Weekly

 

Faced with citizen anxieties, threatened lawsuits and a pending court case in southern California, Palo Alto officials agreed on Monday to delay for a year the city’s deeply controversial ban on vehicle habitation.

 

 

The City Council voted unanimously to approve a staff recommendation to delay enforcement of the ban, which the council officially adopted on Sept. 19 and which was scheduled to kick off in February.

 

 

The ban, which was prompted by a swell of car campers at Cubberley Community Center and in a section of College Terrace, was adopted despite heated opposition from homeless advocates and members from the faith community. Last month, a coalition of attorneys led by Carrie LeRoy announced its intention to sue the city over the ban and requested a meeting with City Attorney Molly Stump to discuss their concerns. LeRoy argued in a Nov. 15 letter to the city that the ban is too broad and too punitive, that it violates the U.S. Constitution and that it would effectively criminalize homelessness.

 

 

“Enforcement of the VHO (vehicle habitation ordinance) will exacerbate serious health issues and disabilities prevalent among Plaintiffs, who will be forced out of their vehicles or Palo Alto altogether to avoid criminal liability,” LeRoy wrote.

 

 

The council’s decision on Monday to delay the ban squashes the controversy for at least a year. In a memo released last week, City Manager James Keene pointed to a case currently going through the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. That case, Cheyenne Destertrain v. City of Los Angeles, revolves around the issue of vehicle habitation. The appeals court has recently heard the arguments in this case and staff believes its decision “may provide further clarification regarding legal requirements governing ordinances prohibiting vehicle habitation.”

 

 

The letter also noted that the council has already taken another step to address the transformation of Cubberley into what officials often refer to as an “ad hoc homeless shelter.” In August, the council adopted a new law ordering that all community centers, including Cubberley, be closed between 10:30 p.m. and sunrise. Thus, the lawyers contended, the new law serves no legitimate purpose.

 

 

In the memo, Keene pointed to the Los Angeles case and noted “some members of the public have questions regarding the scope of the ordinance, which suggests that an additional period of outreach and review would be beneficial.”

 

 

The council approved the delay unanimously as part of its “consent calendar,” with no discussion or argument. The only people who spoke out on the issue were a handful of public speakers who opposed the ban. One speaker, Lois Salo, urged officials to go a step further and rescind the ban. Others said they were pleased to see the prohibition delayed, even if it’s just for a year. Edie Keating from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto was among them.

 

 

“Many members of the community appreciate your willingness to keep this open for up to a year,” Keating told the council. “There will be a need to find a solution so that we aren’t in the same place at some future point in time. Many people are already talking about what the possible solutions could be.”

Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry keeps positive attitude SENTINEL Dec 13 2013

NOTE TO READER: Thanks to organizers, this is most likely the first positive coverage Food Not Bombs has ever received in the Sentinel. — Becky Johnson of HUFF

Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry keeps positive attitude

By Terri Morgan

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted:   12/13/2013 04:34:12 PM PST
Click photo to enlarge

Food Not Bombs volunteer Jean Piraino helped prepare a meal for the audience at… ( SCS )

