What’s Happening in the Santa Cruz County Jail?

NOTES BY NORSE:  Since the negligent homicide of Krista Daluca (“Four Days…the Slaying of Krista Deluca in the Santa Cruz County Jail” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/06/30/18788382.php), there’s been little sustained focus on our own section of the incarceration system.  In spite of a history of medical negligence and abuse (“Santa Cruz Residents Call for Sheriff to Accept Responsibility for ‘Unnatural’ Jail Deaths” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/02/08/18768236.php), the only clear  reaction of the Sheriff Hart’s regime has been to fence off protesters (“Sheriff Hart Requests $47,925 to Fence Out Protesters from Santa Cruz County Jail” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/04/17/18771212.php).  Until forced by state law, Sheriff Hart continued to collude with ICE abusers (“Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart, Contrary to Assurances, Collaborates with ICE” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2017/05/19/18799565.php). 

                            While Hart has reportedly been forthcoming in dealing with the marijuana growers lobby by slowing or stopping raids (or at least releasing public records), no one has yet done an analysis of class, race, and “drug crime” of the jail population.  Myself included.  I include more critical commentary below.

                            What prompted the recent rebellion?  From the mouths of those who rebelled, not those who struck them down, please!


Cold Temperatures Prompt Inmate Rebellion in Santa Cruz Jail
by Santa Cruz Police News
Thursday Jan 18th, 2018 11:44 PM
Inmates locked in the Santa Cruz jail armed themselves, and created booby traps and barricades in their cells, as they staged a masked rebellion this week over cold temperatures within the facility, according to authorities.
26 men in the west-wing L Unit of the jail complained about the cold temperatures, and on Tuesday afternoon they, “tied trip lines from ripped jail-cell sheets, covered their arms with socks, hid their faces with makeshift masks,” and, “armed themselves with soap, a radio, mop, books and bottles of liquid,” according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. They also created “trip lines,” and “covered the unit floor with soap and water and blocked stairwells and walkways with mattresses as they tried to pelt the guards with books and soap,” according to a jail official..

The rebellion left over $1,000 in property damage in its wake.

A press release issued by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office on January 16 titled “Jail Disturbance Resolved” read:

“Over the last several days, male inmates residing in a housing unit at the Main Jail became increasingly concerned about the unit’s ambient air temperature. Maintenance has been actively working to increase the temperature above 70 degrees and Jail staff provided extra blankets in the interim. Over the last 24 hours, the inmates became increasingly non-compliant to the point that they refused Correctional staff directives, used mattresses as makeshift barricades and prepared tools for offensive and defensive use. Despite hours of Correctional staff attempting to resolve and deescalate the disturbance, the inmates ultimately refused to follow lawful directives.

“Shortly before 2 pm this afternoon, Sheriff’s Office staff entered the housing unit to restore safety and order. None of the inmates or Sheriff’s Office staff suffered any serious injuries.”

Read more:

Masked inmates use booby traps in Santa Cruz County Jail skirmish

SANTA CRUZ >> They tied trip lines from ripped jail-cell sheets, covered their arms with socks, hid their faces with makeshift masks and armed themselves with soap, a radio, mop, books and bottles of liquid.The 26 men housed in the west-w

Masked Inmates Booby Trapped Entire Cell Block At Santa Cruz Jail

Masked inmates armed with soap, books and mattresses booby-trapped an entire cell block at the Santa Cruz County Jail.

§Sheriff’s press release

by Santa Cruz Police News Thursday Jan 18th, 2018 11:46 PM

Download PDF (258.3kb)

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Freedom SleepOut #85 To Face Wettest Winter and Squad Cars at Midnight?

 Date Tuesday February 21

Time 4:00 PM Tuesday9 AM Wednesday

Location Details Back again to City Hall–still the dark center of Sleeping Ban law and enforcement under City Manager Martin Bernal and the Watkins-Terrazas City Council. Determined activists and a crew of homeless folks will be huddling beneath the eaves of the buildings at City Hall until being driven out into the rain , wind, and cold. Just looking for a night of community and relative safety from the Sleeping Ban, they’ll be in sleeping bags, under tents, in vehicles, whereever they can, hoping to spark conscience from the broader community. Food Not Bombs and Joe Schultz will feed. Protest goes, as ever, from mid-afternoon Tuesday to mid-morning Wednesday.

Event Type Protest

Organizer/Author Keith McHenry (story by Norse)

Email keith@foodnotbombs.net

Phone 575-770–3377

Protests against Trump across the state and nation have failed so far to catalyze any local protests against Trumpism in Santa Cruz. Particularly concerning the most basic civil rights of our own refugees who face sweeps, property confiscations, harassment, and the nighttime Sleeping Ban–all measures designed to drive them out of town and out of sight.

Folks at a recent Black Lives Matter protest in Capitola this Saturday did seem sympathetic to concerns that SCPD policies impacting black folks, immigrants, and just ordinary folks were also a matter of serious concern regarding homeless folks. See “Community Support for Black Lives Matter in Capitola” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2017/02/18/18796619.php

Freedom Sleepers return this Tuesday fresh from the harsh memory of massive police response against last week’s protest on 2-14.

During that protest, eight SCPD squad cars showed up to arrest activist Maxwell Green in the dead of night ( https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10154889337533820&set=pcb.10154889337793820&type=3&theater ).

Though Green spoke earlier that day at City Council and could have been served with a citation at that time, the city’s uniformed gunmen showed up at midnight in absurdly disproportionate force, frightening other sleepers there.

