- 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, CaliforniaIn 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.
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/
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.
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.”
Fresno Bee Editorial
City should set up temporary camp for those awaiting housing.
THE ADVOCATE RESPONSE
PROPOSAL FOR SAFE AND LEGAL HOMELESS ENCAMPMENTS IN FRESNO
Activist Brent Adams has proposed a Sanctuary Camp in Santa Cruz, which is being discussed at https://www.indybay.org/
Tuesday Oct 22nd, 2013 8:54 AM
Some valuable information is contained in this business plan. Yhose who are working on the Sanctuary Camp proposal need to be commended for their determination and energy in the face of a hijacked and hostile political climate. I’ve given the plan a reading, but it needs more careful analysis. Brent’s style of presentation, his repeated hostility to some of us who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon (alternating with New Age hugs), and his direct attacks on me personally and protesters generally has made objectivity difficult.
They also need to be aware that many concerned with the rights of homeless people–some homeless and some housed–have “concentration camp” and other concerns with the model.
Fresno activists have been funding homeless-created encampments with trash pick-up’s, portapotties, fresh water, and other services since they won A $2.3 million lawsuit in 2007 (because city authorities, like Santa Cruz’s SCPD and Rangers) were stealing and destroying homeless property.
There’s extensive history on this homeless civil rights struggle at http://fresnoalliance.com/
More recent encampment coverage:
While Fresno activists have tried repeatedly to appeal to the city to be reasonable, recognize how cost productive it would be to stop harassing homeless encampments and/or supply services to them (or perhaps establish Sanctuary type campsites), authorities have repeatedly hoarded or ignored funding specifically intended for homeless relief and continued its campaign of harassment.
The relief that Fresno activists were able to give was through documentary videoing, lawsuits, and then direct services as described above.
Ed Frey and Occupy Santa Cruz supplied toilet facilities here in Santa Cruz when the City would not. In both cases PeaceCamp2010 and the Occupy Santa Cruz San Lorenzo campground were destroyed by authorities (not by internal problems).
Direct support to campsites currently in existence is another avenue to consider here in Santa Cruz, while Sanctuary seekers struggle to persuade right-wing staff, frightened liberals, and an apathetic community to allow a very limited Sanctuary campground.
Another informative document from Fresno is this documentation of The Cost of Destruction in Fresno: http://helpfresnoshomeless.
While it feels endless and overwhelming, it’s important to support homeless folks–their rights, their property, their dignity now as it is seized from them, legislated away by law, and snarled away by a rightwing riptide undertow. If they choose to protest, it’s wrong to ignore or–worse–denounce them as “alienating the community.”
It seems both cruel and delusional to suggest they wait for the toxic political establishment to be persuaded that a sanctuary camp is a good idea as they shiver in the shadows through the winter, facing an ever nastier set of “recommendations” from Bryant’s Citizens Task Force on Public Safety. See http://www.cityofsantacruz.
There’s also the concern that pushing a plan for a select number of homeless to be allowed a special sanitized segregated area where they will not be allowed the rights that anyone indoors takes for granted (drinking alcohol for instance) is both paternalistic and unrealistic. It also goes against the wisdom of the Housing First model which seeks to provide the most basic housing before imposing sobriety.
No one doubts the need for campgrounds. But we must support those who are struggling now. Not turn aside and censor our efforts and websites in the hope of teasing out a smile on Pamela Comstock’s face. Waiting for Don Lane to find a backbone and other progressives scuttling to find protective cover from the phony Public Safety scare is self-defeating. (See, however, http://santacruz.patch.com/
Our local monopoly homeless Nanny–the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center is spending it’s money on fences, security gates, “no impact” zone enforcement, & driving away homeless people during the day from “their” Center. They could be restoring lockers, expanding space and services, & advocating for the rights of homeless people before a bigot-heavy City Council. The Bryant-Robinson Council has intensified its war on the poor this year with curfews, expanded forbidden zones, increased powers to expel homeless people (anyone actually) from parks and elsewhere, unprecedented stay-away orders, and new laws that shaft street performers, artists, and vendors (as of October 24th).
Nor have most churches been helpful–though a small number are housing 20 people a night total.
Brent Adams Sanctuary Camp program has been pilloried by the usual tribe of trolls in the Sentinel (See comments after http://www.santacruzsentinel.
