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Homeless Sweepsters Have Candidate Forum at SCPD Community Room
by Robert Norse
Tuesday Sep 18th, 2012 9:51 PM
Not many "candidate forums" left, so I went to part of one tonight sponsored by the group that gave us Lynn Robinson as Councilwoman and is now pushing Pamela Comstock, the Take Back Santa Cruz front woman. Comstock was the only candidate to reject the flyer I was passing out (which I reprint below). There's another forum or candidate meet-and-greet tomorrow (Wednesday September 19th) at 7 PM at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, though I hear there's an admission charge.

Download PDF
The Santa Cruz Neighbors is the group that seems to be interested in more harassment of the homeless along with Take Back Santa Cruz and the Downtown Association. It sponsors these forums every two years (during the election season). In front of each candidate was a glass (of water, I think) and four cookies wrapped up in cellophane and a bow. This time (hard times?) there were no refreshments for the audience. Channel 8 was there with the aging Phil Gomez individually interviewing each candidate.

I carried a sign "Sleeping is Not a Crime"--which, of course, should have included the postscript "...except for the Santa Cruz homeless". Sgt. Bush didn't give me a clear answer as to why he was in the room standing by the door in full uniform, but he was amiable enough. When one of the candidates ended her speech saying that ways that Santa Cruz did not work well was "undesirable behavior downtown", I turned to Bush and said in a stage whisper "could she be talking about you?" The Sgt. and nearby Brent Adams both graced me with a half smile.

But, of course, they weren't. No one mentioned the sleeping ban (Steve Pleich included) or the homeless sweeps. Maybe it came up for a full-throttle debate later (I left half way through), but I doubt it. Mayor Lane avoided eye contact and carefully kept his eyes off my sign throughout the two brief presentations he made.

The escalating war against the homeless, aside from getting mention on this website, can also be found at the Santa Cruz Police blog at .

Meanwhile all was quiet, low-key, and well-behaved at the candidate forum.

Flyer text for those who can't pick up on the pdf version:

Myths and Realities about Poor People Outside

Myth: The “worthy poor” have shelter services available in Santa Cruz.
Reality: The Homeless (Lack of) Services Center has long been notorious among the homeless population for its lack of walk-in emergency shelter space for much of the year (During the winter the Armory has about 100 spots for the City's 1000-2000 homeless.)

Myth: Homeless people don't use shelter services because the rules are too “confining”.
Reality: Some vets feel a need to be outdoors; others don't want to take away from the shelter of the elderly and the ill; still others have had bad experiences with the crowded and regimented conditions of shelter services here and elsewhere. However for the Paul Lee Loft you have to wait 2-6 weeks on the Waiting List, and then may find yourself arbitrarily excluded without any clear process of appeal. Other more formal programs (like the River St. Shelter, the Rebele Family Shelter, and Page Smith Community House) have more demanding requirements and about as little space.

Myth: Fire danger, “illegal drug use or sales”, and real criminal activity are the motivation for the last ten weeks of SCPD sweeps.
Reality: While a small number of people at the campsites attacked have been cited or arrested for “real crimes” (such as assault, theft, etc.), the sweeps rely on the fact that all camping in the City of Santa Cruz on public property is illegal in spite of the lack of shelter.

Myth: Regularly destroying homeless survival gear without giving people any options on where to sleep will drive down the homeless population.
Reality: It makes people angrier and more desperate since human beings have no alternative but sleep, though Santa Cruz makes this a crime after 11 PM for those outside. The levee and Pogonip sweeps have actually driven some people into more visible locations downtown. The prospect of being strong-armed on Pacific Avenue by police simply for looking homeless does create a climate where only the toughest and most intransigent are likely to associate and congregate.

Myth: The “permissive” climate of Santa Cruz acts as a “magnet”.
Reality: Most of the people outside come from Santa Cruz according to recent census surveys. There has always been a flow of people through coastal college towns. Santa Cruz

Myth: The Santa Cruz City Council is “soft” on homeless people.
Reality: The Council and Council contenders are harsher on the homeless than the Los Angeles and San Diego authorities in their “no sleep, no mercy” laws, actually making the city more vulnerable to lawsuit. The recent Levan decision holds local authorities accountable for destroying homeless goods.

Myth: Treating homeless people harshly like disposable trash will drive them away from town and discourage others from coming. Stealing their blankets and backpacks will “teach them to leave”.
Reality: Homeless people, once stripped of personal effects, often become less self sufficient and often lose their health another few notches. This puts an additional burden on emergency room services as well as coarsening the community as a whole.

