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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and Prisons

Camping Ordinance Revisions Pass at City Council
by Robert Norse
Thursday Sep 16th, 2010 4:40 AM
City Council, after allowing restricted public comment, asked a few questions of Homeless Services Center [HSC] Executive Director Monica Martinez. It then passed the ordinance as written in spite of objections by Peacecamp2010 founder Ed Frey and others. Frey pointed out (again) that waking sleeping homeless people when they've committed no crime (since the necessity defense given no shelter makes them innocent at trial) is a form of cruel and unusual punishment where there is no crime and no victim (except for the sleeper). I suggested amendments that would require the HSC to have anyone sign up on their waiting list and provide a written receipt at the time which could then be taken immediately to the City Attorney to have the ticket dismissed.
Martinez agreed the "receipt" idea could be done, and Councilmember Madrigal supported it. Whether it will be done or not, however, seems largely in the hands of the City Attorney, who was given the authority to set all the parameters.

What's needed, of course, is to dump the ban entirely as recommended a decade ago by the City's own Homeless Issues Task Force--see http://www.cabinc.org/Research/HTFFinalReport.htm and go to the Introduction. See also "Homeless Issues Task Force Recommends Repeal of Camping Ban in Santa Cruz"
at http://www.huffsantacruz.org/StreetSpiritSantaCruz/136.Homeless%20Issues%20Task%20Force%20Recommends%20Repeal%20of%20Camping%20Ban%20in%20S.C.=12-99.pdf.

Short of that, the City needs to require police not to issue camping tickets when presented with the receipt or--better--adopt the Frey proposal that requires the police to phone HSC before their ticketing expeditions on any night to determine if there is any shelter available. If not, don't wake up and ticket homeless people. Frey, Linda Lemaster, attorney Kate Wells, Councilmember Katherine Beiers, and I are supposed to be meeting on this issue. However since the meeting was scheduled in lieu of the HSC's agreeing to issue a general letter acknowledging their utter lack of walk-in-emergency shelter from April 15 to November 15, it seems more like an HSC dodge than a real search for solutions.

Mayor Coonerty ended up allowing HUFF (whose spokesperson at the meeting was Becky Johnson) 4 minutes. However, in an apparent punitive move he demanded to know who in the audience were HUFF members and how many of them would "give up" their time. This is a policy unique to Coonerty which again cuts back public comment time. Rotkin, the lame-duck Mayor whose term ends in November, was absent, and Coonerty's comment cutback may indicate how he intends to run things in the likely event that the Council selects him as Mayor in November.

The Sentinel did a small story on the Camping Ordinance amendments, which were voted through without modification--though there was some discussion. (Sentinel article at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_16078467 ("Citations waived for homeless on shelter list: Santa Cruz camping ban altered to cover more than winter refuge"

Sentinel writer J.M. Brown told me it was his impression that the City Attorney already dismissed citations in the summer if shelters were full. I found this unlikely since shelters are almost always full and I've not heard of a ticket being dismissed by the City Attorney in this manner. Instead the usual procedure was for the Homeless Services Center [HSC] to issue letters when someone comes to them with a ticket. That letter is then taken to the courts, who fairly routinely dismiss the citations.

Recently, as I mentioned above, the HSC apparently changed that policy--perhaps under pressure from the City Attorney--it's not clear. The more restrictive policy now requires a person seeking to have a ticket dismissed through getting a letter documenting full shelter on the night of the ticket needs to have been on their waiting list on the date of the ticket. The new ordinance, if voted again in two weeks, will go into effect a month later. It will require the same "waiting list" status on the date of the ticket. And will also require the homeless person to contact the City Attorney with proof s/he is on the waiting list.

It's possible this latest minor loosening-of-the-screws was done under pressure from the courts, who recognize the unnecessary court hearings, given the overweening ever-present reality of no shelter. However since it is a nightly reality, allowing police to issue tickets at all is abusive or, as was said in the Jones decision and settlement "cruel and unusual punishment." It may be that the City Attorney may also be nervous about a law suit against the City for the Sleeping Ban.

