Come for the Protest at 4 PM; Stay to Tell it to the City Council mandarins at 5:30 PM; Plan for Next Steps when the Council ignores the Public !
Police Chief Andy Mills announced at the City Council’s August 20th Public Safety Committee meeting that though Sleeping Ban citations have dropped over the winter, citations for “trespass”–in essence, falling asleep in parks, the Pogonip, and on public property declared “closed” at night (such as City Hall) have increased.
See Jessica York’s Sentinel story at: http://www.santacruzsentinel.
More recently, she collaborated in a story on the Boise 9th Circuit Court decision–which directly impacts Santa Cruz: http://www.santacruzsentinel.
To hear the audio of Chief Mills testimony before the Public Safety Committee, go to http://scsire.
There is currently no walk-in homeless emergency shelter. I’ve been told that even the River St. mini-shelter’s waiting list at Coral St. is closed. Even when open, beds available to those not sent by County Mental Health are a grand total of 3. So the so-called “safety valve” that allows people to sign up for the River St. or Paul Lee loft shelters and then get sleeping ban tickets dismissed if ticketed on nights when on the list no longer operates.
And the City has no Winter Shelter program planned at the scale of last year, simply an expansion of current Paul Lee and River St. Campground’s programs which require a “pathway to housing”, have full waiting lists, or both.
So what’s up, Chief Mills. Feel free to e-mail Andy with your own inquiry at firstname.lastname@example.org .
I and Freedom Sleeper activist Abbi Samuels asked Mills about this continued harassment and ticketing of homeless folks. Particularly now that the City’s police are legally vulnerable to lawsuit because of the Boise decision.
NOTES BY NORSE: The cautionary tale of Redding’s attack on the homeless is a strong reason why HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) and Conscience & Action are putting so much energy into the demand that the Louden Nelson bathrooms be reopened. Their closing in March by Iseth Rae, the Louden Nelson Community Center [LNCC] Supervisor is only one of a variety of anti-homeless actions taken at Louden, many without public discussion or notice, including the costly wrong-iron fence around adjacent Laurel Park, the sudden designation of LNCC as a de facto privatized “cafe”, the presence of a taser-armed Parks and Recreation heavy “patrolling” the area, new rules threatening “unattended property”, and, of course, the placement of a lock on the bathrooms and the restriction of use to “patrons of scheduled activities” (not including those using the park except children). Star of the Sea park has also been fenced.
While San Lorenzo Park bathrooms have finally been opened after sustained protest, Louden Nelson bathrooms remain closed to the poor unless they can prove to the satisfaction of the staff there that they are “part of a program” there–something that has never been required in the decades long history of the Center.
Alarmed visitors have suggested this results in discriminatory action against poor people, particularly impacting the most needy–those outside without shelter, the disabled, and the elderly.
The closure prompted the local ACLU (never the most forthcoming in opposing anti-homeless measures) to publicly denounce the bathroom and other recently-instituted abusive policies there (like the iron fence, new “unattended property” rules, and roaming “security” guards). And to move its meetings to the Resource Center for Nonviolence.
See “ACLU Statement of Opposition to Anti-Homeless Measures at Louden Nelson Center and Park” at https://www.indybay.org/
Absurdly and abusively, an elderly woman forced to pee outside because denied access prompted six police officers to arrive.
(For those unable to access this article, see the comment following this story for its full text.) Go to https://www.indybay.org/
HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom) voted to begin tabling at Louden Nelson to maintain the focus on the original focus of Conscience and Action’s first series of protests.
Our goal: to sample public opinion, determine Louden Nelson exclusionary policy in action, gather signatures opposing the closing of the Louden Nelson bathrooms, and alert the community to the situation and possible alternative solutions…
We’ll be tabling at 1:30 PM Tuesday July 17th in back of the Louden Nelson Center (and registering voters as well). Anyone interested can join us.
Recently, after four delays, Parks and Recreation finally forwarded a mass of e-mails, which I’m beginning to go through to determine what the justification (other than prejudice and gentrification) is for closing the bathrooms.
Folks who want to check through these documents on their own can go to https://cityofsantacruz.