County approves plans for RV park for homeless
The $8 million development, in eastern Travis County, on Hog Eye Road near Decker and Loyola lanes, abuts a pair of subdivisions whose residents have largely opposed the project. Formerly homeless people moving into the development would pay rents of $90 to $375 a month for small homes in a community that would be fenced in and include a medical clinic and a 3-acre garden.
“I’m ecstatic about it. It’s a nine-year dream come true,” said Mobile Loaves & Fishes president Alan Graham.
With the commissioners’ blessing in hand, the project needs only administrative approvals, which officials said could happen within the week.
Graham said his organization still needs to raise more than $2 million as part of the $6 million needed for the first phase of the project. He expects those funds to be raised by the end of the year as many potential donors have been holding out for the commissioners’ approval of the development plans.
Residents could start moving in by the end of 2014 and the development, called Community First Village, could be done by the end of 2015, Graham said.
Neighbors said they were concerned about the safety of living next to a development geared toward homeless people and what it would do to their property values.
With a packed meeting room with more than 50 supporters of the project and about a dozen people from neighborhoods near the planned development, commissioners heard more than two hours of discussion before their vote.
The city of Austin’s zoning and platting commission previously approved the plans in July. The project, outside Austin’s city limits, doesn’t require City Council approval.
The Austin nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes has tried for nearly a decade to create an RV park for homeless people. Some highlights include:
- 2008: The City Council agrees to lease 11 acres on Harold Court in East Austin to the nonprofit for the project, but backs off when neighbors resoundingly object.
- 2010: The city eyes 16 acres near the airport for the RV park, but nixes the idea when the Federal Aviation Administration objects.
- 2010: The city considers using 24 acres near Burnet Road and Braker Lane in North Austin for the project. Neighbors balk, saying a long-term plan for the area calls for dense, urban development, not mobile homes.
- 2013: Mobile Loaves & Fishes plans the project for 27 acres it owns in eastern Travis County. The project is OK’d by an Austin zoning board in July and county commissioners on Tuesday.
Tent city planned in fancy Portland neighborhood
By STEVEN DUBOIS, Associated Press
Updated 10:36 am, Sunday, October 6, 2013
In this Oct. 4, 2013, photo, a person walks by the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp in Portland, Ore. Opponents of a city plan to put 100 people under a century-old bridge in the Pearl District are carefully choosing their words when complaining about the prospect of new, down-on-their-luck neighbors. Rather than express concern for their financial investments, they have criticized the city’s expedited process and worried for the welfare of those willing to live in a parking lot under the west ramp of the Broadway Bridge. Photo: Don Ryan
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — One of the toniest areas of Portland might soon be home to a tent city.
If this were another town, the owners and developers of high-end homes and condominiums would scream to high heaven about diminished property values.
But this is Portland, where the citizens try their best to be tolerant of everything except intolerance — and gluten.
Opponents of a city plan to put 100 people under a century-old bridge in the Pearl District are carefully choosing their words when complaining about the prospect of new, down-on-their-luck neighbors. Rather than express concern for their financial investments, they have criticized the city’s expedited process and worried for the welfare of those willing to live in a parking lot under the west ramp of the Broadway Bridge.
Tiffany Sweitzer, the president of Hoyt Street Properties, a realty and development firm that — over the course of 15 years — has helped transform a dying industrial area into a sparkling urban neighborhood, said “throwing a bunch of people under a bridge” should not be the city’s solution to helping the estimated 2,000 residents who sleep outside each night.
“It’s embarrassing, because that is not how you would treat anybody,” she said.
Mayor Charlie Hales and city commissioners plan to decide Oct. 16 whether to move the camp to the Pearl District from its current home near the entrance to Chinatown. If approved, a coalition of property owners promises to sue.
The camp known as Right 2 Dream Too was established in October 2011 during the Occupy Portland movement. Four years earlier, the city forced an adult bookstore to close because of code violations. The building was later demolished and the lot remained empty for three years until the aggrieved owner allowed the homeless to lease the property for $1 a year.
Each night for two years, roughly 100 people have slept on prime downtown real estate — in tents shielded from passers-by with a barrier of old, colorful doors fashioned into an artsy wall. During that time, landowner Michael Wright racked up more than $20,000 in fines because of violations associated with operating a campsite without a permit. He responded with a lawsuit.