Green was charged with 184 (a) willfully obstructing an officer. He will be arraigned in Judge Denine Guy’s court on Mar 16th at 8:30 a.m. The “obstruction” incident allegedly happened over a month ago on 1/18 with the complaint and warrant suddenly issued on 2/15; right after a city council meeting when Green publicly denounced Councilmember Richelle Niroyan. Niroyan authored a failed RV nighttime ban, leading to a caustic exchange between the two of them that homeless-aphobic city staffers may still be trying to patch up behind the scenes.

Green is a mainstay of the Freedom Sleeper protest, who works and lives in Monterey, and regularly commutes to defend the rights of the Santa Cruz homeless here.

Food Not Bombs [FNB], which regularly feeds the Freedom SleepOut’s, is facing harassment from reactionary neighbors, who ban the organization’s street food and literature tables.

FNB will hold an Emergency Meeting 2 PM Friday 2-24 at India Joze 418 Front St.
They also urge folks to sign a petition to Mayor Cynthia Chase urging the City respect the right to share food: Sign it at https://www.change.org/p/cynthia-chase-support-the-right-of-food-not-bombs-to-share-free-food-info-and-ideas-in-public-spaces?

FNB co-founder Katzemjammer Keith McHenry also announced “Direct Action to Fight Fascism” Presentation at 612 Ocean St., Resource Center for Non-Violence 6:30 PM Free to all.

Homeless folks are another minority that faces police harassment and violence.

Activists pressing to end police violence are demanding the release of the police reports and the full D.A.’s investigation in the killing of Sean Arlt. In a quick closed-to-the-public press conference, Chief Kevin Vogel announced D.A. Jeff Rosell’s finding exonerating the killer–Officer Eric Bailey.

There has been no change in the SCPD’s “shoot to kill” policy, nor were details given of how close Arlt was to Bailey when Bailey shot him dead in October. The D.A.’s “investigation” has taken 4 months, and now Vogel’s SCPD announces it will “investigate” further. Meanwhile the witness accounts and the D.A.’s report remain under lock and key. The “Official Story” can be seen on line at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2017/02/16/18796574.php?show_comments=1#18796616

Bring lots of rain gear, blankets, and “protective” video equipment to the protest. Heavy rains may not deter police and ranger attacks on those sheltering themselves at City Hall. But documenting their behavior may awaken the community to the menace of local Trumpism against the poor.

TO COMMENT GO TO https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2017/02/20/18796677.php.


HUFF Back on Pacific Avenue In Support of Artists, Performers, and Other Riff Raff 1 PM Thursday 4-21


HUFF Tabling Against Police Repression Downtown
Date Thursday April 21
Time 1:00 PM2:30 PM
Location Details
Pacific Avenue near Soquel next to Forever 21 or nearby
Event Type Protest
To protest the heavy police (SCPD, 1st Alarm, Host) harassment of the poor, the artists, the vendors, the performers, and the activists on Pacific Avenue.

The “Vanish the Vendors” ordinance is due to return May 10th to City Council. This law will freeze into law police power to continue and increase the threats, citations, and arrests police have already introduced for the last few weeks downtown. See “…Vanish the Vendors Law…” at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/04/11/18785162.php

Most notorious was the arrest of Alex Skelton and Joff Jones (See “Pigs Repress Free Speech on Pacific” at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/04/16/18785295.php ) last Saturday. The two have returned–again reportedly outside the performance pens or blue boxes in defiance of the “free speech an hour at a time and only in the blue boxes” Decree of the city staff and Downtown Association.

HUFF will be tabling to demand an end to the restrictive boxes, forbidden zones, and move-every-hour law to return to the peaceful and success Voluntary Downtown Performance Guidelines. It voted at its weekly meeting to support those guidelines and expand them more broadly to vendors, tabler, and others engaging in extended non-commercial speech. See”Santa Cruz, California Street Performing Voluntary Guidelines” at http://www.buskersadvocates.org/saalegalSantaCruzGuide.html).

Other HUFF concerns include its Give A Shit! campaign: restoration and opening of 24-hour bathrooms, including Soquel garage bathroom (closed for three weeks for “vandalism”); end harassment of poor people with no legal shelter the right to sleep at night and cover up with blankets; and the broad restoration of public space in parks and public walkways (heavily monopolized by commercial interests downtown).

Bring signs, friends, video, and high spirits!
Iced tea and brownies likely available for early arrivals.

For more event information:

TO LEAVE COMMENTS AND VIDEO:  https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/04/20/18785423.php

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More Fuel for Wednesday’s Protest at Cop Corner in Santa Cruz

The protest against SCPD acquisition of the Bearcat armored vehicle,
its targeted attacks on homeless people,
its lack of transparency,
its huge bite out of the Santa Cruz budget,
its growing militarization,
its backroom manipulation of the political process,
its use of force record
its failure to discipline abusive officers
its failure to address real crimes of violence against women, minorities, and the poor

…all will be up for discussion, debate, and protest tomorrow at 2 PM at Laurel and Center Streets.

Bring an umbrella, warm clothing, noise-makers and friends!  https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/12/13/18765489.php    (“Keeping Up the Pressure: Protest at Cop Corner”).

Information and a downloadable flyer about the protest are at

A gripping and informative video and a series of hard questions can be seen at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/12/16/18765662.php   (“Bearcat-a-tat-tat” Video and Abbi Samuels Letter to the Mayor”).

Councilmember Posner Has Office Hours Around Pacific Avenue Street Stuff

After some delay Micah Posner has agreed to be in his office 11 AM to noon every Friday to hear take input on the new (goes into effect December 25th) “Performer Pens” law.  He asks that folks call in advance if they’re planning to come in on his office line at 831-420-5028.

For this Friday only, Posner says he’ll be in the office at 3:30 PM

Posner is finally establishing office hours at the request of HUFF and some street performers.

