End of the line for Caltrain encampment

SF Chronicle – Thursday, September 27, 2012

Up to 50 homeless people who live in a makeshift tent encampment on Caltrain station property at Fourth and King streets will be moved in a few weeks, according to homeless advocates and city officials.

But that’s about all they agree on.

To Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, Caltrain’s request for bids to erect iron fencing around the property is unnecessary. She said school kids, people with disabilities and others will be needlessly displaced since the camp is working just fine with no reported hygiene or health problems.

The campers have even managed to grow a beautiful garden on the property, Friedenbach said.

“From our perspective, these people have nowhere to go so they’re basically displacing people who are in an emergency situation to the streets and forcing them to experience further crises,” she said.

But Bevan Dufty, the point person on homelessness for Mayor Ed Lee, said the fact that there are juveniles living there is proof the encampment “is concerning.” He said a homeless outreach team will begin visiting campers Tuesday and will make regular visits to convince people to return to their hometowns, accept a shelter bed or move into supportive housing. He said the fence will likely go up in about a month.

“We’re going to say, ‘This change is coming and you need to think about what you want to do and can we help you figure that out,'” Dufty said. “The worst that could happen would be for 50 people to be kicked out onto the streets of SoMa which is what we don’t want.”

He said it’s totally understandable that Caltrain has made this decision and that the agency has kept city officials in the loop.

“It’s their property, and they have every right to do it,” he said. “There have been complaints and concerns about it.”

– Heather Knight

Analyzing Homeless Trash

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

September 23, 2012

Original Post

SENTINEL photo by photographer Dan Coyro shows two park rangers approaching a very messy campsite as part of the sweeps which began on July 9th, 2012. Such images are used to villify homeless people and portray the worst case scenario as the norm.

Do Homeless People “trash” the Environment?

What do the number say?
 by Becky Johnson
September 23, 2012
Santa Cruz, Ca.  — After a recent beach/inland waterway clean-up by Save Our Shores, the following formula was proffered: Litter Produced = (2.4 oz to 12.9lbs) per volunteer hour x hours worked. Using this standard, we can try to assess how dirty the areas where homeless encampments have been found were/are.
Unifying terms into decimals, we find a range of (0.17 lbs – 12.9 lbs) per volunteer hour collected with an average being 6.4 lbs on Monterey and Santa Cruz County area beaches and inland waterways
SOURCE: Classes of Trash, Monterey County Weekly Sept 20, 2012.
“At the extremes: Carmel River State Beach yielded an average of 2.4 ounces of trash, and Elkhorn Slough produced 12.9 pounds, per volunteer-hour.”  — Laura Kasa, Save Our ShoresSept 20 2012

 A homeless woman is rousted from a large encampment by the Santa Cruz Police Department on December 8, 2011 from San Lorenzo Park. Photo by Chip Scheuer
With this formula in hand, we can work backwards and determine how “trashy” an area was at the time of the clean-up. Since homeless encampments are found primarily in the inland waterway areas, those are the statistics we are most interested in.
Save Our Shoresreports that 550 volunteers picked up 850 lbs of trash (pollution) in 3 hours. So the average person picked up 4.6 lbs of trash at a rate of 1.54 lbs per volunteer hour.

  Photo of Occupy Santa Cruz encampment in San Lorenzo Park Nov 1 2011 Photo courtesy santacruz.com
The San Lorenzo River Clean-up produced 315 lbs of trash by 130 volunteers in 3 hours or 2.4 lbs of trash per person at a rate of 0.8 lbs per volunteer hour. While not as clean as Carmel River State Beach, 0.8lbs per volunteer hour is squeaky clean. Especially compared to the average found throughout the region during the entire beach/waterways cleanup.
Perhaps homeless people are cleaning up more trash than they are leaving?
Or these are areas where Public Works, Caltrans, and Boy Scout groups clean up regularly?
 In any case, groups like Take Back Santa Cruz and editorials by Don Miller in the SENTINEL can’t really claim that the  sweeps are justified because of a clear environmental danger.
City Council candidates Cynthia Mathews, Richelle Noroyan, and Pamela Comstock don’t have any evidence of an “environmental” reason for supporting the homeless sweeps. And Mayor Don Lane‘s silence on the sweeps is deafening.