SANTA CRUZ — Even after 33 years, thousands of interviews, hundreds of nights spent in jail, and millions of meals served, the co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement is still enthusiastic about the organization.
Keith McHenry, who launched the group with seven friends in 1980, talked excitedly about the volunteer movement, which has since spread to 1,000 different communities around the world.
Food Not Bombs is dedicated to collecting food from stores and distributors that can’t be sold, and using it to cook and provide vegan or vegetarian meals for the hungry. Along with reducing food waste, the organization tries to inspire people to work for social change. As well as solving problems like hunger, poverty and homelessness, the group also seeks to stop wars and the destruction of the environment.
“We’re trying to stop policies that are increasing climate change,” McHenry said, adding those policies include clear cutting, and planting genetically modified food crops. “Climate change is directly leading to an increase in hunger.”
In Santa Cruz Thursday evening, as part of his “Smashing Hunger, Squashing Poverty” speaking tour, McHenry spoke to about 60 people about human needs, and to advocate for the government spend more money on social services than on bombs.
“You have severe cuts in food stamps while an increasing percent of (government) spending the most recent budget is for the military,” McHenry said. “What they’re doing is taking funding out of social services.”
At the same time, municipalities across the nation are following the lead of 50 cities and passing laws banning or limited the practice of sharing food in public, he said.
McHenry has been arrested more than 100 times for violating such laws, and faced a sentence of 25 years to life in California as part of the state’s three-strikes law.
“Even though we provide meals and groceries to thousands of people we are not a charity,” McHenry said. “Food Not Bombs is trying to inspire the public to participate in changing society.”
The talk was hosted by the Santa Cruz chapter of Food Not Bombs, which has been serving hot meals every Saturday afternoon outside the downtown post office for the past year. Volunteers gave the audience of taste of their work, by providing a full meal that included salad, rolls, vegetable stew and green beans. The meal also included fresh fruit and a choice of deserts, and volunteers encouraged people to take vegetables and other groceries with them before they left the event.
“We try to always do vegan food, but if someone gives us cooked meat we don’t refuse it,” said Abbi Samuels, a volunteer with the Santa Cruz chapter. Last month, for example, a group that provided a free Thanksgiving meal in the community donated several pans of leftover turkey she said.
Roughly 15 people volunteer regularly with the local chapter, and more are needed, she said. The work is rewarding, Samuels said.
“I got involved because I wanted to help others,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see people (eat the meals) because they are so thankful.”
There is also a huge need, she noted. “There are close to 4,000 homeless people in Santa Cruz County,” Samuels said.
Follow Sentinel correspondent Terri Morgan at www.twitter.com/soquelterri

Will Santa Cruz Anti-Homeless Bureaucrats Read the Writing on the Wall? [1 Attachment]

[Attachment(s)from Robert included below]

 

NOTES BY NORSE:  Palo Alto–faced with massive activist organizing and lawsuits–is now about to hold off on its attempt to run homeless vehicle dwellers out of town.  They still have in place ordinances to drive away those without vehicles from unused community centers and parks at night.  The enclosed attachment describes the latest retreat by the gentrification gurus in the face of the likely L.A. 9th Circuit Court hearing d
Santa Cruz for decades (since 1978) has enforced its “sleep in a vehicle at night, get hassled and fined” law in spite of repeatedly-declared Housing Emergencies by the City Council.  A pittance of relief was made in 1995 by “allowing” churches to shelter three vehicles of sleepers, in 1999 by “allowing” businesses and non-profits to shelter two vehicles of sleepers and in 2010 by asserting that all Sleeping Ban citations (including vehicles) would be dismissed for those on the waiting lists of the HLOSC–the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center and/or the River St. Shelter.  All of this was done in response to activist pressure where many people risked fines and jail to bring this to public view.
Yet the bucks-and-bigotry-backked riptide against poor people outside has swept forward.  Over the same period, the use of “permit parking” restrictions banning vehicles at night without permits was used to drive away homeless vehicles (explicitly).  “Loitering” in public parking lots was made a crime–in spite of constitutional findings back in the Larson case in the 80′s that barres such anti-homeless laws (a special gift of Supervisorial candidate Ryan Coonerty when he was Council member).  The harsh and erroneous demonization of homeless people (in spite of rhetorical “concern”) along with sweeps and crackdowns by the Rotkin, Lane, Bryant, and now Robinson City Councils with no meaningful expansion of shelter space has further heightened the emergency.
Local activists and attorneys failed to effectively mount a legal challenge using arguments like those that overturned the L.A. law against sleeping and sitting in L.A. in the Jones decision and subsequent settlement.  Local ACLU remaining deafeningly silent in spite of repeated pleas to supposed homeless sympathizers on their Board of Directors Steve Pleich.
Still, the waves in Los Angeles and Palo Alto coming on the heels of homeless hypothermia centers are a wake-up call to activists who have in the past used winter weather and Xmas sentiments to expose the toxic abuses.  Charity drives aren’t enough.  Should protests take place in places like the Metro Center (where reportedly ‘No Loitering” signs have recently been posted) to open up warming centers at night?  We’ll see.
Thanks to Palo Alto activists Tony Ciampi  and Chuck Jagoda for forwarding  the attachment and article.