Presumably he’ll also be interested in hearing about other concerns regarding ordinances downtown impacting poor people (such as the current 1-day Stay Away ordinance–due for explosive expansion on January 11th).   And he has expressed a continuing interest in bemoaning the Sleeping Ban (while voting for laws that further empower rangers and police to enforce it).

The ordinance (MC 5.43) further restricts and freezes in place specific spaces where the public can perform, vend, table, or panhandle.  It also likely more severely limits the sitting spaces on Pacific Avenue where one can put butt to sidewalk.

Neither he nor Lane moved to abolish or amend the Move-Along law section of 5.43, which poses huge ($300+) fines on anyone with a cap, open guitar case, table, or other “display device” who fails to move along every hour after being told his “time is up”.  (Police have falsely directed people  to move every hour and “time themselves” but the wording of the law requires a warning after an hour is up.

A sight-disabled man at the HUFF meeting yesterday advised us he was ticketed for his painting activity when he didn’t clean up and move on quickly enough for the various police officers surrounding him.

HUFF has strongly opposed the anti-homeless Downtown Ordinances–particularly the “forbidden zones” law which shrinks available space for sitting and sparechanging to less than an estimated 1% of the total sidewalk area, and available space for vending, tabling, and performing to less than 2%.
[See “Restore Sidewalk Space For All; End the “One Hour of Free Speech and Get Going” Rule” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/11/18/18764290.php ]

Lengthy e-mail dialogue with Mayor Don Lane from a few months ago can be found at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/10/27/18763374.php [“Vice-Mayor Meets With Activists on Performance Pens Along Pacific Avenue 1:30 PM Today “]

As far as street performing goes, HUFF supports the Voluntary Street Performers Guidelines [http://www.buskersadvocates.org/saalegalSantaCruzGuide.html )] created in 1980 by Tom Noddy & other performers and effective for 22 years before being bulldozed over by the Reilly-Mathews Council of 2003.

Hernandez not Azua Drew a Gun on Jasmine Thanksgiving 2013

Correcting An Error: Hernandez not Azua Drew a Gun on Jasmine Thanksgiving 2013

A prior flyer I posted on Santa Cruz Indymedia & the HUFF e-mail list, and distributed at two rallies erroneously identified Officer Frank Azua as the SCPD off-duty officer who drew a gun on Jasmine Byron and her family at the Salvation Army Thanksgiving meal in 2013.  They reported Hernandez was menacing them for “taking a plate of food outside” as others were doing.  I apologize for any confusion caused by this error and further discuss it below.  I also include the corrected flyer for those who want to read and/or distribute it.    –Robert Norse

Officer Frank Azua has been accused of racial profiling downtown. (See “Santa Cruz Police Racism by Officer Azua and Unidentified PO ” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYa65BTWrHU&feature=youtu.be and “Selective Enforcement of Smoking Ban, Obstruction of Video Reporting–Report to the Chief!” at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/08/02/18759451.php ).

He has also been identified in numerous incidents in radio interviews with those who reported abuse: (search for “Azua” at http://www.huffsantacruz.org/brb-descriptions.html ). However, my apologies for a mistaken reference to him in this incident.

Officer Joe Hernandez was identified by Jasmine Byron, her partner, and her mom as the man who drew a gun on her for taking a plate of food out of the Salvation Army Thanksgiving meal last year. In radio interviews on November 28, 2013 and December 8, 2013, Hernandez was described as the gun-pointing and subsequently taunting individual. (See http://www.huffsantacruz.org/brb-descriptions.html and search for “Hernandez”).

The flyer included with this comment is a corrected version with the proper information.





“Liberal” L.A. and Scrooge-heavy Santa Cruz?

Notes by Norse:  One story does not make a saga and the LAPD are not known for a kindler gentler treatment of homeless people there.  Whether the L.A. Times is doing damage control for the LAPD after its recent court losses is unclear to me.  But they’re certainly ahead of Santa Cruz with its fencing off of under-the-bridges sanctuaries, stay-away orders from parks, & ongoing attacks on homeless survival sleepers.

In L.A., we have seen recent court victories by the ACLU, attorney Carol Sobel, and homeless activists throwing out the City’s anti-homeless “no living in a vehicle” law.  In Santa Cruz, vehicle-dwelling Kate Wenzell (“the scarf lady) was mercilessly pursued by Officer “Bumbasher” Barnett and other SCPD sleepsnatchers–with charges finally being dismissed many months later after a campaign of intimidation.

The Desertrain decision is currently going to an en banc panel for review at the behest of a reactionary judge.  It does not directly overturn Santa Cruz’s “sleep after 11 in your vehicle, get a $157 citation; do it three times, face a year in jail and $1000 fine” law–MC 6.36.010a.

Unhoused Santa Cruz’s under assault by the SCPD and Parks and Recreation continue to report ongoing ticketing, “move on to nowhere” harassment, and property seizure.  A local ACLU proposal for a moratorium on all camping and sleeping citations at night hasn’t even gotten to City Council here due to more stalling from ACLU’s anti-homeless chair Peter Geldblum and the timidity of the Pleich majority on the Board.  

City and county bureaucrats running the “Downtown Accountability Project” DAP (or Downtowners Against the Poor, as I call it) have yet to respond to Public Records Act requests.  These seek specific information on the particular “offenses” being targeted under the “100 Chronic Offenders” program.  This program is backed up by heightened security guard intimidation, “friendly fascism” from the ever-smiling “Hosts”, and back-up by packs of armed police officers who cluster quickly to deal with a yelling rebel,  but reportedly  decline to take complaints from homeless people.   