To extract Portland from this mess, city Commissioner Amanda Fritz brokered a deal in which the fines would be waived, the lawsuit dropped and the homeless campers sent to the Pearl District. It all happened in a matter of weeks, angering homeowners and developers who say the city was so desperate to settle Wright’s lawsuit that it bypassed zoning laws.
Fritz, a former psychiatric nurse, acknowledged that the camp is not the ideal answer to homelessness. She said there is not enough money to provide housing to all, and Right 2 Dream Too has provided a much safer alternative than the street.
“It’s been an option that’s been better than nothing,” she said.
Scores of people spoke for and against the proposal at a recent five-hour hearing. Though some older women testified their safety would be jeopardized, most Pearl District residents completely ignored quality-of-life and financial issues and repeatedly griped that the city did the deal in secret and delegitimized the zoning code. Not everyone in the neighborhood is rich, they added, and the fight has been unfairly cast as the greedy against the homeless, or “us against them.”
“It’s a sad, confrontational, divisive atmosphere because communication was intentionally closed,” said Julie Young, a retired social worker who lives in the Pearl.
Besides condominiums and the low-income apartments for older residents, there are businesses nearby and a Marriott is scheduled to open next year. Those who have spoken to the potential financial impact of Right 2 Dream Too say hotel guests won’t want to stay near a shantytown and commercial rents could fall by more than 15 percent.
Ziba Design spent $20 million to build its headquarters in the Pearl District. Its real estate adviser, Greg Close of Wyse Investment Services, said in a phone interview that his client represents a large Chinese apparel manufacturer that is considering Portland.
“What does my client tell the executive of that manufacturer when it asks: ‘How can we trust you, Ziba, with our brand when we come to Portland and see you invested $20 million next to a homeless camp?'”
Homeless people, meanwhile, ask their prospective neighbors to give them a chance. Right 2 Dream Too (or R2D2) has an excellent safety record, and supporters say the camp — they call it a rest area — has helped people get back on their feet and into permanent housing.
“We’re not there to bring property values down,” said Ibrahim Mubarak, the R2D2 leader. “We’re there to get people from sleeping on your sidewalk. We’re there to stop people from sleeping in the doorways. We’re there to stop the drug dealing. We’re there to stop the drug use by our friends.”
Meanwhile Santa Cruz drops deeper into paranoia and anti-homeless hysteria with the Take Back Santa Cruz-inspired Needle-Free Zone homeless-aphobiacs. The repression contagion has spread—now street performers, vendors, artists, and political activists are under attack downtown.
New laws go into effect in Santa Cruz October 24th that will limit performance spaces to a 12′ square area and make traditional assembly and political activity illegal on 95% of the downtown sidewalks. These laws follow earlier ones that make it illegal to hold up peace signs on city medians (to outlaw panhandling there) and empower park officials to issue 1-day stay away orders prior to trial for “crimes in the park” like “trespass after dark” “smoking” and “sleeping after 11 PM”. An expansion of the Smoking Ban downtown targets homeless people (in a recent New England Journal of Medicine study, 17% of the general population smoke as distinguished from 75% of the homeless population).
Instead of opening existing bathrooms for 24-hour use, authorities are setting up a fenced off segregated portapotty as well as funding a $100 “Security” gate and fence around the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center. Activist Brent Adams has put forward a Sanctuary Camp plan disdained by the City Council majority. Instead Mayor Hillary Bryant’s band of bumbusters is backing a “Citizens Public Safety Task Force” which defines homeless survival activity like sleeping outside, camping in parks, and urinating and defecating in the woods as “criminal behavior”.
Though the City has announced multi-million dollar surplus in their budget this year, none of it will be going to fund campgrounds or restrooms or showers for the most needy. Eugene soars on, while Santa Cruz descends into a darker period.
City OKs homeless camps
If the first 15-person site works out, others could be added on lots approved by the City Council
A proposal that could allow Eugene to establish small homeless camps on yet-to-be-chosen sites was approved by the City Council on Monday night.
Councilors voted 6-2 to pass an ordinance recommended by City Manager Jon Ruiz that would allow the council to authorize more than one volunteer-run homeless camp of up to 15 people apiece — if the first camp works well.
Councilor Claire Syrett — who represents a ward that includes the Whiteaker, River Road and Santa Clara areas — said the proposal, which would allow camps to operate until next March, is not a cure for homelessness in Eugene.
But the camps will be better for some of the “hundreds of people” who have been sleeping for years in city parks and other public land, she said.