Frey made the further point that those who choose or need to sleep outdoors should not be punished for that choice if they sleep in places that don't cause anyone else a problem.

Councilmembers Krohn and Sugar proposed a similar measure years ago in December 1998. "Mo stops or tickets for blankets or sleeping without a health-and-safety concern"" was the phrasing.. It was voted down by Rotkin, Matthews, and Beiers among others. See " Activists fight Santa Cruz Sleeping Ban" at http://www.huffsantacruz.org/StreetSpiritSantaCruz/104.Activists%20Fight%20S.C.Sleeping%20Ban=1-99.pdf & http://www.huffsantacruz.org/StreetSpiritSantaCruz/105.S.C.Sleeping%20Ban%28cont.1%29=1-99.pdf .

I'll be playing audio today from the City Council hearing and from interviews afterward with Monica Martinez, Executive Director of the HSC at 6 PM today on 101.1 FM and http://www.freakradio.org. It will be archived at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb100916.mp3.

Also on the air will be Rocky Neptun of San Diego talking about the Spencer settlement. That settlement is supposed to stop police from issuing citations at night to homeless people on the streets. There and in Los Angeles, homeless people aren't required to prove they made diligent efforts to find a shelter bed, or to prove there was no shelter that night by letter or show they were on a waiting list. The fact that there is never enough shelter pn any night is general knowledge This was enough to get the settlement that supposedly requires police to lay off. "Supposedly" because, according to preliminary info from Neptun, they are NOT laying off--in violation of the settlement.

In Santa Cruz, the situation is the same, but the City Attorney and his compliant City Council continue to turn a blind eye to the reality. Why? They need "tools" to drive away homeless people, even the City's own homeless as the domestic depression deepens. And so the city continues to quietly consume itself under cover of darkness.

Meanwhile, Peacecamp2010 activists are the real heroes whose 100+ tickets have forced the situation into the limelilght. They still need blankets, legal support, and food and can be found nightly (and daily) in front of City Hall on Center St. Also check out their website at http://www.peacecamp2010.blogspot.com/ and this website for updates.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by revolution2010
Thursday Sep 16th, 2010 1:18 PM
I hate to say it, but I give up on SC. It's not the town it was even just 2 years ago. The right-wingers have taken over and turned downtown into a sanitized shopping mall, shielding the tourists from any hint of reality, any reminders that they themselves are only a couple paychecks away from being in the same situation as the people SC has now criminalized.

I'll leave the battle to the younger and/or more energetic folks - I'm tired of it. He who has the money has the power, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. SC is a prime example.

My only hope is that all those who will undoubtedly spring into action as always whenever Robert posts something will eventually find themselves in the same position as those they have criminalized - maybe the best wakeup call is the harshest. And just a reminder to those right-wing crusaders: it CAN happen to you, and I hope it does.

Disgusted... with SC and the whole damn country which has leaned so far to the right it's now capsizing and taking us all down with it.

by Keep It Real
Thursday Sep 16th, 2010 5:50 PM
Robert, this is why your credibility has sunk with each passing year: you've let your passion overake you, and as a result you've replaced objective reports with a variety of exaggerations, slanted reviews, or outright lies.

Today you say that Monica "agreed that the "receipt" idea could be done".

But that's less than the entire story or truth. You've edited her comments to the point that you make them say the opposite of her actual intent.

The very sentinel article you link tells the full story. Monica also said "her center could issue some sort of verification that people are on a wait list but cautioned that a person, rather than taking advantageof a bed when it becomes available, could keep the receipt indefinitely. She said it would be too onerous for staff to give the same homeless person a wait-list receipt every day.".

So what she really said was she thinks the receipt idea is a bad one because it invites fudgery and it would overload her staff.

Keep It Real robert; it's the right thing to do.
by Robert Norse
Saturday Sep 18th, 2010 2:35 PM
Actually, no--Monica Martinez noted that being required to come in every day to check the waiting list and be issued a new receipt would be onerous. Instead one receipt would be adequate, though once one's name came to the top of the list, you'd be removed and the receipt would not be valid. Monica Martinez's exact quote: "When someone does come and sign up on the waiting list, we're happy to give them verification that that happened."

