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Robbery Follows Exclusion from the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center for Disabled Woman
Andrea Morgan, a disabled 5'1" homeless woman, has been forced to sleep outside--something that is illegal for all homeless people in Santa Cruz. Excluded from the Homeless (Lack of ) Services Center [HLOSC] property programs, she called me this morning reporting she was robbed last night while she slept. Taken from her were her coat, purse, medications, ID, and other essentials. I interviewed her subsequently on my Free Radio show.
Andrea Morgan's concerns about discrimination and abuse at the HLOSC is extensively described by advocate John Colby in previous posts of e-mails he sent to the HLOSC -- "Homeless Services Center puts anemic woman on the streets where she can be raped or robbed" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/08/02/18718703.php
She described the nighttime theft as she slept alone next to hiway 9 in some detail on the air at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb120826.mp3 (about 2 hours into the audio file).
John Colby, who authored the above story, and has kept in regular contact with Morgan and tried to advocate for her disability rights, seems to have been grimly prophetic in his concern that Andrea would be victimized because of her vulnerability (and perhaps her high-profile critic status).
Morgan reports she has been excluded from the HLOSC with no specific rule cited, not allowed an appeal process, and been denied access not merely to nighttime shelter but to meals and other services there because of the discriminatory behavior of a worker at the Sunday meal where she declined to pray as was requested of people there. It's seems both abusive and unconstitutional for the HLOSC to allow a church leader to force people to pray as a condition for a meal--if this is an accurate account.
There has also been controversy about the HLOSC's declaration of a "No Impact" zone on the public sidewalks around the shelter. Shelter staff have claimed that there's a requirement for homeless people not to loiter or congregate in these public spaces on pain of implied retaliation. Morgan wa sleeping in one of the "no impact" zones last night.
Colby describes Morgan's general situation in the earlier indybay story noted above:
" Megan Andrea Morgan — she uses a walker too. Ms. Morgan has chronic fatigue and extreme pain from several medical conditions, making it difficult for her to advocate for herself because she is just too tired and pained to be functional. Ms. Morgan has been chronically homeless, to my understanding, for the last three years since she lost a Section 8 voucher. Ms. Morgan suffers from several very serious medical conditions — she cannot survive on the streets. Ms. Morgan's primary care physician wrote a disability accommodation request letter asking that she be granted extended shelter so that tests could be performed to determine the cause of her serious medical conditions. This request has not been fulfilled, stopping Ms. Morgan from having these tests performed. Ms. Morgan requires a horizontal cushioned place, like a couch or bed, to rest during the day because she requires more rest than the Paul Lee Loft shelter allows her during its open hours. ..."
Long-time community activist Linda Lemaster, hearing Morgan's account on the radio, said "This is a great test for the Homeless Services Center, in fact, the whole sheltering system."
Morgan appeared exhausted and had trouble keeping her eyes open during the radio show and left the studio on foot, making her way through town with her walker. Photos of her can be found at Colby's earlier story.
Offers of assistance and messages can be left for Andrea at 831-423-4833.
I made a few additions to the story when sending it out subsequently--to HUFF activists and supporters as well as other media, the Santa Cruz City Council, and Don Lane:
"She was also a leader in petitioning the HLOSC for correcting abusive treatment of abusive people there and was excluded from all services there after an incident which she reported as an assault, according to Colby's story.
Mayor Lane, on the Board of the HLOSC, had been notified previously of Morgan's situation and fielded some criticism of the HLOSC's missing or abusive procedures dealing with disabled homeless people on a Community Television show with Colby in July (audio of the show can be found at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb120802.mp3.)
She felt sleeping visibly near the center might provide her more protection as a single woman than hiding in the bushes."