Confronted with an earlier protest outside her office three weeks ago, Carol Scurich, interim Director of Parks and Recreation, rejected demands to reopen the Louden Nelson bathrooms. She promised to provide full documentation justifying the closings (vandalism, drug use, “offensive behavior”). Weeks later, she, her underlings, and her superiors had still not provided that documentation.
In response, C & A activists showed up with food, placards, literature, and chants at City Hall at high noon on Thursday, June 28th.
LOW BLOWS BY THE LOUDEN NELSON LAVATORY LORDS
Louden Nelson supervisors have not only closed its bathrooms to anyone not using its “programs” but instituted a detailed set of rules for its premises, which it now terms “a cafe”. These include proper “personal hygiene, attire, and food consumption” and a ban against “leaving personal property unattended”. In addition, uniformed Ranger and 1st Alarm security thugs now patrol the area, and the entire adjacent park is fenced off.
All of this has been done with no public or community process.
On June 29th at an hour long meeting, C & A activists asked Bernal what damage or other problems prompted the closing of six restrooms. Bernal told us he would “look into” the matter, consider opening up more portapotties, a list of reasons why the bathrooms were closed, and several other vague prospects. But he did not mention that he was leaving the next day on a vacation. Meanwhile, City officials delayed any final action on a Public Records Act seeking the chronology of incidents and decisions around the bathroom closures. The request was made over a month ago and has now been delayed three times.
THE BATHROOM BACKGROUND
Visitor’s bathrooms at Cafe Gratitude and Pizza My Heart, previously funded by the city and open to the public, are now open only to customers with a discouraging sign on the door prominently displayed. Only Bookshop Santa Cruz, Main Public Library, Metro Transit Center, the Locust and Soquel St. Garages have bathroom access and only during the day for the general public. Two portapotties on Cedar St., and one at Laurel and Front allow for 24 hour use, but are not available to many disabled people. Those using them have complained they are dirty, ill-lit, and frequently locked.
In possible response to recent outrage over the closures, city workers have unlocked the two portapotties previously open only after 10 PM on Cedar St..
The late June “Less Crap, More Crappers” protest drew 15-20 members, sporting signs reading “Right to Pee”, “Open the Damn Bathrooms” “If Not Here, then Where?”, “Toilet Liberator”, “Pay Taxes–Hold Your Pee”, and the brief but succinct “Enough Crap!”
A number of speakers, many of them homeless, described the humiliating and unsanitary conditions created by the closed bathrooms and locked portapotties. Suggestions ranged from applying for the currently vacant permanent Director of Parks and Rec position, to the more radical idea of presenting staff with human waste cleaned up outside the locked facilities to document the extent of the problem.
Much of protest was captured on a video made by visiting Salinas homeless advocate Wes White at https://www.youtube.com/watch?
CITY ADMINISTRATOR BLOCKS BATHROOM USE FOR DISABLED WOMAN
Acting City Administrator/Clerk Bush herself provided sharp focus on the “no bathrooms for the homeless here” policy at City Hall. Several protesters noticed the City Hall Women’s bathroom was open instead of being locked as it had since the Freedom Sleeper protests began in mid-2015.
Pleased to see the City Hall authorities responding uncharacteristically to the obvious needs, I then asked Bush to open Men’s bathroom as well. She archly refused then quickly moved to close the women’s bathroom as well. Though the staff has its own bathrooms inside the building as well, Bush and her worker Anna Brooks added insult to injury. Minutes later they refused to allow a disabled woman access to either the privileged staff bathroom inside the Council offices or the previously public bathroom outside Council chambers. Instead Brooks handed Norse a “helpful” list of open-during-the-day bathrooms blocks away elsewhere in the City. The library’s bathroom across the street was reportedly closed.
POLICE BACK UP BATHROOM BLOCKADE
When a group of people demanded to know the reasons for this discriminatory behavior (against the homeless, the disabled, and the general public), Bush summoned the police. Four cops headed by Sgt. Mark Eveleth appeared in full uniform and weaponry. Eveleth threatened, coaxed, and herded the group outside with his four “back-up” officers standing behind him. When asked, Eveleth declined to offer any assistance in dealing with stressed bladders or irritated colons, instead stating falsely that the same Bush, who had ordered the Women’s bathroom locked minutes before, “had no key”..