Perhaps if Revisionist spent less time denouncing me and more time listening to the actual testimony, she or he might better advise us.

To conform my statements go to http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb100916.mp3 It's about 1 hour and 18 minutes into the audio file.
by Keep it Real
Saturday Sep 18th, 2010 8:02 PM
The sound bite you identify as confirming your point at 1:18 does no such thing.

For starters, you've isolated her comment and voice and inserted it in between your own opinion. Yuu've taken it out of context to warp it to fit your viewpoint.

For middles, you clearly request that she provide a disclaimer document to homelessthat there are "generally" no beds available. In contrast, she clearly states that they issue such paperwork if and only when there is specifically no bedding available. You clearly want a free pass for homeless. She clearly indicates that she's happy to provide factual paperwork stating when and if there is or isn't bedding available. But she implies she's not going to play your game and give away free passes with no end date.

For closers, she clearly states that when homeless whose name has come up for an available bed, and they don't want it, they should come in again to sign up. To quote her: "if they don't claim the (available) bed, they need to come in and sign up (for the wait list) again". Essentially, she substantiates my point and refutes your claim that she's supportive of your farce. She clearly does NOT state that one receipt would be adequate. If anything, her words indicate that one receipt is easily misused.

Robert,I stand by my statement and claim: your twisting fact, and you've lost credibility.

She is NOT supporting the proposal by you that a "general" ticket should be issued that serves as proof for an undefined period of time that no beds are available. Just the opposite. She clearly states that people are declining available beds, and if so, they should come in for new papers.

I don't believe your cut-and-pasted sound bite at 1:18 confirms your point; I believe its a shoddy job akin to a watergate edit. Pulling out soundbites and bookending them with your own preamble and dialogue to change their context and meaning? Your tactics stink of the same techniques employed by the very powers you claim to rally against.

Said it before and I say it again: "his is why your credibility has sunk with each passing year: you've let your passion overake you, and as a result you've replaced objective reports with a variety of exaggerations, slanted reviews, or outright lies.

(And don't waste my or your time, and embarrass yourself again, by posting your tired "This is a troll; ignore him" retort. That's the very same scenario I'm chiding you for. and that you've come to be symbolized by.)





by Ben
Monday Sep 20th, 2010 10:23 AM
"Actually, no--Monica Martinez noted that being required to come in every day to check the waiting list and be issued a new receipt would be onerous."

Come on, Robert. You're making it sound as if her statement implies it would be onerous for those having to come in and get the voucher. She's obviously saying it would be an onerous task for her staff. As quoted exactly from the article "She said it would be too onerous for STAFF to give the same homeless person a wait-list receipt every day." And her saying that it "could" be done does not mean she agrees that it "should" be done.

While I agree something does need to be done, you're twisting words here to make it sound like she implies agreement when she is clearly not.
by Per usual
Thursday Sep 23rd, 2010 5:35 PM
True to form, Robert has thrown out half-truths and warped recollection that are distorted to fit his version of reality.

When called to task, he tries to cover his tracks by pointing you at a tape of his own radio show, doctored and edited to the point where he changes a "yes" from a "no". In short, uncredible and busted.

And then, per the norm, he moves on and tries to ignore the effluent he's left in his wake.

Not working Robert; the smell is still on you. And I know you're here reading this, because your posting on new threads while trying to forget this one where you got busted lying....again.....per usual.


Weak sauce Robert; you've become a parody rather than an activist.
by lighthouse Linda
Friday Sep 24th, 2010 11:45 AM
Regardless of this string of "deconstruction" of alleged bias (as tho' the City's attorney is not being biased in trying to cover his legal derriere b4 somebody on the council actually does their homework on the legal issues that impact homelessness of late in this Nation; as tho' SCPD and electeds have any CLUE what they're doing with that chopped and blotted "sleeping ban" law these days) ~ the point remains no matter where one would POSTURE around this issue: there is NO emergency nor drop-in shelter in the City of Santa Cruz for 90%+ of currently id'd homeless people. (and there are many never-counted folks out there!)