Looks like Palo Alto will be staying  the VHO.  See Attachment.http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-78447865/

 

Email
Facebook
374
Twitter
47

Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

A federal appeals court panel appeared skeptical about a Los Angeles city ordinance that bans people from living in their car. Above, a homeless resident pushes a cart along a downtown street.

By Gale Holland

December 5, 2013, 5:35 p.m.

A federal appeals court on Thursday appeared to be leaning toward striking down a Los Angeles city ban on homeless people living in their cars or recreational vehicles on public streets and in parking lots.A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, meeting in Pasadena, seemed to embrace arguments from civil rights attorney Carol Sobel that the criminal law was unconstitutionally vague.

“It’s very hard to figure out what you’re talking about,” Judge Marsha Berzon told the lawyer for the city.

The city’s ordinance dates back to 1983, but came under fire in 2010 when a special Los Angeles police task force, responding to neighborhood complaints, began aggressive enforcement in Venice.

A group of homeless car dwellers filed suit in 2011 challenging the law. U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner dismissed the suit, and the plaintiffs appealed.

Unlike other cities, which bar sleeping in vehicles or overnight parking, Los Angeles prohibits using cars as “living quarters” both overnight and “day-by-day, or otherwise.”

Deputy City Atty. Blithe Bock told the court that police determined a vehicle was lived in by the “totality of circumstances,” including whether it appeared to be operating.

Drivers were ticketed if police found things in their car such as bottles of urine, clothing and open food that suggested it was a “living quarters,” she said.

“You’re using your car as a living space, you’re using your car as a toilet, you’re using your car as a kitchen,” Bock said.

Sobel said there were no clear standards for what property or items you could keep, or for how long you could rest in your vehicle.

“So you can’t just sit in your car and nod off?” Judge Harry Pregerson asked Bock.

“He was wrapped in a blanket,” Bock responded, referring to one of the plaintiffs.

“What’s wrong with that?” Pregerson said.

Judges also questioned the rationale for the stepped-up enforcement. Bock said it came in response to a spike in crime by young transients and complaints of trash being dumped on neighbors’ property.

“People were coming home and finding refuse on their front lawn,” Bock said.

Sobel suggested that gentrification and tension between new and old residents were the real drivers of the heightened enforcement, and Pregerson seemed to agree.

“Tell me if I’m wrong,” Pregerson told Bock. “You had a task force of police officers who were told their job was to clean up the Venice area of all these homeless people because people in the neighborhood didn’t like it.”

Pregerson also suggested there are better ways to handle homeless people than rousting them from their cars.

“Long Beach treats people differently,” he said. “If they find a family, they take the kids and get them in a facility and make sure they’re enrolled in school…. The next thing they do is try to find housing for them…. Why can’t the city of Los Angeles do that?”

“The situation is heartbreaking,” Bock answered. “But it is a question for legislators.”

“That’s a cop-out,” Pregerson shot back.

After the hearing, Bock said police referred car dwellers to shelters and other services that could help them get off the streets.

“Homelessness is a horrible problem, we’re all aware of that,” she said. “But we have a whole city to take care of.”

A police spokeswoman said the department is continuing to enforce the vehicle habitation ban. Outside court, some of the homeless plaintiffs and their supporters accused the city of trying to drive them out of town.

“They’re intimidating people, driving up and making a lot of noise,” said plaintiff Steve Jacobs, who lives in his SUV in Venice. “There are fewer and fewer RVs there all the time.”

The court is likely to rule on the case in the next few months

Attachment(s) from Robert

1 of 1 File(s)

Santa Cruz City Council reverses restrictions on public assembly

 

Play slideshow Play slideshow Save all photos Save all photos Want to save all these photos at once? Learn how
Online pictures are available for 30 days
NOTE TO READER: HUFF member, Robert Norse, first alerted others that peaceable
assembly was likely to be cut drastically by a new City ordinance. 4 HUFF members went directly
 to the local ACLU and sought action from this largely inactive chapter. Following this
December 2nd meeting, ACLU members lobbied the City Council successfully to restore
 the restrictions as HUFF had sought. — Becky Johnson of HUFF
HUFF Photo: ACLU deliberates at Louden Nelson Ctr.
on Dec 2 2013, listens to HUFF members concerns
re: loss of public space, harassment of homeless people
by members of the SCPD, & about the limitations on
peaceable assembly.