NEXT DAY’S MEETING FUTILE
The subsequent meeting with Bathroom Boss Bernal resulted in lots of smooth ducking and weaving, but no commitment to do anything definite other than “look into” providing more of the disabled inaccessible portapotties. Those interested in following the smelly dialogue can review the audio soon on “Latest Shows” under huffsantacruz.org (for July 1 and July 5).
KEEPING UP THE PRESSURE
Proposals at a recent meeting of the C&A group included tabling outside the scene of the criminal bathroom closures–the Louden Nelson Center. There HUFF activists hope to poll community members on their reaction to the “no poo for the poor” policy now in force. Tablers would also monitor and document discriminatory access to the bathrooms and provide an opportunity for folks to voice their views in petition and on the radio.
Contact HUFF at 831-423-4833 if you’re interested or e-mail at rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com.
The views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily represent those of others in Conscience and Action. However, the group is pretty much united in demanding that the closed bathrooms be reopened.
HUFF has for decades demanded more bathrooms be made available and began its own “Give a Shit” campaign a year ago protesting Bernal’s closure of the City Hall bathrooms in 2015 apparently designed to drive away the Freedom Sleepers and Survival Sleepers who gathered outside.
HUFF meets Wednesday July 11th at 11 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe (703 Pacific) to discuss creative ways of raising a stink. Subsequent meetings: July 25, August 8. CONSCIENCE AND ACTION MEETS July 18 and August 1 at the same place
“Open the Bathrooms!” at https://www.indybay.org/
“City of Santa Cruz Confiscates Food Not Bombs Portable Toilet” at https://www.indybay.org/
“Conscience and Action Speak Out at Parks and Rec” at https://www.indybay.org/
Louden Nelson bathrooms remained closed to the general public; San Lorenzo Park bathrooms remain closed and locked to everyone.
Portapotties and handwashing stations are no longer available in San Lorenzo Park as they were last fall.
The nighttime-only portapotty on Cedar St. is not disabled accessible.
City Hall bathrooms remain closed to the public except during public meetings, while staff has its own commodious bathrooms closed to the public.
Locust Street garage bathrooms have the exposed peek-a-boo spaces in the stalls that compromise the privacy and dignity of user. Staff and cafe patrons are given keys to the cleaner, more spacious, closed private bathroom nearby owned by the City.
The portapotty rented by Food Not Bombs two weeks ago for use as a 24-hour facility by the Community at the intersection of Front, Pacific, and Mission streets has been removed, apparently on orders of the City and not replaced.
No new Sharps containers have appeared in any bathrooms to deal with the problems of needle disposal.
Parks and Recreation boss Carol Scurich has not revealed any documents specifying the reasons, costs, and private discussions resulting in the closing of the Louden Nelson bathrooms to the general public in spite of promises to do so.
City Manager Martin Bernal is Scurich’s boss and has been invited to answer obvious questions about this public health and safety threat. It impacts the local elderly and disabled as well as tourists and the broader community. It also seemed to be part of a sustained and direct attack on unhoused people, scapegoating them in response to unsubstantiated fears by some pressure groups in the community.
Come to the City Council Courtyard Fountain area at 1 PM Thursday June 28th to speak out on the issue, direct questions at Martin Bernal and other city officials.
Food and refreshments will likely be available as will music.
Be creative in your dress and accessories. Bring TP and other sanitary necessities.
The protest may involve a Downtown Toilet Tour as well, led by HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom’s “Give a Shit” Committee).
Those unable to attend the protest can reach Martin Bernal at mbernal [at] cityofsantacruz.org . Carol Scurich is at cscurich [at] cityofsantacruz.org . The City Council’s e-mail is citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.org . Please cc Conscience and Action at rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com if you write.
Conscience and Action was formed as a tribute to long-time Sleeping Ban fighter David Silva who died last spring overseas.
Conscience and Action activists will be joining the Poor People’s Campaign rally at the main post office today in downtown Santa Cruz.
This will be at 1 PM (not Noon as previously scheduled) to table, make signs, and distribute flyers.
We are slated to speak between 2:30 PM and 3 PM when the main gathering begins.
