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Homeless Rights Meet on Lawn of Red Church Forced to Sidewalk; Saturday Protest Downtown
by Robert Norse
Tuesday Jun 2nd, 2009 1:05 AM
About thirty homeless people gathered on the lawn of the Calvary Episcopal Church to discuss what to do next as the City intensifies its crackdown against those with no option but to sleep outside. After moving once to accommodate a Bible Reading inside, the group was forced onto the sidewalk by Father Joel Miller, who reportedly called police. The meeting continued there with about a dozen activists who scheduled a protest for Saturday afternoon downtown in front of Bunny's Shoes.
Homeless activists angered by Judge Paul Burdick's decision banning Miguel de Leon and Anna Richardson from sleeping downtown announced they had distributed 400 fliers encouraging homeless people and supporters to meet today outside Calvary Episcopal. [See "Judge signs order prohibiting couple from sleeping downtown" at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_12483386 ]

In response, and lured by the Monday afternoon Calvary Episcopal youth coffeehouse-and-meal, several dozen homeless people sat down on the grass to discuss proposals ranging from a boycott of businesses downtown to presentations at City Council. The proposed objective was to overturn the City's 11 PM to 8:30 AM Sleeping Ban and other anti-homeless Downtown Ordinances selectively enforced by police and "Hosts" downtown to "move along" homeless and poor people and street performers.

Under immediate discussion were protests against the five downtown businesses whose managers or employees provided declarations alleging criminal "sleeping" behavior and other homeless survival activity against the two homeless musicians. Threatened penalties against nighttime sleeping in Santa Cruz for the entire homeless community have intensified since City Council passed a Downtown Association-supported measure that makes three unpaid tickets a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to six months in jail and/or $1000 fine.

Young homeless activists brought their own food and made it available to the group debating what to do next. A worker from the church came out at 5 PM, concerned that the gathering was diverting attention from a planned Bible Study reading. In response to this concern and to concerns that the volume of the discussion might disturb folks inside, the group moved to the corner of the church property.

As folks settled in, the group was suddenly interrupted by Father Joel Miller, who ordered the group off the lawn. When asked why, he said it was "private property", angering some members of the group. One man, Gabriel, bitterly complained that Father Joel had earlier told groups of homeless young people to leave the property while ignoring similar groups who were better dressed.

The Calvary Episcopal Church and its parking lots take up a full city block with spacious lawns. In the last month, homeless people have been banned from the lawns under threat of jail except during the Monday coffeehosue and the Wednesday Farmer's Market.

The nearby corner at Lincoln and Cedar was the site last Wednesday of a peaceful "Sidewalk Soup" tabling and flyer distribution announcing a peaceful resolution of a dispute between Jack's Hamburgers and homeless customers, who reported they'd been turned away. [See "Soup on the Sidewalk: A Community Dialogue " at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/05/26/18598522.php ] Jack's agreed to a non-discriminatory policy, allowing those who had been turned away to return with an agreement to abide by health and safety rules, and no discriminatory action for "hanging out" on the Calvary lawn. Homeless customers have reportedly been most happy with the restored service and commended Connie of Jack's for her successful resolution.

With the planning meeting forced to the sidewalk, some activists called for an immediate march downtown "taking back the street". Others called for more planning and a focused public education campaign on the businesses whose declarations had supported the Injunction against Richardson and de Leon. The group voted to reassemble Wednesday June 3 at the Sub Rosa Cafe at 703 Pacific where HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) meets weekly 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM to make signs and prepare press releases. The tentative time and location of the protest will be Saturday 2 PM downtown in front of Bunny's Shoes at 1350 Pacific Ave.

Businesses downtown will be requested to support changing the City's nighttime outdoor ban on sleeping and covering up with blankets and to recognize homeless survival needs require the right to sleep not anywhere and everywhere but somewhere. Walk-in emergency shelter each night for the next four months can accommodate barely 5% of the homeless community if that. The rest face $97 citations if ticketed, have to hide out in unsafe places, and not sleep in secure groups for fear of police harassment.

Other large cities like San Diego, Los Angeles, Richmond, Fresno, and Laguna Beach have been forced by lawsuits to end their Sleeping Bans. Santa Barbara and Sacramento currently face lawsuits. For more info and to support these protests contact HUFF at 423-HUFF.
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
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TITLE AUTHOR DATE
Photos of Miguel de Leon's childrenBecky Johnson (posted by Norse)Tuesday Jun 2nd, 2009 1:06 PM
twisterconcerned citizenTuesday Jun 2nd, 2009 12:52 PM
Saturday Protest Downtown FlierHUFFTuesday Jun 2nd, 2009 10:14 AM
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