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On Dreams of Sleep and Linda Lemaster: A Short Essay
by Steve Pleich
Sunday Nov 18th, 2012 3:41 PM
A Short Essay on Sleep
The Bard of Avon once mused “to sleep, to sleep, perchance to dream” but in our community today that sweet dream of sleep has been shattered and all but forsaken. With respect to the simple and seemingly basic right to sleep, we have taken a step down the moral evolutionary ladder to a place where privation is the new rule of the day. And in a community that is so educated and so enlightened in so many ways, this step downward is both bewildering and troublesome.

These thoughts came particularly to mind during the recent superior court trial of long time homeless activist Linda Lemaster. It was my hope that Linda’s passion and dedication to the right to a restful, undisturbed night’s sleep might resonate with a jury of her peers. But whatever small ray of understanding that may have shone in their eyes was effectively extinguished by a judicial system that reflects the narrowest of views and seems to recognize not at all that most basic of human rights. And the result is that a courageous woman stands convicted in a court of law.

So the question becomes: do our local courts and the decisions they render accurately reflect the values and views of our community with regard to the right to sleep? My dream is that they do not.

Now there are many among us who will say in light of the seemingly endless court cases that grew out of the Peace Camp sleeping ban protests in the summer of 2010: “enough already”, or “we get the point” or simply “let’s move on” and that would allow our community to put this issue aside, if only for a moment’s time. However, masking our collective inability to understand a most basic right, that of sleep, does both our community and ourselves a disservice on both moral and intellectual grounds. So what truly divides us so intractably on this issue?

I think we might all agree that our moral sense compels us to extend our hearts and hands to the less fortunate among us and to, perhaps, allow them some latitude in their struggle to sustain themselves day-to-day. Intellectually, it is difficult to dispute that the quantity and quality of our sleep bears a direct and empirically verifiable relationship to our ability to live productive and fulfilling lives. Even the staunchest supporters of our city’s sleeping ban and the harshest critics of our local sleep activists should not find fault with that logic. On the other hand, it is easy for the advocates of the right to sleep to point to the paucity of available options for our houseless residents and say “of course they should be allowed to sleep wherever they can find suitable shelter”. This fundamental disagreement may render irreconcilable the intellectual argument.

So as we reflect on the issue of “sleep” let us each look into ourselves and ask “where is our moral compass of this issue”? And perhaps while we work to create places to sleep for our unsheltered residents, we can find places for them in our hearts as well. That, it seems to me, is a dream worth sleeping about.

Steve Pleich is a member of Occupy Santa Cruz and the director of the Homeless Persons Legal Assistance Project.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Tireless Campaigner
Sunday Nov 18th, 2012 5:54 PM
We love you Linda, for your heart, for your hard work over the years, and for your persistence in the face of repression. May many more of us aspire to become your peer!

The community is invited to a benefit planned for Linda at India Joze restaurant, Sunday, December 2, in the afternoon. More info TBA.

Also, Linda's sentencing hearing is coming up the next day, Monday, December 3, 9 AM, Department 1, Santa Cruz County Courthouse.
by Robert Norse
Sunday Nov 18th, 2012 11:37 PM

Download PDF
Last Tuesday afternoon during the "Dog-House" Oral Communications period (especially established by Mayor Lane, apparently to marginalize speakers and discourage public input), I gave the following speech which touches on Linda's trial. More importantly, it discusses the ongoing crackdown on homeless people--which is what the PeaceCamp2010 protest was all about.

The real issue for the sheriffs and authorities was--as it was a year later with the Occupy Santa Cruz protests--to crush the protest. Linda happened to be there and had to be made an example of. By any real definition of "lodging"--intending to stay in a place for an extended period of time or make it one's residence", Linda was not lodging.

I covered a variety of topics in this speech--virtually all of them touching on homeless civil rights, of which the most elemental is the right to sleep safely--not anywhere and everywhere but somewhere.