The DAP program with a phony compassionate funding and zero money for long-term housing is being used to clear downtown Santa Cruz of homeless-looking people caught in the tripwire of anti-homeless laws and enforcement practices while easing the conscience of those wondering what happened to the old Santa Cruz.

Can L.A. be more “progressive” than Santa Cruz?  Or have attorneys there with guts grabbed the city’s bigots by the balls knowing their “hearts and minds” will shortly follow?

Homeless activists and victims have begun appearing at City Council’s 5 PM “Oral Communications” period with video cameras, cell phones, and strong testimony.  At the last such protest, armed SCPD mediamasher John Bush confiscated four tape recorders and stopped an audible recording of the meeting under orders apparently from Mayor Lynn “Run em Out” Robinson.

Another such protest is slated for Tuesday July 22nd at 4:30 PM (809 Center St.).  Bring your friends.

L.A. leaders are crafting new plan to help homeless on skid row

Skid row homelessness

In their latest census, Los Angeles police counted more than 1,700 people living in tents and cardboard boxes in the 50-block skid row area. Above, people sit and walk on South San Pedro Street. (Jabin Botsford / Los Angeles Times)

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The Hungarian Regime Takes a Cue from the City of Santa Cruz–Bans Sleeping Outside

NOTES BY NORSE:  Looks like Take Over Santa Cruz*–has its friends and allies in Hungary.   A similar  attack on recycling fouled the air at City Council last month in a preliminary “investigation” of the two recycling centers (which found nothing) and passage of measures to heighten scrutiny, encourage the state legislature to empower local bigots to move recycling to out-of-town areas and ban new ones.   The Santa Cruz [Homeless] Sleeping Ban has been in place for decades and its enforcement is now on the upswing.   Similar to Sundown Town laws that drove blacks out of town in the mid-West (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunset_towns ), Santa Cruz’s MC 6.36.010a is an absurd, costly, and arbitrary “tool” used by police to drive the homeless (and often disabled) out of town.

                            As Sgt. Le Moss reportedly said to David the Street Performer, when he phoned in to file a complaint that Officer Aguilar and others were harassing him on the street a week ago, “why don’t you just leave town?”.  Le Moss is the sergeant who broke the arm of a vehicular-housed woman in her 60′s some years ago for which the city paid out settlement money, but retained the assaulter on the force (See “60 Year Old Homeless Wolman Says Police Broke Her Arm”  at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/05/10/18498341.php ).  So far David has not received a call back from the SCPD (though he reports the harassment has stopped.
Meanwhile as temperatures in Santa Cruz dip again towards freezing, Mayor Rattlesnake Robinson may be attending the Homeless Death Memorial today (10:30 AM at 115 Coral St.), but she hasn’t opened up any public buildings to prevent death by hypothermia.  Brent Adams’ Sanctuary Camp/Warming Center group (https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/12/12/18747693.php?show_comments=1#18747702) will meet again Sunday the 22nd to see if its letter-writing campaign has opened up any doors.  There are rumblings of an emergency gathering on the nights of predicted freezing with tents and heaters, but so far nothing tangible has taken shape.  Some that warmth seekers ignore the newly-posted “No Loitering” signs in the (supposedly public) Metro Transit Center.    Frosty times ahead.*A rebranding of the Take Back Santa Cruz’s name in the interests of truth in advertising.

‘They Want Scapegoats’:Hungary Cracks Down on Homelessness

By Keno Verseck

Photo Gallery: Hungary's Tough New Law on Homelessness Photos

The conservative Hungarian government has repeatedly targeted the homeless with its recent policies. Now a new ban on sleeping outdoors is drawing outrage and accusations of scapegoating.

Has she ever resorted to begging? No, that would be undignified. “I have never done that,” says Zsuzsanna Lakatos indignantly. The 58-year-old Hungarian woman has been homeless for two decades. She lives with her husband Bertalan on the outskirts of Budapest in a tiny dilapidated building they have fixed up, and the couple earns money doing odd jobs such as renovations, gardening and helping people move.


A large source of their income used to come from collecting discarded household items, which they would clean, repair and resell at markets. But now they’ve become more cautious, thanks to the trash law that has been in place since January in Hungary.

According to the regulations, large discarded items in public places are the property of those officially in charge of their removal. Those who are unauthorized to do so face fines and jail time — a rule that targets the many homeless trash collectors in the country.

But now things have gotten even worse for Hungary’s homeless. On Monday evening, the parliament in Budapest passed a law banning the homeless from sleeping outdoors around certain public places, though the law’s criteria remains vague. The law applies to all of Hungary’s World Heritage Sites, as well as any other homeless-free zones designated by local city authorities. Those who violate the ban face fines, community service and even jail time for repeat offenses.

Not Enough Shelters

The new law is actually an amendment to one passed last year that was subsequently struck down by the Constitutional Court. To avoid another rejection by the court, the national conservative government under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán passed an amendment to the Hungarian constitution earlier this year that makes it difficult to declare the law unconstitutional again.

A number of Hungarian human rights organizations are now protesting the new law, calling on the country’s president, János Áder, not to sign it. “The criminalization of the homeless violates basic rights and is unacceptable,” declared a joint statement by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and seven other civil groups.

“The new law basically makes homelessness a punishable offense,” says Tessza Udvarhelyi ofThe City Is for All, an initiative that champions the rights of the homeless. “Many don’t know what to do now. The government has promised that all homeless people will be accommodated in shelters, but there are no spaces available in the shelters.”

According to estimates by aid organizations, between 10,000 and 15,000 homeless people live in the capital of Budapest, a city of some 2 million. But there is lodging in shelters for only about 6,000.