“It won’t fix all of the problems,” Syrett said. “It won’t fill all of the need, but it’s better than the status quo.”
Joining Syrett in voting for the proposal were councilors Alan Zelenka, Betty Taylor, George Brown, Chris Pryor and Greg Evans. Voting against were Councilors George Poling and Mike Clark.
Under the proposal, volunteers or nonprofit groups would manage the camps, and they would provide garbage service and portable toilets at no cost to the city. The council would control the number and location of camps, with the expectation that there would be little or no other costs to the city.
Potential sites could be located on city-owned parcels in commercial or industrial areas, or those offered by religious institutions, nonprofit groups or a business located on commercial or industrial-zoned property.
Until Monday, the council had been considering a proposal introduced by Zelenka to let the council authorize a single “rest stop” or overnight camp for up to 15 homeless people.
Under that proposal, the first camp would have been tried for 90 days to see how well it worked before other sites could be started. The proposal also would have required campers to pack up their belongings and leave the site each day.
But the concept was criticized at previous council meetings by homeless people and activists. Critics said a single site isn’t enough for the many homeless people in Eugene, and that requiring homeless people to pack up their belongings each day is impractical.
Ruiz, the city manager, on Friday made changes to a draft ordinance that could allow the establishment of more than one camp in the near future. He also added flexibility to the ordinance so that, depending on the site, campers wouldn’t necessarily have to pack up their belongings and leave each day.
Poling said he objected to the rest stop proposal being changed so that homeless people could stay on a site all day and night.
“That is no longer a rest stop,” he said. “That is a campground.”
Poling also faulted the proposal because the city would not be helping people to get out of homelessness.
“All we are doing is warehousing them and not working with them to end their homelessness,” he said.
Instead of establishing camps, Clark favored having the city act as a referral service to connect homeless people with property owners who would be willing to let homeless people camp on their property.
The camps proposed by Ruiz would be managed by “hosts” and the areas would be run according to site agreements between the site operators and the city. The camps could be terminated if the agreements are violated.
Previously, when city officials had begun working on the homeless camp idea at the direction of the council, they compiled a list of 19 possible sites that included undeveloped parkland in residential areas. That raised so much concern by nearby residents that the council eliminated potential sites in residential areas or those located close to a school.
On Monday night, several homeless advocates thanked Ruiz for developing his proposal.
Michael Carrigan, of the Community Alliance of Lane County, said people who want to help the homeless “are excited about this proposal and are ready to roll up their sleeves to make this work.”
Alley Valkyrie, a south Eugene resident who has been helping the homeless advocacy group known as SLEEPS, said she was “really stunned” by the city manager’s proposal.
“It’s a huge step in the right direction,” she said.
Valkyrie suggested that a camp be allowed on city land under the Ferry Street Bridge, where several campers have pitched tents. Another camp has been set up on city land at Broadway and Hilyard Street, which Valkyrie said is an excellent site.
The Rev. Dan Bryant, president of Opportunity Village Eugene, a newly formed housing area for homeless on Garfield Street, urged the council to approve the ordinance to get as many of the camps “up and running as quickly as possible, and we will work with you to help make that happen.”
In a surprisingly bold move, in the early minutes of the session, Councilor Alan Zelenka made a motion to authorize city staff to draft an ordinance to designate temporary safe and legal place to sleep from 9PM to 7AM on non-park, city owned land. The motion passed unanimously, with Councilor George Poling absent. The Council also directed staff to call a special Work Session on the first date at which all Councilors can be present to review and approve an ordinance. Once approved, a Public Hearing will be held and the newly authorized “Rest Areas” can become a proud part of Eugene’s dramatically changing policies addressing issues surrounding those who are unhoused. The Council backed up their voiced support of finding creative, financially feasible and effective new solutions with a clear sense of enthusiasm and commitment….and action. At the next Session the Council will also seek to approve some of the four options proposed by city staff, most involving relationships between the city, religious, not for profit and private land owners. The Council indicated agreement that a whole continuum of small, partial and temporary solutions are needed to meet the emergency needs and buy time to find longer term answers.
The Rest Areas, as proposed by Councilor Zelenka, will be on several selected, specially designated, city owned non-park land parcels. They will offer a safe place to sleep from 9PM to 7AM, toilet access, garbage collection and lockers so that individuals can secure their items during the day, facilitating their ability to find work, housing, keep health appointments and conduct other personal business.