Myth: Police sweeps target only the truly “criminal element” not the “worthy poor”
Reality: Anyone outside or sleeping in their vehicle is a target at the whim of the officer of a grumpy resident. Police statistics (even on their blog) don't show any “big catches” of real criminals.

Myth: Sweeps help the environment by clearing away unsanitary campsites.
Reality: People just move. Portapotties, dumpsters, and regular trash pick-up's might actually work.

Flier by Norse of HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) 831-423-4833 309 Cedar PMB #14B S.C. 9-18-12
§Sentinel Editor Backs Police Raids
by Robert Norse Wednesday Sep 19th, 2012 1:48 AM
Sentinel editor Don Miller has weighed in on the destructive police raids--essentially supporting them in a September 19th Sentinel editorial at .

I responded with the following (which I've rewritten somewhat):

This editorial makes the usual phony distinction between "the deserving needy" and the "undesirable transients". The real issue is fair and decent treatment for all.

There is zero mention of the real shelter\ situation (none for 95% and a 2-6 week delay for those waiting). Police and allied agencies treat homeless people and their property as disposable trash (instead of providing real facilities like portapotties, dumpsters, and trash pick-up's that might actually restore the enviroment).

Miller's piece does have the merit of avoiding the sanctimonious hypocrisy of Mayor Lane's honeyed words. Lane was silent when Vogel's police destroyed the San Lorenzo\ campground last December creating 100-200 homeless refugees. He is silent again as the SCPD blog brags of 500+ citations in its apparently unending “search and destroy” missions. Instead at the candidate forums we hear the usual vague "concerns" about homelessness while his cops treat these victims of the 21st century economy as criminals.

City Manager Bernal's SCPD and Parks and Rec are issuing citations for behavior that is only a crime if you're homeless—sleeping and survival camping. The rest of us can sleep soundly and safely—until the next major illness when Wells Fargo (or some other "legal" bankster) stands ready to take over our homes.

To demonize all such survival behavior as “illegal” is a way of justifying brutal treatment by renaming it. ALL CAMPING IS ILLEGAL in Santa Cruz. Hence necessary survival behavior by homeless people has now been twisted (thanks in part to Sentinel coverage) into some kind of criminal conduct.

Miller is old enough and wise enough to know this. By ignoring the vigilante implications, he enables this darkness. Demonizing other groups (Jews, Communists, blacks, Muslims) isn't new; demonizing homeless people isn't new to Santa Cruz. It just enrages me to see it happening again.

Any actual crime stats regarding the “crimes” that justify this concentrated destructive effort? None that the Sentinel has published.

Any research into the legal vulnerability of the City, whose policy of destroying homeless property is now explicitly unconstitutional under the 9th Circuit's recent Lavan decision? No.

And, of course, not a paragraph about the suffering of innocent people being denied their survival gear and treated like trash. I get several dozen such accounts monthly which I play on Free Radio regularly. The Sentinel reports on none of this, but passes on police propaganda that encourages the community to think of poor people outside as dangerous and disgusting.

If folks at home were faced with police invading their homes late at night and rousting their families with flashlights, stealing their property, and giving them phony tickets, some would defend themselves with force. I'm surprised more homeless people haven't responded violently in self-defense.

We have long needed an injunction or some other collective defense against this kind of official criminal conspiracy against the poor.

UN observers to establish refugee status for homeless people\ whose very existence is being defined as “illegal”?

Perhaps have some homeless people should seek refuge in the Ecuadorian consolate in San Francisco?

Likely the only way to slow or stop this kind of thuggery is by kicking the City straight in the pocketbook or some other response showing that class war against the poor has real blowback.

To reiterate: since no sleeping or camping on public property is legal; it's all illegal. Hence several thousand in the City and more in the County suddenly become criminals at night. This kind of demonic redefinition is a disingenuous way of encouraging hate crime against vulnerable people outside. After all, they're “dirty” (no public 24-hour bathrooms), so why not eliminate them like vermin?

There's a real dark nasty message underneath that's being spread. If the only criticism of the current attacks against the poor are that they are "not effective" it betrays a moral blindness that saddens the soul or a political cowardice that sickens the heart.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Tired old rhetoric
Wednesday Sep 19th, 2012 7:57 AM
Not sure why Phil's age was relevant to the article, but since its on the table, let's do talk about aging. Aging as in the same, tired rhetoric and the same lack of rationale options by those who oppose the current clearing of illegal camps.

Gee, "only" the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the City Council, the Santa Cruz Neighbors Association, Take Back Santa Cruz, and the Merchants Association supports the current restrictions on the levee and the crackdowns on the illegal camping?