Cold City Council & Callous Court: Winter Winds Hit Santa Cruz Homeless
Speech to Santa Cruz Community and City Council by Robert Norse 11-13-12

As winter rains and cold approach, the City has no plans to significantly expand shelter. Instead, in the last few months, this Council voted $220,000 for First Alarm goon squad to stalk the levee and downtown targeting homeless people, another $80,000 to intimidate homeless people around the library and city hall grounds.

Activist Linda Lemaster was chair of the former Homeless Issues Task Force, which Mayor Lane here held the only paying position on. Linda goes to court December 3 to face a possible 6 months in jail and $1000 fine. Her crime: “lodging”-- for sitting on the steps of our County courthouse to support another activist who was ill in the PeaceCamp2010 protest. She would face the same penalties tonight if she sat with a sign, or just stood outside these chambers at 10:30 p..m. Trying to read the agenda, say. This anti-homeless curfew law around the city government buildings and the library is just another chilling step down a dark road.

Street performers are going to court to face hundreds of dollars in fines. Officer Warren and his colleagues downtown are reportedly enforcing or using as cover (it varies from case to case) Move-Along laws (nearly unique to Santa Cruz), noise ordinances, sit/lie laws, and other pretexts to remove the visible poor or counterculture people.

According to the Sentinel, the public library across the street is now considering a crackdown on homeless people at its next meeting in early December. They are looking at a new “no bad odor” law (to be ignored perhaps in the case of better off folks wearing perfume or cologne). Also proposed are a sleeping ban in the library, a vastly expanded punishment for violating rules (six months out instead of a month), and a crackdown on service animals. When and where does this Take Back Santa Cruz Comstockery stop?

But, give credit where it's due, I commend Mayor Don Lane for finally intervening to help secure financial assistance and shelter for a disabled woman—after many months of appeals verbal, written, even some broadcast on Community TV.. This is the case of Andrea Morgan, an older homeless woman with a walker, who defended other disabled friends at the Homeless Lack of Services Center out at 115 Coral St. and was expelled. Don Lane is Head of the Board of Directors of the HLOSC as well as Mayor As far as I know there is still no formal appeals process out there, nor has the HLOSC come into compliance with federal disability standards.

As for the federal lawsuit against the City and the two Mayor's who had me falsely arrested in 2002 for doing this (mock-Nazi salute) when they threatened several people and cut short public comment. We will be moving for a retrial—but in the meantime, I urge the community to understand that the higher courts have already decided a member of the public has to actually disrupt a meeting—stop it in a real way, rather than simply prompt a frown, a scowl, and an eviction order from an offended Councilmember.

We must also encourage our likely new Mayor, Hillary Bryant to reconsider her apparent decision to maintain a secret e-mail account where public input can be hidden away. The community deserves better.

Flier by Norse of HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) 831-423-4833 309 Cedar PMB #14B S.C. 11-14-12

by Nothin false abut your arrest.
Monday Nov 19th, 2012 8:12 AM
Sorry Mr. Norse, but you had your day in court...just as you insisted you be given..and you lost. You're guilty.
by G
Monday Nov 19th, 2012 8:36 AM
"So what truly divides us so intractably on this issue?"

First an us must exist, Steve.

Until people, and hate groups like TBSC, are forced to exist without representation, money, privacy, storage space, bathrooms, etc, they are unlikely to understand what it is like to be hunted out of existence. Until their leaders (secular and religious) are held accountable, they are unlikely to understand simple decency, nor what is so apparent in things like the sermon on the mount. Until they remember their past, they are condemned to repeat it.
by Linda Ellen Lemaster
Monday Nov 19th, 2012 3:44 PM
Thank you, Steve, for this tender and meaningful essay. Personally, it feels supportive, but I feel it's import may help others become more aware of their unconscious, unintentional, prejudice. I put it on my blog, grateful.

I agree with Gary's comment above -- ya gotta walk the walk in order to even begin understanding what doesn't work in our world, and thus what needs to change. As a unified social policy, "blame the victim" isn't working, and this should be easy to see for anyone who's honest with themselves.