Gábor Iványi, a prominent Methodist pastor who has been ministering to the homeless for some two decades, says his soup kitchen and homeless shelter at a church in Budapest’s 8th district are frequently overflowing. “The new law against the homeless is deeply un-Christian, as is the approach by officials,” he says. “They are constantly sending patrols to the shelter and harassing people, even when they are simply waiting for food.”
Government representatives reject such criticism. “It is sheer nonsense to call it the criminalization of the homeless,” says Gergely Pröhle, a senior Foreign Ministry official. “We just don’t want the homeless to live in certain public places that are heavily visited by tourists, and that is totally legitimate.”

Distracting from Other Issues

Tessza Udvarhelyi disagrees. She says that the policies are part of a wider hostility toward the poor by Orbán’s government. “They need scapegoats to distract from the poor social situation in the country, and therefore use the poorest of the poor, the homeless, Roma and refugees,” she says. While past governments have also taken aim at the homeless, their approach was not as systematic, she adds.

“Before the Constitutional Court ruled last year that the law against homelessness was unconstitutional, it was valid for eight months,” says Udvarhelyi, “and in these eight months the equivalent of €130,000 in fines were imposed against 2,000 homeless people in Budapest. With this, policy on homelessness took on quite a new quality.”

The Lakatos moved from eastern Hungary to Budapest in 1992. Zsuzsanna Lakatos had worked as a bookkeeper at a steel combine in the city of Miskolc. Her husband had been a day laborer on a farm. In 1991 they both found themselves unemployed and then homeless. They now live on a private estate on the southwestern outskirts of Budapest. The owner of the land has allowed them to repair the ruins of an old building and live in it. This way they are not as vulnerable to the police, who have long been clearing the homeless out of huts and camps in many public wastelands, even on the outskirts of the Hungarian capital.

But despite the relative privilege of their living situation compared to other homeless people, the Lakatos are afraid. In recent years they’ve been increasingly subjected to police checks. Sometimes Bertalan, who is Roma, is insulted as a “dirty gypsy.”

“I hope we don’t face any fines or prison sentences,” says Zsuzsanna. “When the new law comes into force, we will do our best to go underground.” Isn’t that exactly what the government wants? “Yes,” she answers.

To make or read comments and to see more photos, go to http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/new-hungarian-law-discriminates-against-homeless-a-925822.html .

Associated Press

By PABLO GORONDI January 17, 2013 6:33 AM
In this photo taken early morning Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, homeless women sleep with their teddy-bears in a shelter called 'The Heated Street' in Budapest, Hungary. Hungary considers constitutional change to allow authorities to force homeless off the streets. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)
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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Homeless men and women huddle on street corners amid Budapest’s majestic domed palaces, shivering under old blankets and cardboard boxes in frigid winter weather.

It’s an image that critics say Prime Minister Viktor Orban doesn’t want the world to see. And if he has his way, the homeless could be fined and even jailed for sleeping outside — even though some of the country’s homeless shelters are already overflowing and short of beds.


Orban’s punitive ideas for the homeless have set him up for his latest clash with the constitutional court and civil rights groups as he tries to reshape the country in a conservative image by centralizing power. Since winning power in 2010, Orban and his party have undermined independent institutions and democratic standards in a nation that was once an icon of democratic struggle for throwing off communism in 1989.

Now Orban is carrying out an informal referendum at town hall meetings around the country to gauge support for a constitutional amendment that would enshrine punishments for the homeless in the charter itself.
Hungary’s homeless policy has revived accusations by human rights groups that Orban’s ruling Fidesz party cares little about the country’s disadvantaged. In just one recent controversy, one of the party’s founding members, journalist Zsolt Bayer wrote in a newspaper column that many of the country’s Gypsies, or Roma — an impoverished minority that faces entrenched discrimination — “are animals” and “unfit for coexistence.”
Fidesz refused to distance itself from the column, saying it understood citizens’ anger about crimes committed by Roma and called on those demanding Bayer’s expulsion from the party “to refrain from standing on the side of the criminals.”

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In this photo taken early morning Friday, Jan. 11, …

In this photo taken early morning Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, a homeless man sleeps on the floor in a she …


The homeless issue has been brewing for several years. At the end of 2011, Orban’s ruling right-wing Fidesz party used its overwhelming parliamentary majority to make the punitive regulations first introduced earlier that year by the Fidesz-backed mayor of Budapest — including fines of up to $650 for repeat offenders and the threat of up to 60 days in jail — applicable nationwide.
“This is a method to demoralize or intimidate us,” said Gyula Balog, 53, who has been homeless for nearly 20 years. “No one was jailed but quite a few had to pay fines. It’s frivolous to fine those who have nothing.”

At the time, even the United Nations expressed concerns, saying the obligation to provide shelter “cannot serve as an excuse for the criminalization or forced detention of homeless persons.”
“By a wave of the legislative pen, the Hungarian Parliament has labeled tens of thousands of homeless people in Hungary as potential criminals,” said a statement from two U.N. human rights experts. “Moreover, the law has a discriminatory impact on those living in poverty.”
At least 1,500 homeless are believed to be currently living rough in Budapest, even as temperatures are expected to remain below freezing in coming days and dozens of homeless are found frozen to death each year on the streets.

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In this photo taken early morning Friday, Jan. 11, …

In this photo taken early morning Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, a homeless man sleeps on a mattress in a sh …


In the winter, many head to the warmest spots they can find, usually the entrance halls of subway stations, sometimes quietly holding out a paper cup for money from passersby or by selling street newspapers.
Authorities recently inaugurated two more shelters in the capital and the government spent 8.5 billion forints ($38.4 million, €28.9 billion) on the homeless in 2012, with a similar figure planned this year. But some of the most popular refuges, like the “Heated Street” run by the Hungarian Evangelical Brotherhood, are full far beyond capacity, with many people sleeping on mats on the floor.
The issue of the fines re-emerged in November when the constitutional court struck down the punishments, saying homelessness was a social issue that should not be handled as a criminal matter.
There are no exact figures on the number of homeless in Hungary, but the U.N. last year put the figure at between 30,000 and 35,000. A survey carried out each year on Feb. 3 in Budapest and the larger Hungarian cities by NGOs, counted 8,641 in 2012, up from 7,199 in 2011.