A major benefit of the Rest Areas is that they will draw people who now sleep downtown or in public parks away from those areas and into areas that are especially designed to meet the basic safety and sanitation needs of those who sleep in the areas. Insufficient bathrooms, especially at night, has been a major health hazard to all citizens in Eugene’s downtown and public parks and the new Rest Stops will improve the public health of all citizens. It establishes a new, more realistic and businesslike approach that will better meet the needs of the downtown and parks as well as the needs of those who need a place to sleep. The City’s long term failure to address the problem has put those needs unnecessarily in conflict.
Another major business benefit is that the Rest Areas should save a great deal of the current $300,000 per year the Eugene city government is spending to clean up deserted camps, often vacated as individuals flee under police orders. It will be far cheaper to take this preventive approach: placing toilets and garbage/recycling resources in the Rest Areas so that people can clean up after themselves. Not only has the City’s previous approach been a poor choice from a business perspectivie, it has posed health hazards for all and failed to meet the goal of chasing the unhoused out of Eugene.
Activists who have long been trying to persuade the Council to provide better solutions than in the past were impressed with the Mayor and Council’s obvious determination to do something substantive and to do it now. “It took a long time to encourage them to actually TALK about this really gnarly problem….but once they decided to take it on, they took it on with gusto. It us up to the rest of us, both housed and unhoused, to be certain that we give the Council the support they deserve for having the courage to admit that what we’re doing isn’t working and to start proving out better solutions”, said one activist.
Eugene council OKs small homeless camps operated by nonprofit groups outside neighborhoods
EUGENE, Oregon — The Eugene City Council has given the go-ahead for homeless camps for no more than 15 people each on land owned by the city, churches or nonprofit groups in commercial or industrial areas.
The sites haven’t been designated. Activists have been demonstrating for months in favor of allowing homeless people to camp on city property.
The Council’s action Monday expands the proposal it had been considering, which would have been limited to one camp. Campers would have had to pack up their belongings and leave every day.
Instead, more than one camp will be allowed if the first one works, and some camps could allow residents to remain during the day.
City Manager Jon Ruiz said they would be managed by “hosts” and run according to site agreements between the site operators and the city.
Volunteers or nonprofit groups would provide garbage service and portable toilets at no cost to the city.
The Council would control the number and location of camps, with the expectation that there would be little or no other costs to the city.
The camps could be terminated if the agreements are violated, Ruiz said.
Alley Valkyrie, a south Eugene resident who has been speaking for the homeless advocacy group known as SLEEPS, said she was stunned.
“It’s a huge step in the right direction,” she said.
Demonstrations for homeless camps have been marked by arrests in recent months and a legal dispute over a free speech area outside the county courthouse.
Eugene Homeless Camp Broken Up In Free Speech Plaza
AP | Sept. 05, 2013 7:56 a.m. | Eugene, Oregon
A three-week-old camp-in protest at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza in downtown Eugene was broken up Wednesday after Lane County commissioners enacted an emergency closure of the plaza.
The Eugene Register-Guard reports the Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 on the emergency closure. Protesters were given until Wednesday afternoon to clear out the camp. Four individuals later refused to leave and were cited for trespassing by Eugene police.
Officials say the closure will be used to clean all of the areas and work on further restrictions.
The group behind the makeshift campsite, Safe Legally Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep, or SLEEPS, is protesting the lack of legal camping areas for homeless people in Eugene.
Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com
In this Sept. 5, 2013 photo, Mike Miller, of Bend, Ore., poses for a photo at a transient campsite, where he once spent several nights at during a year of living and camping outside. “This is survival for some people. I know it was for me,” Miller said. (AP Photo/The Bulletin, Joe Kline)
Roughly eight years ago, he and a brother from San Jose, Calif., moved to a house in Bend for work. About two years later, Miller lost his job and took up drinking. His brother left for Nevada, and Miller was left alone.
Before he knew it, he was scouting secluded places to put up a tent to replace his lost home.
“I didn’t want to camp out,” Miller said. “It’s a part of my life I didn’t think I would go through. But, the things I was doing and the choices I made brought me here.”
Usually unseen or overlooked, homeless camps around Bend provide a temporary home for scores of homeless people. The camps may appear, be vacated and be re-established in a matter of days, according to Miller and others who’ve worked with or policed the homeless. Or they may quietly persist for months. They range from one person in one tent to several people in upward of 10 tents, according to Bend Police spokesman Lt. Chris Carney.