Santa Cruz council reverses public gathering permit limit

By J.M. Brown

FOUND ONLINE HERE

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted:   12/10/2013 06:23:25 PM PST


SANTA CRUZ — The Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday reversed an earlier decision to reduce the limit of public gatherings to 50 people before a city permit is required.

Five-time former mayor Mike Rotkin, speaking on behalf of the Santa Cruz County American Civil Liberties Union chapter, urged keeping the limit at 100. He said the city has not demonstrated how less than 100 participants in a rally or other event pose a public safety risk that would justify a restriction on free speech.

“Changing the threshold from 100 to 50 people would immediately impact the ability of people to organize protests at the town clock and county building steps,” he said.

Mayor Hilary Bryant and Councilmen Don Lane and Micah Posner voted in favor of keeping the number at 100 on Nov. 26 but lost on a 4-3 majority. Posner raised the issue again Tuesday during a final reading of ordinance changes governing public expression and commercial events, and council members agreed unanimously to make the reversal.

“As public assemblies get larger, almost invariably there are traffic impacts,” Posner said. “From the stand point of freedom of assembly, (traffic costs) shouldn’t trump those considerations.”

The city’s special events coordinator, Kathy Agnone, said there are several public places downtown where more than 50 participants in rallies or other events can cause traffic problems, and the proposed rule change was designed to help the city plan better. The city permit would not cost anything unless a street closure was required.

“I positively regret that this was something seen as penalizing and criminalizing folks gathering because that’s not what this is about,” Agnone said. “We are really just trying to be reasonable and streamline the process.”

Councilwoman Cynthia Mathews moved the proposed reversal as a good-will gesture, saying she hopes common sense will prevail.

BOARDWALK LOT

Tuesday, the council approved on a 6-1 vote an agreement with the Santa Cruz Seaside Co. to share in revenues generated by improvements to the Beach Boardwalk’s primary parking lot.

To ease traffic congestion on Beach Street and create more street parking during the peak summer season, the company has proposed $1 million in changes, including reconfiguring the lot to create 150 new spaces, add two entrances and establish pay stations upon exit.

Since 1984, the Boardwalk has collected a 10 percent tax for the city on its parking fees. The council agreed to return 50 percent of the tax revenue generated by the new spaces during the next 10 years not to exceed $200,000.

“We think these kinds of agreements spur economic activity,” Seaside Co. spokesman Kris Reyes told the council, echoing Economic Development Director Bonnie Lipscomb, who said the city has had to seek creative ways to form public-private parternships now that redevelopment has been eliminated.

Councilman Posner voted against the plan, saying the Boardwalk’s annual profit on the new spaces — expected to exceed $350,000 — is sufficient to recoup its own investment in the lot with a few years. He called the tax-sharing agreement “an inappropriate use of public funds.”

Vice Mayor Lynn Robinson disagreed, saying, “I understand there is a profit to be made, but there is a huge public benefit here that I see.”

The council also OK’d allowing the Tannery Arts Center to seek a property tax exemption for the performing arts theater planned for the city-owned Hide House. The council also allowed dropping “Hide House” from the name to accommodate a significant naming-rights donor.

Tuesday, the council also approved setting a public hearing for March 11 to increase wastewater rates during a four-year period. To stabilize the wastewater budget and fund capital improvements, rates are proposed to increase nearly 6 percent each year on average for single-family users for three years then 2.5 percent in the final year.

The council also commended winners of the annual Officer Jim Howes Community Service Award: police officer Ken Deeg, outgoing city arts coordinator Crystal Birns and Santa Cruz Neighbors co-founder Michael Bethke. Howes retired after 26 years as a police officer known for community engagement.

Follow Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown at Twitter.com/jmbrownreports