Many cities across the United States also ban activities such as “urban camping,” panhandling, “lodging” outdoors and similar actions, often resulting in fines or jail time for offenders.
The Hungarian government argues that it is simply acting out of concern for the dozens of homeless people who freeze to death every year, implying that fines are meant to push the displaced to seek refuge in warm shelters.
“There are more places in heated shelters than there are homeless living in Hungary,” Orban said last month in Parliament. “So no one … is forced to survive winter under the open sky.”
But social workers and the homeless themselves accuse the government of caring only about the country’s image.
“They simply want to clean up the areas frequented by tourists,” said Balog, speaking outside the department store where he sold Commodore 64 computers during communism, before losing his job and family because of his alcoholism.

Comment at http://news.yahoo.com/hungary-homeless-face-winter-fear-return-fines-074819834.html

Fresno’s Last Homeless Encampment Demolished–but not without resistance

NOTE BY NORSE:  A day before Santa Cruz’s Community Blanket Sit-in on Pacific Avenue (scheduled for 1-3 PM tomorrow in front of Forever Twenty-One on Pacific Ave–or whereever folks want to show on Pacific), Fresno activists engaged in active resistance to the Fresno homewrecker attack on the unhoused community ther   Below is a brief update by Mike Rhodes, who will be on the stream of Free Radio Santa Cruz tomorrow (10-24) at 6:34 p.m.  Tune in at http://tunein.com/radio/FRSC-s47254/.

                Unlike Santa Cruz activists (myself included) who have put little time into providing support and defense for existing encampments,  Fresno’s strong advocates put their bodies on the line to block bulldozers or so they report.  Admittedly they also have some legal muscle behind them and on-going lawsuits (by an ACLU that actually supports homeless civil rights unlike the Rotkin-Pleich ACLU of Santa Cruz), but we can still learn lessons from them.The Grain Silo/Canal Bank Homeless Encampment is Destroyed

by Mike Rhodes ( editor [at] fresnoalliance.com )
Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013 10:21 PM

The City of Fresno continued their attacks on the homeless today by destroying the last encampment in the downtown area. The photo below shows one protester stopping a bulldozer as it tried to enter the encampment.



The City of Fresno destroyed the last remaining homeless encampment in the downtown area today. The assault on the Grain Silo/Canal Bank homeless encampment started at dawn and continued throughout the day. By 7:30 a.m. homeless advocates had blocked the two main roads into the encampment, preventing bulldozers and other city vehicles from entering.The city work crews shifted their strategy to focus on a handful of tents and other structures in a field on the other side of the railroad tracks. Bulldozers, garbage trucks, police and other support vehicles came down a dirt road on a canal bank to start the demolition. The handful of homeless people at that location were told to remove their property or it would be stored. The destruction of the structures at that location took several hours, while the homeless advocates maintained their vigil at the main encampment.

Eventually the city focused their attention on the much larger encampment and tried to bring in their bulldozers on a road that ran parallel to the railroad tracks on the south side of the camp. They were met by 10 – 15 homeless advocates who refused to allow the city vehicles to pass. After negotiations with Jim Betts, an attorney working for the City of Fresno, an agreement was reached to allow a U-Haul truck in to move some of the property.

As the homeless and their allies were loading the U-Haul a second bulldozer came down a road at the north end of the camp. One of the protesters jumped on the bulldozers claw and the city soon withdrew that vehicle.

The protesters, having gained time to help move the homeless, stepped back and two bulldozers and a garbage truck entered the encampment and started destroying what was left on the south end. It appeared that all of the homeless had moved out of that area and the property remaining had been stored.

I had to leave by mid afternoon, but it appeared that the city would have the entire encampment leveled by the end of the day. Several City of Fresno representatives told me that a fence would be put up on Thursday to keep anyone from re-establishing an encampment at that location.

Meanwhile, in other parts of town, homeless people are having their property confiscated if it is left unattended. I was also shown a citation one homeless person received yesterday that charged them with an infraction for leaving “debris in the road” which was, they say, their property. To see an earlier story about this new police tactic in Fresno, see: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/10/09/18744608.php

To see what groups working in support of the homeless will do next, see: http://www.helpfresnoshomeless.org/

§Protesters Arrived at Dawn

by Mike Rhodes Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013 10:21 PM



§The City Started the Attack in an Unexpected Location

by Mike Rhodes Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013 10:21 PM



§Bulldozer stopped by the Protesters

by Mike Rhodes Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013 10:21 PM



§Negotiations take place with Jim Betts (Center)

by Mike Rhodes Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013 10:21 PM



Betts is the attorney representing the City of Fresno

§A U-Haul Truck was used to help people move

by Mike Rhodes Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013 10:21 PM



You can see the protesters stopping the city equipment, to the left of the U-Haul