And now there's a deluge on of newly homeless, both former renters and formerly mortgaged folks flooding the streets, all over California; people who are 'new" to street survival. WAKE UP! Can't anyone read past the crudeness and detalia and peek out their windows (or peek out the zipper of their stuffed curb "homes")? The principles, even on Indybay, are talking withthe identical bs they used over ten years ago. But what was "helpful" ten years ago is far far overspent now. and the solutions are NOT gonna come from "big government". We who are locally present have to get involved, have to pick up the margins of social and cultural reality, have to offer safety, potable water, and assent to being asleep.

It's like people are playing "Pick Up Sticks" and pretending they're in a game of chess; pretending they're doing something!

Newly homeless people believe the support systems (federal funding trickles and such) are rigged against them and only available to the chronic folks (see Change.org) but they are mistaken. An unintentional (one would hope?) policy folding down the line from Congress to the local Public Works Dept has created an invisible policy/code: there's 'some' actual help AFTER the homeless client is well damaged. And the "help" is always far less that what it would take to restore the client to her or his before-homeless status, whether functional and adult or whether dependent.

In short, we're almost all still paying for a broken system that breaks the people who need it. I'm not against the help that is available in this sub-system, which in our County (less so in the City of SCruz) can potentially redress some of the destruction of almost ten percent of already-homeless people's lives. Blaming Robert Norse (or any oather propagandist, including those elected who also do it so well) is not an excuse for you to do nothing about this huge waste of both public resources and people's lives.

I am impressed (to date) with Monica and hopeful for the HSC programs. But the idiots suggesting that this program is the right site to try to scan in EVERYBODY falling into the streets here or coming here are just mistaken, and their error WILL harm the staff support in place. It is apparent that the HSC Board of Directors are not involved with resources management or they would have had the sense to object to this manipulation by the City the mninute they heard about it.

Robert Norse's analysis suffers perhaps more from being superficial and inadequate to this disaster-in-the-making, rather than being twisted or deliberately biased. I believe whether you are for genocide or for salvaging any of the displaced folks from this march to death, silly recriminating is not going to protect you (nor your ill-spent taxes) from this deluge of wasted and reduced quality of life. Is it just a form of denial? Can people really NOT see the impacts displaced folks have on the still housed folks in neighborhoods? There are much better and much cheaper ways to approach this growing problemo!

It is insane to load up that HSC site (where intake is currently done). It is already not accessible for a wheelchair or for certain other disabilities (including mine). It is already crowded with people getting in each others' way. The wait list already IS an abusive ordeal which NO middle-class, functioning person would long endure. If you can't find your way to help repair or change something important, there are lots of little things to work on, too.
by Robert Norse
Saturday Mar 31st, 2012 7:12 PM
Martinez continues to lie about at least two key facts:
(1) the claim that the HLOSC (the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center) will issue letters for those who get tickets if the shelter is full that night. Martinez's Shelter Director Nancy Lou Biscotti has specifically and repeatedly denied this is true--as recently as last month;
(2) the claim that the HSC issues receipts on request documenting that a person has signed up for the HSC. I've never seen such a receipt; they deny doing it.

Martinez, however, when caught in the spotlight, has repeatedly lied merrily. Whether this is a form of blithe ignorance, top-of-the-ladder-irresponsibility, or calculated mendacity is something people can debate if they choose to. But the fact is that she claims as fact things that aren't true, and has done this on more than one occasion, even in front of tv cameras.

