Harassing the Homeless: ID Checks, Security Gate, Downtown Dragnet


Item #10 on the City Council’s afternoon agenda Tuesday (5-27) funds the Consolidated Goon Squad Operation downtown of D.A.’s, cops, parole officers, & “social services” targeting “Chronic Offenders”. This latest assault is part of the Homeless Removal Program (titled the “Downtown Accountability Program”[DAP]) as part of the on-going criminalization of the outside poor making Santa Cruz “less welcoming” to high rent refugees, foreclosure victims, disabled folks outside, and low-income travellers–not to mention hippies, performers, and street vendors.

Items #11 pressures the Homeless (Lack of) Services to complete a Security Fence and Gate and ID Cards within 90 days or forfeit funding.

The staff reports, draft City and County budgets for the “DAP” and Board of Supervisors DAP program passed 5-13 can be found at http://sire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=557&doctype=AGENDA . Click on the link at Agenda Item #10. This is part of the dog-and-pony show announced by D.A. Bob Lee that provides few if any new resources for actual drug rehab and housing programs, but hires new bureaucrats and establishes new offices to “monitor” the “undesirable” element downtown. The targets: folks who have been ignoring their infraction citations because (a) they couldn’t afford to pay for them if they wanted to, (b) they’re an insult to basic human dignity frequently (“move on every hour, no holding up a “for change” sign after dark, disobeying a security thug in a park, etc.), and (c) they are essentially a response to the “get out of town” agenda of certain groups now holding sway at City Council–long entrehcned in the SCPD, Parks and Rec, and the City staff.

I suppose it’s also a backhanded acknowledgment of the value of the Housing First! idea or at least that’s how it’s being sold. But since the only housing it specifically anticipates is jail after the second “offense”, the main point is to get drunks, “crazies”, and rebels out of sight by locking them up. Job security for lawyers, courts,bureaucrats, deputies, cops, and the occasional social service person. No new meaningful resources for homeless people.

The contract, agenda report, and extra SCPD/NIMBY “goodies” can be found under the link at Agenda Item #11. This $100,,000+ boondoggle is part of the Public Safety mythology which suggests the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center [HLOSC] has a huge violent crime problem. The Sentinel has been pushing this Take-Back-Santa-Cruz Crime Scare stuff for quite some time. Mayor Lynn Robinson’s “Santa Cruz Neighbors”/SCPD baby-fascist combine has been doing the same. Glorifying abusive officers like Sgt. Butchie Baker and smearing those he harrassed has become “the new wisdom”. Sleeping for the poor outside has become not only a crime but a “public safety hazard”. “Public safety” is the undocumented, unjustified, and false rationale for turning HLOSC into an even more prison-like area. It will also drive away folks anxious about police contacts for the far more frequent “crimes” of sleeping, sitting near a building, drug possession, and trespass with intend to sleep.

Will these new “unwelcoming” measures materially impact the presence of chronically or seasonally homeless folks, or stop counter-culture travelers from connecting with friends, family, etc. in Santa Cruz? Or simply create more suffering, paranoia, and hostility?

No persuasive documentation of a “crime waye”, either at the HLOSC, in the surrounding Harvey West neighborhood, or downtown was presented either to City Council last year, in police reports obtained by Public Records Act action, during the NIMBY-dominated Public Safety Task Force show last summer, or anywhere else. That’s unless you consider open container, sleepcrime, sitcrime, smokingcrime, and drug use to be a serious crimes. What is really involved here is the old story, spruced up in new duds–jacketing homeless people as “needle menaces”, “lurkers”, “bad behavior problems”.

This Criminalizing Carnival is the most sickening and blatant hypocrisy, since all the “crimes” for which homeless people are being ticketed and jailed are things housed people can do freely in their homes.

The problem is not that the city (state and country) has ignored the need to build (or at least replace) low-income housing destroyed in each new upsurge of gentrification but that homeless people themselves have intractable mental, drug, moral, or alcohol problems, you see. It’s all their responsibility. Don’t blame the wealthy and the powerful.

The items are likely to appear soon after 2:30 PM when the open session of the City Council begins.

Budget hearings for the SCPD and the Water Dept. begin at 7 PM on the evening agenda.

Budget hearings resume Wednesday morning at 9 AM at a Special Session of City Council.

Though I’ve never had the patience or stomach to sit through more than a fraction of these hearings–it’s in the budget hearings that the fuel for the fires of the latest homeless Witchburnings will be appropriated.

Comments on this story can be left at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/05/26/18756293.php /
The Sentinel’s “story” on this is at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/santacruz/ci_25830031/santa-cruz-council-hear-new-approach-water-management