I do my simple math, and I say that's the vast majority of Santa Cruz supporting it. Let's keep it real: the party is over, and those who want to camp in our woods and do drugs is over. The pictures tell the truth; those camps are waste zones; full of garbage, abusive of our lands.
by brent McAdams
Wednesday Sep 19th, 2012 12:29 PM
Mayor Don Lane was the only candidate who tackled the issue of Homelessness head on in a statement at the forum last night.

For all the text cloud rhetoric of Robert Norse's post here.. he left early and didn't really report on what the candidates ACTUALLY SAID.

Sure we won't be seeing any of them pledging to immediately repeal the sleeping ban and we wouldn't really expect that without a community push for them to do so. But Mayor Lane's willingness to address it was in stark contrast to the other candidates who danced around it.

I personally support Steve Pleich and Micah Posner who both included the issue in statements but only Don Lane devoted an entire
statement to the issue. I thought this was brave. He doesn't have to speak on the issue at all. He is virtually assured a spot on the next council.

Robert Norse's rhetorical nonesense couldn't be more alienating and damaging to citizen interest and involvement and our desire to create a coalition of groups to begin to change this shameful state of affairs in Santa Cruz.
by Robert Norse
Wednesday Sep 19th, 2012 10:42 PM
Councilmembers in other cities have taken strong stands against sleeping bans, sitting bans, essentially homeless bans. The notion that Lane--or Pleich or Poesner--can't do it is ridiculous. It simply takes the will to speak the truth.

Lane not only hasn't been able to do that--to acknowledge that the Sleeping Ban is simply wrong and needs to be repealed--as the Homeless Issues Task Force, the Community Action Project, the Greens, the Peace & Freedom Party, the Indian Supreme Court, etc. have all agreed. Worse, he puts out pious rhetoric about the homeless while his police are destroying their campsites and property.

It's strange that this has to be reiterated, since there's no denying it. Grand schemes to wean Lane or other politicians off of bigotry and//or political cowardice by "baby steps", I think , are best replaced by appealing to others who understand that sleeping treated as a criminal act is a form of crime against the poor, and working with those folks--none of whom are running for City Council with any serious chance of winning.

However, if Lane came out against the Sleeping Ban either Tuesday night or tonight, I'd love to hear the quote. Then, of course, we'd have to look at his votes and his behavior since talk is very very cheap.

As for Steve Pleich--the one candidate who has come out against the Sleeping Ban, I am discouraged to hear that he is not using the forums to defend the rights of the poor and denounce these heightened attacks ("exponentially increased", he acknowledges) on the health and safety of the homeless community.

When I bring it up, he attempts to play the mirror game by demanding to know why I'm not there to ask the questions. I actually was last night with a sign "End the Sleeping Ban" and a flyer. And tonight he could have raised the issue at any point, as "homelessness" did come up, but chose not to.

If Pleich can't show courage now, I think it would be much more difficult in the most unlikely event that he wins. Because he's not likely to win, his main power in these forums is raising issues that others are afraid to touch. I will continue to urge him to do this.


Several of us went out to the Soup Kitchen after the HUFF meeting today and made some contacts with homeless folks reporting police abuse. One man who came to the HUFF meeting announced he'd seen two violent police assaults on a homeless man in the last few weeks. Another reported all his property taken by police this morning. He is trying to track it down at the police station--it includes survival gear, personal property, and, I think, meds.

We need more volunteers to both gather this information and then condense/collate it. Videos of incidents downtown, on the levee, and in the Pogonip, are definitely useful.

If anyone has a report on how Occupy's Wednesday Direct Action Group is working, regarding plans for protest (or coalition or whatever) to counter the rise in anti-homeless sweeps, please post.
by Time Check
Thursday Sep 20th, 2012 8:01 PM
-Occupy is a shell of itself, and more a nostalgic relic than a viable action.

-Norse is wasting time fragging friendlies like Pleich. Deride him as Norse might, the reality is that at least Pleich is putting himself out there and trying to engage and defeat the mainstream, whereas Norse is sitting on the sidelines and critiquing Pleich. Essentially, telling Pleich what he should be doing because he knows he can't do it himself because he's (Norse) spent his credibility.

Keep it Real. Let's move to the future rather than chewing the cud of the failed past.
by Becky Johnson
Saturday Sep 22nd, 2012 8:44 AM
What do the number say?

