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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Government & Elections | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and Prisons
Santa Cruz Council Members, Vice-Mayor Propose Anti-Homeless Measures After Recent Murder
City of Santa Cruz council members Ryan Coonerty, Lynn Robinson, Vice Mayor Hilary Bryant, and Homeless Services Center Director Monica Martinez announced on May 16 a set of proposals to change the city's policy on homelessness, including a proposal to, "not support any new homeless service facilities in the City of Santa Cruz." These new policy proposals come less than two weeks after the death of a woman who was stabbed while walking to work on Broadway Street by a man who had stayed at the Homeless Services Center.
The following policy proposals were announced in a press release that was published by the Santa Cruz Sentinel today:
"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Councilmembers Ryan Coonerty, Lynn Robinson, Vice Mayor Hilary Bryant and Homeless Service Center Director Monica Martinez announced a series of policy proposals following the murder of Santa Cruz resident Shannon Collins. "We believe these proposals to be common-sense and easily implemented. They reflect the conversations we have had with police, social service providers, and concerned citizens," noted Robinson, Bryant and Coonerty. “None of these proposals in and of themselves would have stopped Charles Edwards, but if adopted, these approaches will bring more accountability and targeted resources to the challenges facing our community.”
The proposals are:
(1) This year and future year's budget allocation to homeless services will require implementation of (a) an identification system (b) a registry protocol currently used in Santa Cruz motels to give police and service providers a better sense of who is using the facility, and (c) rules that prioritize services for residents of Santa Cruz County over people from outside the area – with an exception for the winter emergency shelter and victims of domestic violence who are in imminent danger. We believe that we need to meet the needs of citizens in our community first and foremost.
(2) We propose that the City designate a police officer to meet regularly with the Homeless Services Center staff to identify homeless individuals who are engaging in criminal behavior and coordinate actions.
(3) We, as councilmembers, will not support any new homeless service facilities in the City of Santa Cruz. We believe that other jurisdictions in Santa Cruz County need to share equally in the costs and location of social services.
(4) We, as councilmembers, will work with property owners of public housing to screen current and prospective tenants for serious criminal history.
(5) We are partnering with the County to continue and expand funding for mental health outreach workers.
(6) The City and the Homeless Services Center will expand the "Homeward Bound" program using San Francisco's successful model to provide more bus tickets to homeless individuals to return to communities where they have a support system.
(7) We are requesting that the County Jail return their prisoners to their community of origin upon completion of their sentence.
(8) Finally, we will ask the judicial system to provide a monthly list of offenders who have failed to appear in court, so that the City Attorney can prosecute them under the City's repeat offender law."
The following letter was sent by Monica Martinez, director of the Homeless Services Center, to JM Brown of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and published there on May 10. The letter was sent after the discovery that the alleged killer of Shannon Collins, Charles Edwards, had stayed at the center.
"Statement from the Homeless Services Center to JM Brown
On behalf of everyone in the Homeless Services Center community, we are shocked and devastated by the horrific incident and horrible loss in our community. Shelter staff and residents are shaken by this terrifying incident. Our hearts go out to Shannon Collins and her family. Shannon was a beloved member of our community and we feel tremendous sorrow.
As you know, under my leadership we have refocused our attention towards safety of the community and safety for our participants. Over the last two years, we have been in the process of refining our programs to focus on individualized relationships that help needy people transition out of homelessness. We have gained a lot of ground and we are committed to continue on that path. Because we have made progress in these areas and made improvements to our screening process, we had detailed information to offer to the police about this terrible incident that occurred in our community.
Working confidentially with the police has been our number one priority up to this point. Upon learning that Charles Edwards had received services at our campus, we immediately initiated contact with the police and offered all information that we held. We worked in confidence with the police to ensure that they had adequate time for a thorough, confidential investigation.
While we normally protect the confidentiality of our clients, the tragic nature of this event has prompted us to step forward and share information with the public at this time.
We know that Charles Edwards entered the Paul Lee Loft on May 3rd and left on May 7th. He did not spend much time here, only staying through the evening hours. As a shelter applicant, he willingly filled out our intake form and complied with all of our intake policies and rules. He carried a bible and actively read it. According to the 30-day goals written in his intake form, Charles Edwards was focused on connecting with a Christian community. He exhibited cooperative and docile behavior.
He was one of 46 people who stayed in the shelter those nights, he did not stand out in any way.
Our mission is to provide both emergency and transitional services to homeless individuals and families that will enable our clients to achieve self-sufficiency. We do our best to provide a safe place for the most vulnerable.
In addition to feeling tremendous grief, everyone at the Homeless Services Center joins the community in asking, what can be done to prevent that anything like this ever happens again? In the coming days, weeks, and months, we are committed to working with city leaders and community partners to ensure that our campus, and our community, is a safe, healthy, and vibrant place.
Related to dorm rules:
All Paul Lee Loft shelter participants are required to provide social security numbers and sign an agreement to follow dorm rules. Dorm rules address problem behaviors, check-in/curfew times, chores, weekly meetings, as well as rules related to personal hygiene, smoking, bringing food in to the sleeping areas, etc."