Deputies clear illegal camps near Hwy. 9, Pogonip

By Stephen Baxter – Santa Cruz Sentinel – 09/14/2012


Sheriff’s deputy Damon Hancock posts a notice to vacate in an illegal… (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ — After a Santa Cruz police project to clear out trash and illegal campsites this summer, sheriff’s deputies have started similar work along Highway 9 and other county areas.

In the past four weeks, deputies have focused on an area next to Highway 9 that includes private property and the edge of the Pogonip. More than a dozen campsites have been identified off its dirt trails. Deputies have worked with Santa Cruz police and park rangers because Pogonip is within Santa Cruz city limits.

After deputies posted notices to vacate the camps and pack their trash, nearly all the campers left. Friday, deputies posted notices at a few remaining active campsites and talked about the problem.

“This is encouraging. These are all people that have been warned and (their sites) are empty. But they’ve abandoned all their stuff,” said Sgt. Mitch Medina.

Some of the transients cleaned up their own mess by piling more than 25 trash bags under a train trestle at Highway 9, deputies said.

At perhaps a dozen other sites, there were strewn fast-food wrappers, dirty clothes, shoes and all kinds of other garbage.

Authorities said they wanted the property owner to pay for some of the trash removal. Deputies also were hammering out an agreement with Roaring Camp Railroads to haul some of it out by train. Train tracks run next to some of the sites near Highway 9.

As did Santa Cruz police, deputies who encountered the homeless have handed out business cards with information about shelters and other services. Also similar to police, deputies acknowledged that dismantling the camps was not a long-term solution to homeless problems in the county. Many of the campers they encountered had been kicked out of Santa Cruz, deputies said.

Still, they said the project was valuable because it protected residents’ property, reduced fire risks and cleaned up the environment.

“If we did nothing, the problem would just grow,” said deputy Daren Kerr, who has been working on the project.

The risk of wildfires is real, added Heather Reiter, chief ranger for the Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department.

About a month ago, a transient camped along the train tracks near Highway 9 told authorities that he accidentally started a fire. The blaze destroyed his camp but was contained quickly by firefighters.

“He said it originated in his cooking area,” Reiter said.

A separate fire that started at the base of a tree in the Pogonip in May was traced to a transient, Santa Cruz firefighters reported.

Deputies said they planned to continue the project for at least the next few months.

“We’re hoping with the help of the press, we’ll identify more sites,” said deputy April Skalland.

She asked residents who spot illegal campsites call 454-2440 and leave a message describing the location.

Earlier in the summer, deputies said they cleaned out a creek bed behind Emeline Street and Emeline Avenue. Working with County Jail inmates, authorities collected two Dumpsters worth of garbage, Kerr said.

One man also was arrested for two outstanding warrants and on suspicion of drug paraphernalia possession after he was caught with 30 uncapped syringes, said Kerr.

Friday, deputies did not cite or arrest anyone at the site near Highway 9. But they warned a 42-year-old woman to clear out her campsite near the trestle.

She had a tent pitched and a pit bull tied to a tree. Deputies told her she had 72 hours to leave or she would be ticketed for illegal lodging without the property owner’s permission.

The woman said she probably would stay with her mother, but she could not go to a shelter because she was taking care of the dog — which is not allowed in the Homeless Services Center in Santa Cruz.

Like some of the other transients that deputies encountered, she said she did not want to stay at a shelter.

“You gotta be in by 7, you can’t watch TV. I might as well be out here where I’m free,” she said.

She said she was particularly vulnerable as a homeless woman, and asked not to be named because she feared an ex-boyfriend. Once, while she slept, another man tried to stab her with a heroin-loaded syringe. She now carries a knife for protection.

“I wish I had some money and some food,” she said. “I’m stuck here.”

Letter to the Board of Supervisors on Sweeps of Homeless Encampments

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

September 12, 2012

Original Post

Police photo of the destruction of the encampment in San Lorenzo Park on
December 8, 2011 by Santa Cruz Police, Santa Cruz County Sheriffs,  Scotts Valley Police, Capitola Police, UCSC police, Parks & Rec Rangers and First Alarm Security Services. An estimated 160 people were displaced.