§Loading property onto the U-Haul

by Mike Rhodes Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013 10:21 PM



§Protesters Hold Their Ground

by Mike Rhodes Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013 10:21 PM



§Destruction of the encampment

by Mike Rhodes Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013 10:21 PM



§Some people moved their property across the RR tracks

by Mike Rhodes Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013 10:21 PM



§One of the Signs Posted by the Homeless – to save their property

by Mike Rhodes Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013 10:21 PM



§Cinnamon, one of the homeless residents, Called out for Help

by Mike Rhodes Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013 10:21 PM



Fresno Fires on the Homeless…Again

NOTES BY NORSE:   The kind of photographic and journalistic documentation of Santa Cruz’s calculated cruel crackdown on homeless camps is much  needed—-and we can learn much from Fresno–where homeless activists have pressed successful lawsuits, provided the trash and waste disposal that the city refuses to provide to existing homeless encampments, and publicized abuses so regularly that the City is forced to respond with the kind of caution (though not really care) that is entirely foreign to Santa Cruz sweeps.
Still no word from Councilmember Posner on the $15,000 bill for a lone portapotty being set up “as an experiment” near the San Lorenzo River at night (the only 24-hour shitter in town apparently).   As I continually insist, the money could be far more effectively spent on opening existing bathrooms in San Lorenzo Park and at the Soquel and Front St. parking structure.  What say you, Posner?
No word either from City Attorney Barisone on the right of artists to put sales tags (i.e. visible prices) on their work on Pacific Ave. even though the clear White vs. City of Sparks decision forced Barisone to allow Rightsfinder Robin to do just that several years ago. (For the decision go to www.huffsantacruz.org and look under “Recent Legal Decisions” on the main page.
HUFF meets tomorrow (9-4) at 10 AM at the Sub Rosa if folks wish to discuss and act on these issues.

The City of Fresno Declares War on the Poor

By Jessie Speer

The author, Jessie Speer (center), with Ray Polk (left) and Larry Collins (right) at the H street homeless encampment, which the City of Fresno plans to bulldoze on Sept. 9.The author, Jessie Speer (center), with Ray Polk (left) and Larry Collins (right) at the H street homeless encampment, which the City of Fresno plans to bulldoze on Sept. 9.


Imagine a young woman. Close your eyes and see her in front of you—her hopeful gaze, her restless hands. Now imagine one morning she can’t get out of bed. The doctor says it’s brain chemistry, but her family can’t afford the treatment she needs.

There is no shelter space, so she ends up living in an encampment on the banks of a canal near downtown Fresno. One day the city announces it will bulldoze her tent, destroying everything she has.

This is not a nightmare. This is the real story of a young woman I met this summer while conducting interviews for a master’s thesis on Fresno homelessness with Syracuse University. Her name was Peaches, and she had freckles and curly hair. We sat outside her tent as she told me about her working-class upbringing, her bipolar disorder and her struggle with homelessness. (“Peaches” is a pseudonym, as the author protects the identity of all participants who wish to remain anonymous.)

Several weeks later, the city announced its plan to bulldoze three major tent cities in downtown Fresno. It will not provide residents with alternative shelter. When I asked Police Chief Jerry Dyer what will happen when the homeless resettle in other neighborhoods, he said the police will remove every camp in the city and continue doing so as long as necessary. I wondered what would happen to Peaches.

Fresno has the third highest rate of homelessness in the nation, and in 2011 it was the second most impoverished city. I came here to research how the local government was handling these high rates of homelessness and poverty. Over a two-month period, I interviewed more than two dozen politicians, shelter operators, community advocates and homeless people. I also attended community meetings and press conferences and read hundreds of pages of documents.

The more I learned, the more apparent it became that the city’s policy is to effectively drive the homeless out of Fresno. Politicians want to please business owners and see homelessness as a hindrance to downtown revitalization. Shelter operators claim that the homeless camps around their facilities have caused a decline in the use of services by other clients. In interviews, both groups consistently described all people without homes as criminal and deviant. The executive director of one of Fresno’s largest shelters told me that the homeless were “worse than infidels.”

I decided to write this article because I know firsthand that the homeless are not deviants. They are not separate and distinct from the rest of us. Like Peaches, the homeless are the mothers, fathers, grandmothers and cousins of the working poor in this community. Many homeless people work hard recycling or doing odd jobs all day long. Many people give away their last pair of clean socks to their neighbor or share their food with the community. And at no point during the hours I spent by myself at the camps did I feel threatened or unsafe.

At their latest press conference, city officials repeatedly referred to a recent string of violent crimes as the underlying reason behind the city’s new policy. Yet several insiders informed me that the plan to destroy the camps predated these crimes. And when I asked Chief Dyer how many of these violent crimes were committed by homeless people, he admitted only one perpetrator was homeless. Should more than 3,000 unsheltered citizens be driven out of the city because of the actions of one person?

The City of Fresno destroyed Yellow Feather’s shelter and confiscated her property. She now sleeps on the sidewalk near the Poverello House.The City of Fresno destroyed Yellow Feather’s shelter and confiscated her property. She now sleeps on the sidewalk near the Poverello House.

Imagine a massive flood hits north Fresno and hundreds of middle-class homes are destroyed. Of those affected, some don’t have anywhere to stay and begin living in tents to survive. Would you expect the community to come forward and help them, or should the community destroy their tents and drive them out of the city? I’m sure most Fresno politicians wouldn’t hesitate to help middle-class families get back on their feet. We would never think to blame middle-class flood victims for their tragic circumstances. But a pervasive and historic ideology says that poor people are somehow less deserving of kindness.

Aristotle wrote that wealth is a prerequisite for goodness. Milton Friedman, one of the fathers of American neoliberalism, argued that the poor are the losers of the capitalist system. In this way, poverty becomes justified, and society is no longer responsible.

But these luminaries forget that one’s lot is usually the luck of the draw, not a personal achievement. You are born with money, or you are born without it. And when you are born without money, you cannot afford disaster. Being laid off, missing a rent check, being arrested, getting sick, losing a loved one, surviving violence, getting hooked on drugs—every person I talked with who is living on the streets suffered from one or more of these problems.