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- After a recent beach/inland waterway clean-up, the following formula was proffered: Litter Produced = (2.4 oz to 12.9lbs) per volunteer hour x hours worked
To unify terms into decimals, that is a range of (0.01 lbs - 12.9 lbs) with an average being 6.4 lbs per volunteer hour

SOURCE: Analysis of Beach litter:

"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." Colleen Bednarz, Save Our Shores Sept 20 2012 

With this formula in hand, we can work backwards and determine how "trashy" an area was at the time of the clean-up.

In an article entitled "2012 Santa Cruz Earth Day Event Single Largest Clean Up To Date in Monterey Bay" we learn 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. That's the number for the beaches plus the cleanup along the San Lorenzo River.

130 volunteers working on the San Lorenzo River Clean-up produced 315 lbs of trash in 3 hours or 2.4 lbs of trash per person at a rate of 0.8 lbs per volunteer hour. That is SQUEAKY clean!

Perhaps homeless people are cleaning up more trash than they are leaving? In any case, Cynthia Mathews, Richelle Saroyan, and Pamela Comstock don't have an environmental leg to stand on in order to justify the homeless sweeps.

by Robert Norse
Saturday Sep 22nd, 2012 8:00 PM
I am. Brent drew my attention to the current "What Are Your Thoughts?" street-interview section at .

The GT topic: "What are your thoughts on the recent homeless camp evictions?"

Good for Brent for suggesting this topic to the Good Times Question Person (which also elicited some good replies and then some good on-line comments).

Still, I'd found Good Times has been either blocking or passing over my comments in prior instances. So I contacted their on-line guy, Jeffrey, and he graciously remedied it in an older column and invited me to call in again if the matter recurred.

Most recently, however, I tried to post the following--a follow-up to the question on the raids--and couldn't. Has anyone else had this problem? I'll be contacting Jeffrey on Monday to see if it's possible to repost.

I also encourage others to try and post, send letter to the Sentinel, and generally try to detoxify the bigotry-ridden bog that we're all stumbling through these days. City Council candidates certainly don't seem interested in raising the issue independently.

"Thanks for asking this question. It's reassuring to see that ordinary folks on the street aren't gung-ho to jump on the "drive out the homeless" raids that have toxically escalated in the last two months.

"There is a general misconception that those sleeping outside have legal shelter or campground places to go. This is mistaken. In the winter there is emergency walk-up shelter for 100 people max at the National 'Guard Armory. The rest of the 1000-2000 homeless in the city have no legal options. And the Armory isn't even open yet.

"Hence the crackdowns destroying people's camps and survival equipment for no other reason that they are engaging in survival camping is a basic violation of human rights and also shocks the sense of human dignity.

"The raids are simply a camouflaged NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) attack on the presence of visible homeless people pushed by certain groups. Business interests like the Downtown Association, conservative residents like the Take Back Santa Cruz group, the Coonerty Council majority (with no audible opposition from Mayor Don Lane), and police agencies are the groups largely responsible And the city staff under Martin Bernal, the City Manager--who has the final say on this destruction of homeless health, welfare, and property.

"When you hear the claim thatt homeless people "have adequate services already if they'd only accept them", give a call to the Homeless Services Center (which I call the "Homeless Lack of Services Center" since they provide no shelter for the majority) and ask them if they have vacancies tonight. (458-6020 is their main number).

"Then call City Manager Martin (pronounced Mar-TEEN) Bernal and ask him to stop this nasty, unconstitutional, unconscionable, and downright stupid assault on homeless camps at 420-5030..

"Police need to be looking for real crimes, not going after people who are poor with no alternatives.

"Don't be fooled by myths spread by media and bigoted gentrification advocates.

"For more info, check out the City's Homeless Issues Task Force report at which over a decade ago declared the whole "illegal" status of those camping outside needed to be abolished immediately.
by Keep It Real
Sunday Sep 23rd, 2012 3:48 PM
Ms. Johnson is doing logic a disservice when she proposes that the lack of trash and litter along the San Lorenzo for this year's Save Our Shores cleanup is due to the fact that homeless are cleaning up after themselves.

Is she ignorant of the fact that the homeless have been denied access by new laws and signage, and that hundreds and hundreds of pounds of trash was removed several months ago...well ahead of the Save Our Shores Cleanup?

If anything, her example offers support of the premise that if you keep the homeless away from an area, then you succeed in keeping their trash away too.
by Becky Johnson
Monday Sep 24th, 2012 1:02 AM
So you admit the areas where the homeless camp WERE fairly clean and NOT the serious environmental damage justifying the sweeps? So I have been right all along when I have said that reports of environmental damage by homeless encampments have been exaggerated, that community cleanups have not netted much at all, with many volunteers having little to show for their efforts. I have been accused of "ignoring" "mountains of trash" left by homeless campers.