From: Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom
309 Cedar St. PMB#14 B — Santa Cruz, Ca. 95060
(831) 423-HUFF or (831) 423-4833
to: Board of Supervisors, County of Santa Cruz
701 Ocean St. Santa Cruz, Ca. 95060
Chair: John Leopold Members: Mark Stone, Neil Coonerty, Ellen Pirie, Greg Caput
cc: Phil Wowak, Sheriff, County of Santa Cruz
cc: Dana McRae, County Counsel, County of Santa Cruz
cc: Susan Mauriello, CAO County of Santa Cruz
re: sweeps of homeless encampments in Santa Cruz
September 12, 2012
Dear Chairman Leopold, and members of the Board of Supervisors for Santa Cruz County,
As you know, the City and County of Santa Cruz have inadequate affordable housing available for poor and homeless people. While many public and private shelter options are available and have openings at any one time, they could, in no way, meet the sheer number of those who have no financial resources to purchase legal shelter. So it is with surprise, concern, and dismay that we read weekly accounts of a joint effort between the Parks and Recreation Department, Public Works, and the Santa Cruz Police Department quantifying efforts to sweep areas commonly used for illegal camping. As these campsites are being “abated,” press releases have been issued announcing the number of camps destroyed, citations issued and arrests made.
A related concern exists in County government with the recent sentencing of Gary Johnson and his attorney, Ed Frey to jail for 2 ½ years in Gary’s case and six months in jail for Ed for the “crime” of lodging. PC 647 (e) draws its origins from a tattered history of Black Codes, Jim Crow, and civil war racism which we had thought had been purged from our justice system during reconstruction. This misdemeanor statute, the statewide anti-lodging code has been mis-interpreted by our courts as outlawing sleeping, when a clear reading of the law says nothing of the kind.
We urge you to use your resources to free both Gary Johnson from captivity and to defer any further punishment of Gary or Ed indefinitely. We ask also, that you review whether it is either legal or advisable to use PC 647 (e) at all.
What these events and policies represent are peoples’ lives being uprooted, their meager possessions seized or destroyed, and the persons involved moved along, cited, or arrested.
Let me remind you, two of the three shelters in Watsonville closed recently. This Saturday, Page Smith Community House closes for 5 months, and will be moving its entire population into the Paul Lee Loft. This will leave only the 30 spaces at the River Street Shelter for emergency housing.
In the City, the current City Council are only willing to fund a bus ticket out of town despite critical needs for legal shelter.
With completely insufficient shelter available, homeless people are left to mill around, unable to sit down, lie down, or sleep whether it is daytime or night. Their overall health suffers, sleep deprivation occurs, and many who tend to self-medicate do so more. Even worse for local merchants, is that when these camps are raided and destroyed, their occupants have nowhere to go but into City parks and downtown business areas where they are not wanted at all.
Police raids, and Sheriff’s citations for illegal “lodging” conducted during an obvious shelter emergency, are unproductive, a waste of public resources, and in light of the lack of legal shelter available to these people, inhumane. HUFF has already called for the SCPD, Parks&Rec, and Public Works to CEASE AND DESIST massive abatement practices when no alternative shelter can be offered.
Now we are asking you, our elected representatives, to act to enact policy whereby PC 647 (e) citations will be suspended until the shelter crisis recedes.
“Housing” homeless people in jail for the “crimes” of “living” “sleeping” “lodging” or “camping” represent institutional abuse of persons whose economic circumstances forbid their ability to purchase legal shelter. Those who knowingly continue such practices will ultimately be held accountable for the human misery they are fomenting.
I thank you for your personal consideration of these issues and invite further dialogue. HUFF holds weekly meetings and I would invite all or any of you to attend our next meeting to explain your policy and practices using civil dialogue and an open process.
Becky Johnson of HUFF

Aptos Safeway pretends to care

SC Sentinel – As you see it – 9-04-2012

To read of the Aptos Safeway meeting on Aug. 22 where residents voiced opposition to the Safeway developers’ massive plans, I conjured up the image of an idling D9 Dozer impatiently waiting for the token community nonsense to end so it may drop the blade and lay track.

After the meeting concluded, I could see the Safeway reps smiling, shaking their heads and saying, “We gotta seem like we care, don’t we?” This “caring” was so eloquently spoken by Safeway architect Robert Lyman: “I’m trying to capture what Aptos is all about.”

Utter compatibility, no?

