Destruction of Local Homeless Survival Camps in Felton: Another Disgraceful Episode

Norse’s Notes:  Instead of ordering that the campsites be cleaned up, the real motivation of the vigilantes and sheriffs seems to be to drive away any and all homeless survival campers.
Too bad no one documented the three truckloads of “trash” with video.  When that was done in Fresno, the City lost a two million dollar lawsuit, and actually had to start at least giving token acknowledgment of state law regarding seized property.
More to the point would be establishing emergency campgrounds for folks who need to be outdoors (95% of whom have no legal shelter).  Even more addressing the underlying conditions that create this crisis.
If folks were serious about clean-up’s, the county would provide portapotties, dumpsters, trashbags, and legalization of clean camps.  If they were serious about ending unsafe needle disposal, they’d take local initiatives to end the insane Drug Prohibition war and at the very least expand (rather than contract) harm-reduction programs like needle exchange.
While it’s always encouraging to see community members getting together to clean-up areas that the city and county decline to address, that must not involve scapegoating a whole class of people.  T.J. Magallanes, who created The Clean Team website, has said and written this repeatedly.  But “Take Back Santa Cruz” type hardliners prefer to use the homeless as a political football here and blame them as a means of attacking a power structure (that deserves to be attacked, incidentally).
Screaming about “tolerance for drugs” and “illegal” homeless camps (when virtually all survival camping is illegal) is just blind bigotry and the kind of desperation that ensues when folks fail to identify the real enemies who run the show.
The KSBW news brief on this suggests the sweeps are “controversial” only in that they “aren’t effective” and folks seem to keep coming back.  Sort of reminds me of the homeless = vermin approach, used to describe insurgents, terrorists, 1930’s Jews, etc.  Dehumanizing people is a nice way of covering your fascist ass.
It’s also a pity that the “service providers” in the area didn’t speak out against this destruction of homeless survival camps.  Maintaining the illusion that there are shelter alternatives when there are not.  The sheriffs don’t even pretend there are.  And won’t be even if the pretty-pretty 180-180 program gets fully funded.
There are thousands of homeless in the county.  Is the plan to drive them all out into the rain and make them internal refugees?
I wrote more in the comments that follow this article, which is primarily window-dressing for the sheriffs and demonization of the campers, though as of yet those comments haven’t appeared (other than one brief sentence).  See for more comments and to make your own.  Or comment on this article on the HUFF blog at .

Three truckloads of trash hauled from Felton campsites

By Stephen Baxter

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted:   02/07/2013 07:05:45 PM PST


FELTON — Three deputies and four Santa Cruz County Jail inmates hauled out three truckloads of trash from illegal campsites near Zayante Creek and the San Lorenzo River on Thursday.

Responding to some residents’ complaints and a pile of garbage and human waste at the Graham Hill Road Bridge over the San Lorenzo River, deputies posted notices to vacate the campsites in January.
Since then, much of the debris was removed or swept down the river with last month’s rain, sheriff’s Sgt. John Habermehl said.
Thursday, they hauled out dirty clothing, alcohol bottles, bicycle parts and a broken kayak, among other items.
“It’s not so much that somebody decided to pitch a tent,” Habermehl said. “We try to address the criminal behavior — the illegal dumping, the drug and alcohol issues, and the waste in our rivers.”
He added that the cleanups are a matter of maintenance rather than a long-term solution: “If we don’t do something about what’s out there, it’s just going to get worse.”
The action follows similar Sheriff’s Office sweeps near Highway 9 in September and by Santa Cruz police during the fall and summer of 2012.
No one was cited and no syringes or other drug paraphernalia were found on Thursday, deputies said. The inmates who participated volunteered from the Rountree Detention Center, a medium-security facility.

At a second cleanup site under the Conference Drive Bridge at Zayante Creek, deputies were

surprised to find a relatively clean area with several trash bags left by campers.

Light rain fell on the crew as it loaded food wrappers and dirty clothing into a Santa Cruz County flatbed pickup and a truck loaned by the Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center.

Don Cox, a homeless 53-year-old Air Force veteran, watched the crew work in the rain. He said he camped in the Felton area for years and noticed new people who came from Santa Cruz because of recent cleanups in that city.

“A bunch of them who’ve come down here are drug addicts and thieves,” Cox said.

Having been a mechanic and tow truck driver, he said he is trying to attend job-training classes at Cabrillo College and find a place to live with his veteran benefits.

“It’s not like I’ve chosen to be out here and be a bum,” he said. “I’m too old to be on the streets.”

“They’re really kind of picking on us,” he said of Thursday’s cleanup.

Another woman, Amanda Livingston, 22, saw the deputies and inmates work under the Graham Hill Bridge.

She said one of the men went to Santa Cruz to collect a check Thursday morning, so she scrambled to round up his gear and a bag of prescription drugs before it was removed.

“I’ve been telling him that they’re going to clear the camp,” she said. “He didn’t believe me.”

Originally from Michigan, Livingston said the bridge offered her some shelter during the rain storms earlier in the winter. She and others cooked, drank and tried to stay dry, she said.

Above the bridge, some employees at nearby businesses said they appreciated the cleanup.

“I think it’s definitely necessary but it’s pretty lame that it has to be done in the first place,” said 21-year-old Adam Pomianowski, who works at Budget Truck Rental at 6440 Graham Hill Road. “This is a river running through our little town. I’m glad someone’s paying attention.”