Backpack Bigotry Update in Downtown Santa Cruz

Preliminary Survey Results on Backpack Bigotry & One Man’s Experience at Peets Coffee
by Robert Norse, Sean Deluge, & Linda Lemaster
Monday Jan 27th, 2014 10:57 AM

Coffee Roasting Company, Peet’s, and Starbucks–of 8 coffee shops surveyed downtown explicitly ban backpacks–even if non-obstructive. It’s also not clear whether there’s discriminatory treatment for “student” backpacks, versus survival or “Homeless” backpacks. None of the cafes approached (which included Verve, Lulu Carpenters, Cafe Pergolesi, & Cafe Gratitude) agreed initially to post the Non-Descrimination Pledge we gave them, but did say they’d pass it on to their managers or owners. We have yet to hear from any of them. The day before ten of us in a group visited each cafe on Saturday night Sean Deluge posted his dark experience at Peet’s Coffee.

Sean Deluge posted the following comment on Steve Pleich’s Citizens for a Better Santa Cruz Site []:

“As of this morning [Friday January 24, 2014] the coffee shop I’ve been going to for the last 5 months has changed it’s policy of allowing people with backpacks to place them outside the door or even bring them in. Peet’s Coffee on Pacific has always treated everyone the same–homeless or not.

I placed my guitar on the cart I have just outside the door and I know other who are artists not homeless that bring in bags of their art supplies without a problem. Today that all changed with this new policy. Today Peet’s no longer allows any bags, backpacks or items to be placed outside the door or be brought inside. I was told I could lock my guitar to a bike rack or leave it at home if I don’t want it stolen or wrecked.

I will no longer support Peet’s. I personally feel if a business anywhere that finds reasons to exclude a group of people because the business was pressured to do so by a group who’s purpose is to drive them away will not get my business. One of the shift managers told me in so many words when I asked why this change and if it’s from pressure by a certain local group (not mentioning the name) and was told, “They made a good point, and they aren’t anti-homeless and are anti-violence I don’t think you’re giving Take Back Santa Cruz [TBSC] a fair break.”

There was a long thread of commentary, but I found the comments by Linda Lemaster most instructive. She’s the former chair of the Homeless Issues Task Force, a formerly homeless single mom, and co-founder of Housing Now! in Santa Cruz (as well as a dynamite writer) among other things. She wrote:

“I know the downtown Peet’s discriminates against “homeless” looking people first-hand, have seen it, called them on it (wrote of it somewhere…), so for me, WHY staff there “blames” TBSC for their policy change is a whole other conversation. My encounter happened between 2 n 3 years back, tho. Sean, I wish I knew how to be supportive so you can enjoy and participate with others more freely? But clearly it isn’t just Peet’s. That’s like blaming Wells Fargo for the foreclosure piracy and not mentioning BofA or Morgan Stanley Chase just because Wells Fargo is blatant and gets noticed first. Whatever else we must create and manage for a non-discriminating future public life,
I believe we need “safe spaces” for STUFF, since parks and other public spaces have been intentionally shrunk around here in direct response to MORE people who happen to be homeless.

You’ll see: the need will grow here for people, as $1,000 for a studio or bedroom to rent becomes $1,200 for half a bedroom in a few years — our children’s lives will be different if extreme inflation continues to be treated as the status quo. Unless we get to work now. One could even say living rooms and sit-down private kitchens are a thing of the past, except for the wealthy and the inheriting lucky.
Peets downtown is way more crowded (table spacing) there than in others I’ve seen…not expecting cornered managers to soften up especially if confronted effectively….

I am not sure the general public yet understands that keeping one’s “stuff” is absolutely necessary for many folks who are homeless. (To overgeneralize anyhow, the LONGER outside, the more essential…) But the courts are fulla cases wherein police arresting or disrupting homeless people, then taking or disposing of their belongings are consistently found wrong. Turns out it is unconstitutional to take away a person’s needed personal effects without their consent.

Ours is not the only City with little or no institutional memory,so this gets adjudicated over n over, it seems. So the problem with a private business like Peet’s is, it seems to me, asking customers (in this case, Sean) to burden the Public Property with his guitar or whatever else in order to partake of their coffee n service, without either considering the risk he’d be taking, nor offering compensation to City personnel pressed into service for Peets’s profits. I cannot understand how that isn’t clearly discrimination?

I have been treated MORE like a Bag Lady since housed, than I ever was on the streets homeless?!?! (And I don’t appreciate peoples’ looks and comments of judgement, not a bit.) The difference: Now I have no car, so have to carry anything I will be needing, sometimes for the whole day. Also I wear my hat way more — predicting hat comeback as folks get fed up with their cars and gas-hostage pricing. Because I’m disabled it means more stuff than I would have formerly needed to get thru the day… Just reminding: you can’t really tell by looking who is homeless. Evaluate what you really know before foot goes in mouth…”

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) will be meeting on Wednesday (11 AM, Sub Rosa) to discuss what further steps to take to encourage non-discrimination downtown. Please post any experiences you’ve had around this issue. The creeping criminalization and exclusion of homeless people is no joke.