For more details on the campaign Unlock the Louden Nelson and San Lorenzo Park bathrooms, see “Conscience and Action Speak Out at Parks and Rec” at https://www.indybay.org/
“City of Santa Cruz Confiscates Food Not Bombs Portable Toilet” at https://www.indybay.org/
Audio of the 6-14 protest can be found at http://huffsantacruz.org/lost/
Two follow-up protests and an organizational meeting are happening, according to Conscience and Action, which posted the following on Santa Cruz Indymedia:
For more details, go to the main article “City of Santa Cruz Confiscates Food Not Bombs Portable Toilet” at https://www.indybay.org/
I gave a shortened version of this speech to City Council Tuesday afternoon.
We will be gathering tomorrow (Thursday June 14th) at City Hall in the Courtyard to prepare signs to demand reopening of the public bathrooms throughout Santa Cruz. The protest, organized by Conscience in Action will gather in front of the Parks and Recreation Department at 323 Church St. at noon. Sign-making begins in the City Hall courtyard at 11 AM. HUFF plans a Tour of Shame. Bring signs, costumes, noise makers, etc.
To restore the right to take a shit, we must give a shit!
Comments and more info at:
Less Crap, More Crappers—Restore Decency to Santa Cruz
Modified & Extended Speech to Santa Cruz Community and Council 6-12-18 by Robert Norse
Lots of budget blathering, but no specifics on emergency shelter for those to be made internal refugees on June 30th when the Barbed Wire Boneyard Campground closes down, not to mention the many others being cited, harassed, and stripped of their property by cops, rangers, security thugs, and—no doubt—the return of the merchant private goon squad—the Hosts, slated to return in half a year.
Others have proposed the obvious—open the bathrooms to stop people from shitting and pissing all over town. I see as part of the usual genteel masquerade, you’ve opened up the bathrooms outside City Council briefly for this meeting, so middle class people don’t have to do their business in their pants or on the ground—as you force those outside to do.
A hug and a handshake to activist Ed Frey who provided a nighttime portapotty for the PeaceCamp 2010 Sleeping Ban protesters in front of the County Building more than three months.
… to the many Occupy Santa Cruz activists in 2011 whose San Lorenzo Campground provided shelter and facilities to several hundred at the same time Mayor Coonerty’s Council refused to keep the Park’s bathrooms open at night.
…to the 2015 Freedom Sleepers who brought a portapotty to City
Hall when City Manager Martin Bernal shut down the bathrooms there to “discourage” the protesters.
…to Bathroom Task Force Activist Brent Adams who has constantly worked to provide sometime emergency facilities for a warming center at night, a newly-opened 24-hour homeless storage program, cleaner portapotties, and video documentation of the City’s dubious doodoo doings.
…to former Councilmembers Posner and Comstock—who opened up—however briefly and in spite of staff obstruction an overnight restroom (Soquel-Front garage) & a still surviving 24-hour portapotty (Laurel and Front).
…even an acknowledgment to former Parks and Rec boss, Mauro Garcia—who addressed the Hepatitis A epidemic. He set up portapotties and wash stations along the San Lorenzo walkway during the campground last fall. Outrageously, they are all gone now and the regular Park bathroom there locked.
…plus particularly honorable mention to Zav Hershfield, Pat Colby, and others who unsuccessfully tried to talk reason to City Council with their “Give a Shit” campaign last year trying to restore City Hall bathroom access.
But many bathrooms remain closed during the day, and all are closed at night.
Those of you who are tired of this crappy situation are of course welcome to help Conscience in Action. That’s the Coalition offering ideas, suggestions, and impromptu assistance to those trying to hold their bowels and their water. I’ll be joining them Thursday at noon across the street in front of the P & R Dept.at 323 Church St. in search of public restrooms.
How explicit do we have to be to shame the shameless politicians and staff? I don’t know. Do we have to bring breathing gear and bags of poop to the next Council meeting?
(Mayor David Terrazas has regularly cut back public speaking time during Oral Communications from three minutes to two minutes. Much of this speech was not given because of Terrazas arbitrarily imposed a 90 second limit on each speaker, violating promises given. He also made a dozen or more people wait 45 minutes beyond the scheduled time to speak—and then announcing the shortened time.)