The middle class and the wealthy have problems too. The difference is that their families will step in to pay for rent, quality healthcare, rehab or a lawyer. But for those already struggling with poverty, any blow can easily lead to homelessness. And once someone is living on the streets, it becomes harder and harder to bounce back, as physical health declines, depression sets in and drugs become a means of escape and self-medication.

As a society, we have several choices. We can help each other, we can do nothing or we can chase our poorest citizens out of town. For years, Fresno chose the second option and did nothing to house the majority of its homeless population who lived in sprawling downtown encampments. But when these camps began to receive negative press, the city started a campaign of destruction.

Over the course of a two-year period beginning in 2005, the city bulldozed at least 50 camps. During the raids, bulldozers came at odd hours and crushed all structures. Several residents lost their animals. On one occasion, a man crawled out of his tent moments after an activist prevented it from being bulldozed.

On another occasion, a Fresno police officer pushed a woman’s shopping cart into an irrigation canal of rushing water. The woman lived on a breathing machine due to severe asthma and had to attempt to replace her identification, birth certificate and medical records in order to requalify for disability.

The city destroyed another woman’s wheelchair, which left her sleeping outdoors without shelter or blankets. As a result, she slipped into a coma for two weeks. When city officials tried to destroy her tent on a second occasion, police threatened to Taser her husband if he intervened. The city’s policies resulted in hundreds of similar tragedies—tragedies that happened to real people, not the vague apparition Fresno politicians tend to dismiss as “the criminal homeless.”

In the wake of a lawsuit filed against the city in 2006, the sweeps slowed and tent city residents enjoyed a temporary reprieve. But the sweeps happened again in 2011, and again civil rights lawyers filed suit. Fresno officials I spoke with unanimously claimed that the lawsuits prevented them from doing anything about homelessness, when in fact the lawsuits only prevented them from unconstitutionally destroying people’s property.

As a corollary to this brutal and expensive policy, any attempts to create shelter options for the homeless have been seriously flawed and underfunded. In 2006, only 2% of the city’s homeless population was sheltered, and no new temporary shelters have been constructed since then. Currently, one of Fresno’s only emergency shelters is operating at less than 10% capacity because its executive director ousted anyone who uses a cellphone, who doesn’t pray and repent to Jesus on a daily basis, or who has any source of income. As one homeless man told me, this shelter is “worse than prison.” And many Fresno shelters have similarly draconian rules.

Meanwhile, attempts at securing permanent housing for the homeless in Fresno have been plagued by corruption. In 2010, when the city received an $11 million federal grant for permanent housing for the homeless, the money was given to a private developer to construct a small housing facility. The chair of the board that allocated the money also happened to be the CEO of the company that constructed the building. This facility now stands as the exemplary model for future housing for the homeless.

Thus, homelessness has become an industry in which various developers, shelters and service providers vie for government money. These problems can and should be addressed. But the city is so focused on driving the homeless out of town that the time and resources needed to do so are sorely lacking.

During my time here, I faced the real, everyday humanity of the people who are living on the streets of Fresno, and I can no longer remain impartial to the city’s policies. The way Fresno handles homelessness is not only rooted in an inhumane ideology, it is also irrational. This city has tried this tactic before in 2005 and 2011, and in both instances it failed. Homelessness is still a persistent problem. It’s time for a new tactic.


Jessie Speer is pursuing a master’s degree in geography at Syracuse University. Contact her at jlspeer@syr.edu.

Rev. Dr. Chris Breedlove of College Community Congregational spoke at the press conference organized by homeless advocatesRev. Dr. Chris Breedlove of College Community Congregational spoke at the press conference organized by homeless advocates

Coalition Organized in Opposition to Razing of Homeless Encampments

By Community Alliance Staff

About 30 members and supporters of the Fresno Coalition for Humane and Affordable Housing Policies held a press conference on Aug. 26 on the corner of Santa Clara and G streets to announce their opposition to the city’s planned demolition and to launch a petition drive asking the city to halt the razing of the camps and address the issue of homelessness in a humane and effective manner. The Coalition’s petition has been uploaded to a Web site created by the group at www.helpfresnoshomeless.org/.

“Our group believes that demolishing homeless encampments is inhumane,” said Coalition member Mary Ellen Carter at the press conference. “The city’s plan to offer alternative housing to the people who live in the encampments is woefully inadequate.

“Few people in the encampments will be able to receive housing vouchers before the scheduled demolitions. The city’s plan is not a long-term plan at all; its lack of compassion is disturbing, and it is a public shame to our city. We can do better than this.”

The city’s first day of the demolition went ahead as scheduled. Crews bagged and boxed homeless people’s property, taking it to a storage location where they say it will be available for retrieval for the next 90 days. Then the bulldozers moved in destroying couches, shelters and anything else left behind. Although the city workers store tents, they plowed through wooden shelters and put the remains into the back of waiting garbage trucks.

Later in the day, I talked to Yellow Feather a homeless woman who lived on F Street near Ventura, who was upset because the receipt she received for her property did not tell her where it was stored and it was issued by the Solid Waste department of the City of Fresno. Yellow Feather objected to her property being taken by Solid Waste, saying “my belongings are not garbage. And why can’t they tell me where my property is located at?”

A group of homeless men who attempted to get away from the demolition of their shelters were stopped on the other side of the street by Caltrans workers who told them they could not bring their shopping carts onto Caltrans land. In a minute, they were joined by a California Highway Patrol officer who provided additional urgency to the Caltrans workers’ demand to leave their vacant lot.

The homeless have no place to sleep that is safe and legal. Although city representatives are telling them that they will not stop them from sleeping on the sidewalk at night, some women like Yellow Feather wonder out loud how this new city policy is supposed to help them.