Nearly 2,200 people are experiencing homelessness in Central Oregon, according to the annual point-in-time count conducted in January by the Homeless Leadership Coalition. Of those 2,200 people, Miller feels most are down on their luck, just as he was.
But he knows that’s not everybody. Some choose to live that way, he said. “I was never threatened. But I know it does happen out there. I had one guy who watched my back as I watched his. It’s about surviving.”
Carney said the department deals with homeless camps all around Bend. For example, at least six camps lie within a five-mile radius of The Bethlehem Inn, a homeless shelter on U.S. Highway 97 in north Bend, according to managing director Chris Clouart. Most campers keep to themselves and hide from view, but sometimes events propel them into the forefront of public attention.
Saturday, Bend Police reported an attempted rape at a transient camp on Northeast Fourth Street. An alleged witness at the camp, Don Wichmann, performed a rare act and reported the incident to police. As a result, Jacob Schoenborn was held in Deschutes County jail on suspicion of first-degree rape, fourth-degree assault and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse.
“Most of the time, these people are camping because they want to be left alone,” said Carney. “Getting them to report incidents is always a tough thing to do.”
Crimes at these camps are not infrequent, Carney said. But they aren’t everything the camps are about. A fire in July that charred 4 acres in east Bend started with a homeless campfire. Two people — a mother and daughter — were cited in that incident. In addition, Carney said, stabbings and a shooting have occurred at homeless camps around the city within the past five years.
“It’s difficult to distinguish between the types of people who are out there,” he said. “Most of the people in these camps are people down on their luck — they can’t afford housing or something. But there are the others who choose that lifestyle and can sometimes cause problems.”
Residential camping in city limits is illegal, according to Bend affordable housing manager Jim Long. His department attempts to work with local nonprofits and businesses to find affordable housing for those whose income was diminished or demolished after the recession.
“Most people are one or two paychecks from tragedy anyway,” Long said. “If there’s 100 homeless people, there are 100 different stories. I don’t have rose-colored glasses — they aren’t all saints. But they aren’t all evil, either.”
He said the city attempts to move homeless camps as humanely as possible. Before calling the police, Long said, he would call the Central Oregon Veterans Organization or the Deschutes County Mental Health division in order to give the affected homeless a warning. If COVO and Deschutes County are unsuccessful, the police are called in.
“As a police department, we just go in there and tell them they have to camp outside of the city,” Carney said. “They typically pick up and move to a new spot. It’s about all we can do; we don’t have the time or resources to go out and force these people to move.”
Clouart said community calls to clean up homeless camps are routine following violent incidents like the one Saturday.
“It won’t solve anything,” Clouart said. “You’re just moving them from one place to another. To fix it, we need to become a society and a culture that doesn’t judge these people.”
Organizations around Bend attempt to keep judgment out of rehabilitation. The Shepherd’s House, a homeless men’s support shelter, offers a bed, food and shelter to applicants who are clean and sober. In emergency situations, it offers the same services to men for seven days. For those who need camping supplies, the shelter may provide them as well.
The Bethlehem Inn is open to men and women, offering the same “get back on your feet” services. COVO started a homeless outreach program, donating camping and survival supplies to ex-military men in need. “Feed the Hungry” hosts a breakfast and lunch at Bend’s Community Center every Sunday, and the center is getting ready to hand out survival gear to the “Keep Them Warm” program again.
Miller said he got so comfortable with camping that he was able to fashion a shower in his tent so he didn’t have to interact with people at camp showers. He said he notices others have taken up residence at the sites where he once camped.
“Some people just stay in that mindset of camping,” he said. “Some don’t want to stop doing that. I just realized that life wasn’t for me, and I was ready for a change.”
Miller, now 27 months free of alcohol, has lived at The Shepherd’s House for almost a year. He’s getting ready to move to Portland soon for an internship with a religious homeless-assistance organization and hopes to go to school later for addiction studies. Miller said he hopes to use his future education to help others in his former position, paying forward the help he received.
But no matter what, he won’t forget his time in the tent.
“You just learn how to blend in,” he said. “In fact, at one point, you get comfortable blending in. Once you get that comfortable, you don’t have a desire to stop blending in. And, by then, you’ve run out of options to get out.”
Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press