Other recent concerns about the HLOSC include
its First Amendment-free "No Impact" zones which they have set up on public sidewalks around the HLOSC to please bigoted neighbors and businesses,
abusive staff behavior at the Armory where women have been evicted in the middle of the night and made to walk down the road to town alone,
collusion with the D.A. in its infamous prosecution of Gary Johnson for protest sleeping at the County Building,
the banning of the homeless community from the "campus" (as they grotesquely term their clump of offices) during the day if they're not "doing business", and
the closing of bathrooms at the HLOSC at night (with only a portapotty open) unless you are one of the privileged 46 who have sat out waiting list time to get into beds for a month.

I regularly air grievances on Free Radio Santa Cruz during my show (Thursdays 6-8 PM, Sundays 9:30 AM - 1 PM) at 101.3 FM (streams at http://audio.str3am.com:5110/listen.pls ). Call in to 831-427-3772 on air, or leave a message at 831-423-4833.
by Robert Norse
Saturday Jan 26th, 2013 1:04 PM
In spite of claims by her staff that they will issue letters and/or receipts "if only someone asks", David Silva and Brent Adams claim they have both asked for receipts and were not given them. Admittedly this was somewhat earlier than the more recent (December 2012) staff statements that they will issue documentation. But I've never seen such a document nor spoken with someone who actually got one. I speak with a dozen homeless people a week at least. If anyone has any evidence that HLOSC has actually begun to provide such documentation, please post here or contact HUFF at 831-423-4833.

Earlier in this thread, there's lots of back and forth about the sufficiency or relevance of such documentation, but no indication from critics that it's actually issued--other than the (phony) assurances of Monica Martinez herself.

The reason such documentation is important is because of section 6.36.055, modified in 2010 under the pressure of the Peace Camp 2010 protests which now reads:

6.36.055 CITATIONS ISSUED WHEN WINTER SHELTER ARMORY IS FULL.
(a)    A person shall not be in violation of this chapter if, at the time of his or her citation for a violation of this chapter, either: the winter shelter at the Santa Cruz National Guard Armory is filled to capacity; or the person is currently on the waiting list for shelter service through one of the shelter programs offered by the Homeless Services Center or the River Street Shelter in Santa Cruz.
(b)    Any citation issued for a violation of this chapter shall be dismissed by the city attorney in the interest of justice if, at the time of citation issuance, the winter shelter at the Santa Cruz National Guard Armory is filled to capacity or the recipient of the citation demonstrates that on the date of the citation he or she was currently on the waiting list for shelter service through one of the shelter programs offered by the Homeless Services Center or the River Street Shelter in Santa Cruz.

For assistance contact homeless advocate Steve Pleich, founder of the Homeless Legal Assistance Project, who can be reached at 831-466-6078. However it's also helpful to do your own research and bring your case to HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) which meets weekly at 703 Pacific Ave. Wednesdays at 10 AM.

t would seem to be a good defense to swear under penalty of perjury that you were on the waiting list if you were--even if they decline to provide documentation and have failed to dismiss a ticket given you.

Also note that a necessity defense has been successful in numerous cases:

In order to establish this defense, the defendant must prove that:
1. (he/she) acted in an emergency to prevent a significant bodily harm or evil to (himself/herself/ [or] someone else);
2. (he/she) had no adequate legal alternative;
3. The defendant's acts did not create a greater danger than the one avoided;
4. When the defendant acted, (he/she) actually believed that the act was necessary to prevent the threatened harm or evil;
5. A reasonable person would also have believed that the act was necessary under the circumstances;
AND
6. The defendant did not substantially contribute to the emergency. [See http://www.justia.com/criminal/docs/calcrim/3400/3403.html]

The defendant has the burden of proving this defense by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a different standard of proof than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. To meet the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence, the defendant must prove that it is more likely than not that each of the six listed items is true.

Though the motions may not be granted, it's also a good idea to (a) ask that a court recording be made of the proceeding (do this some days in advance of trial); and (b) ask for legal assistance from the court given the complexity of the necessity defense.

If convicted, note that the Sleeping and Blanket Bans (MC 6.36.010a & MC 6.36.010b) are special infraction offenses which do not allow for more community service than 8 hours (MC 6.36.040). If a judge or commissioner wants you to do more hours than that (in translating fines into community service), draw their attention to the code.