Instead, I have proven that these reports are false, and those making such unsubstantiated claims (Cynthia Mathews, Vice-Chief Steve "ringworm" Clark, Richelle Noroyan, and Pamela Comstock) are really just out to smear homeless people with ugly stereotypes.

We had a 22% increase in the number of homeless people living in our County in 2011 (the last year for which figures are available) but YOU claim that the river was clean BECAUSE of the signs posted??? Right.
by Dan
Monday Sep 24th, 2012 6:04 AM
...the photos of trash in the Sentinal and the recent developments in San Jose disprove your take on things Becky. A photo is truly worth a thousand words.
by Becky Johnson
Monday Sep 24th, 2012 10:23 AM

Yes, a photo is worth a thousand words. And that is EXACTLY what DON MILLER, editor of the SENTINEL wanted people to think when he posted that photo on his blog. But the photo doesn't "prove" that homeless people "trash" the environment.

That's like saying people speed on the highway. SOME people DO speed. But most don't. Therefore, it is more accurate to say people don't speed than to say people do speed. I have shown that the overall data for the entire cleanup PROVE that homeless people are NOT "trashing" the environment compared to regular day use by members of the general public.

Miller's photo was not of a typical homeless campsite. It was a photo of the WORST homeless campsite. AND it may be a staged photo. What was to prevent police from dumping all garbage collected into one camp and then calling the SENTINEL to take a photo? Nothing.

It's not like the SENTINEL is going to bust them! Finally, HUFF has heard a report of POLICE setting fire to a homeless encampment near the railroad tracks about a month or so ago.

so the public perception of homelessness is being manipulated by the police and media to foster disgust against homeless people. I think DON MILLER is a jerk for doing so!
by Keep It Real
Monday Sep 24th, 2012 12:17 PM
No, I refute your fantasy that where people camp is generally clean. Just the opposite.

You have not proven the reports are false. For starters, are you not aware that the stats. your quoting from on your blog are from an April Cleanup, and not the most recent one of 9.15 that Save Our Shores sponsored?~!!

Your "data" is from an article printed in April 2012 reporting on the April Earth Day Cleanup.. It was REPRINTED on 9.24. The data from this week's cleanup, held 9.15, clearly states that several of the most polluted spots are on the San Lorenzo, in areas well known to be camping locations. San Lorenzo River at the Covered Bridge with1,664 pounds, and San Lorenzo River at the Tannery with 860 pounds.

So no, I don't admit anything. I contend that you found one article that you thought supported your claim..but it was for a short patch of river, was half a year ago and not this week, and it didn't include the grossly polluted stretches of river just up the creek. You also seem to have missed the idea that the short section your taking credit for as clean is clean because City Works cleaned it up after kicking campers out and making it a no-trespass zone.

You've shown no "overall data". You've confused, you've parsed, and you've cherry picked. The overall data is easy to read for anybody who wants to see the real overall data:
by Jumping the Shark
Monday Sep 24th, 2012 7:53 PM
.......not even sure how to reply to that incredible and un-credible leap of logic. I'll try with a simple and emphatic: No.
by Ed Natol
Tuesday Sep 25th, 2012 8:42 AM
Since the police would do anything to make the campers look bad. That means that 15 cy I helped pull out of the pogonip might have been staged. Or the Evergreen clean up. Or Almar. Or the tracks between 9 and Coral before the railroad cut back the bushes. I feel used.
by Becky Johnson
Wednesday Sep 26th, 2012 8:18 PM
The average housed person generates 4.4 lbs of trash per day. Homeless people produce much less waste per person into the environment than housed people do. Now you say, and I agree, that trash generated way out in the woods might not be faithfully trekked back in and disposed of in a more typical manner (i.e. dumped in the landfill). see:

And that is a problem. But my understanding of the sweeps is that police, public works, rangers, and Labor Ready are taking out all camps--whether tidy or messy, and in many cases, posting the entire area as off limits to all of humanity. I've long suggested an organized campground and carpark with porto-potties and dumpsters is far better than what we have now.

The problem is, the sweeps won't "get rid" of the people, unless you mean that they will die sooner. In that way, I'm sure the mental and physical health of these people IS suffering as a direct result of this law enforcement pogrom.

But for most people, they will STILL "be" somewhere, except more fearful, less willing to trust government workers, more isolated, and more angry.

Or does the suffering of the poor and homeless get you off? Seems you enjoy your derogatory putdowns and colorful exaggerations a wee bit too much.