Sort of how the out-of-town developers in 1974 wanted to capture what Lighthouse Field was all about with their massive conference center proposal.


SF seeks mandatory treatment for drunks

Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross,
SF Chronicle , Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A city proposal would take chronic drunks off the street and force them into treatment programs they have refused. Photo: Brant Ward, SFC / SF

A city proposal would take chronic drunks off the street and force them into treatment programs they have refused. Photo: Brant Ward, SFC / SF

Chronic drunks in San Francisco could soon be sentenced to locked treatment for as long as six months, under a plan that has the green light from Mayor Ed Lee.

“We’ve done pretty well at getting some of these individuals to a point where they clean up a little bit – but when you leave them alone, they go right back to their old ways,” Lee said of the city’s current policy of releasing drunks when they sober up.

Under a plan being worked out by the city courts, the cops and the Public Health Department, chronic drunks who repeatedly miss their court dates would be held in contempt – five days for each missed appearance.

Contempt citations are handled by a judge – no trial required – although defendants still have the right to an attorney. Considering that some street drunks have missed 20 or more court dates, rolling the citations into one could result in a hefty piece of time.

And that’s the idea – take them off the street and force them into the treatment program they have repeatedly refused.

“If somebody has 20 warrants, you can pretty much guarantee that someone from the health department has offered them some type of help 20 times as well,” said Katherine Feinstein, presiding judge of San Francisco’s Superior Court.

For those sentenced, the first stop would be San Francisco General Hospital.

“These guys may look tough, but they are medically fragile,” said Barbara Garcia, head of the Public Health Department.

After the hospital clears them, the next stop would be a special wing of the city jail for treatment administered by health department workers.

“Thirty days wouldn’t hurt,” Garcia said. “Once people have been sober that long, they look pretty good and can maybe start to get a handle on their lives.”

Garcia said the hope is for a pilot program to be ready to go within 30 days.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi, whose office would represent many of those facing mandatory treatment sentences, questioned whether targeting drunks amounted to “selective enforcement,” and whether criminal proceedings were appropriate for people who suffer from what “I think everyone agrees is a disease.”

Adachi also wonders whether the jail is equipped to handle a rehab program.

Lee, however, says it’s worth a try – the sooner the better.

“This has been a long time coming,” the mayor said. “There are 68 people on the streets that have cost us tens of millions of dollars going in and out of the hospitals, courts and jail.

“I know who they are, too,” Lee said. “I spent six years at the Department of Public Works cleaning up after them.”

Road show: BART directors will hold special board meetings Friday – in Vancouver, Wash., and Clackamas, Ore. – so they can get a close-up look at how the system’s $484 million light-rail connector to Oakland International Airport is being manufactured.

But first they’ll fly into Portland on Thursday – where BART General Manager Grace Crunican last worked – to get a view of that city’s light-rail system.

BART’s delegation is expected to total 15 – five directors, Crunican and nine senior staffers. They’ll stay at the Hotel Monaco downtown, where – with a government discount – rooms run about $200 a night. Officials put the total cost of the trip, including airfare and meals, at about $8,100.

BART District Secretary Ken Duron, who has been with the transit agency for more than two decades, says the out-of-town meeting is a first for the board.

According to a BART agenda notice, Friday morning’s meeting will include a workshop at Thompson Metal Fabricators in Vancouver, where there will be “a discussion and review of (the) welding and finishing process” for the new Oakland tram structure.

Then it’s on to Clackamas, a suburb southeast of Portland, to see how the rail cars are being built.

But apparently there is more to it.

Hiring local workers has been an issue on the project, and “it helps if directors stare down the contractor and say, ‘We’re not going to accept 24 percent of Oakland residents working on the job site when we said 25 percent,’ ” said BART director Robert Raburn, who is among those going on the trip.

Raburn insists this is no junket. In fact, he says, he put his foot down when Oakland officials invited BART directors to go to Las Vegas last month to look at a tram system used by hotels and casinos there.

Oakland City Council President Larry Reid, for his part, says the Vegas trip wasn’t going to be a junket, either – he hoped to drum up support for adding a $15 million hotel stop on Hegenberger Road for the airport line.

A scheduling conflict forced the trip’s cancellation, Reid says, but a meeting was held in its place – at the Alameda County Transportation Commission‘s board room in downtown Oakland.