Seems like for many chronic homeless, a forced march to nowhere or -- way too often -- to premature deaths, is the fruit of our negligent and bigoted response to homelessness.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government's Housing and Urban Development continues to take away public and voucher housing subsidies in order to purchase a ten-year plan to "end" homelessness. We have to change the whole wheel, not increase this or alter the requirements of that or -- worse -- re define "homelessness" every few years like the Feds do, leeping humanists, real Christians, and others who care in the dark about what's happening in our Country.

Ain't gonna work (unless the goal is genocide?)

Why not open these processes that determine how we deal with homelessness to the experts? We could decide collectively to not make another decision that stomps on displaced people until homeless folks are generously included in the alleged problem solving discourse?

There is NO singular solution to this, but there may be many different solutions that would grow together if we can set aside our rampant, blind bigotry.

If we make it possible to survive homelessness, and even maybe for some people to re-enter society in appropriate ways (think big), we may realize we're also planning for the post-inflation future that looks so inevitable from here, that it seems will drag under a much bigger swath of our population than homelessness and shame has created so far.
by I don't buy in
Monday Nov 19th, 2012 5:38 PM
Several here paint a rosy fantasy of the homeless issues in this community, whereas I and many others see a far darker picture being drawn.

Latest case in point? The murder of a homeless man by 2-4 others at Depot Park a few days ago. The accused murders are habitual drug addicts, hold former felonies, were in possession of drugs, former charges of battery on a police officer. The victim, yet to be identified but likely of the same pedigree.

I'm to believe that this crew would be magically cured of their ills if I embraced them and ensured a clean bed were provided for their use when they finish their bender and run out of heroin?

Sorry, not buying into that fantasy. There are services aplenty for those who want help crawling out of the pit. I don't buy into your premise that the rest want to do the same but simply aren't being offered enough services to allow it. There is a percentage of inevitable lost causes in any society, and we have more than a representative share in Santa Cruz.
by Tell us
Monday Nov 19th, 2012 5:55 PM
Tell us where a person with no money goes to get off of drugs? NA, is that your answer? Tell us specifically about the process of sobering up: where a person can go for treatment, how they are admitted, and how long it takes the typical person.
by Circle of life
Monday Nov 19th, 2012 9:10 PM
Not buying into that false logic. Anyone motivated enough to kill another human to get their fix could be just as motivated to find a way to fix themself, or get in a program tht would fix them. But they aren't fixable, they're just the next fix. That's my point: there is a percentage that's beyond fixing, and won't take the fix even if you force feed it to them.

It's a fantasy to believe all can be saved and the only thing between salvation and the street is the uncaring lack of charity from the community of Santa Cruz. Sucker logic.
by Robert Norse
Tuesday Nov 20th, 2012 9:00 AM
...this killing is obviously a nice excuse to raise hatred against "illegal campers" and "transients".

Are those who would do so of the same mentality that supports laws that in blanket fashion criminalize all who sleep outside after 11 PM in a town with a dripdrop of shelter for a smattering of people (i.e. the Sleeping Ban) and the raids on homeless campsites that destroy survival gear? If so, these modern day Ku Klux Klan-er's support a different and more pervasive kind of killing--by exposure, exhaustion, despair, and exile.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) meets Wednesday 10 AM at the Sub Rosa 703 Pacific Ave. and one main issue will be how to respond. If other groups are forming for self-defense, please post your suggestions.
by from within
Thursday Nov 22nd, 2012 7:37 AM
This was a killing by homeless of a homeless man. Why are you calling for "self-defense"groups, and suggesting this will or has sparked some backlash from the greater community. Lack of camping gear didn't cause this death; heinous drug addiction did.

I think you're using this tragedy to further your personal agenda; ugly tactic.
by RazerRay
Wednesday Nov 28th, 2012 8:53 AM
I don't buy in said:
Latest case in point? The murder of a homeless man by 2-4 others at Depot Park a few days ago. The accused murders are habitual drug addicts, hold former felonies, were in possession of drugs, former charges of battery on a police officer. The victim, yet to be identified but likely of the same pedigree.

I'm to believe that this crew would be magically cured of their ills if I embraced them and ensured a clean bed were provided for their use when they finish their bender and run out of heroin?
Personally speaking the problem is I'm not a junkie or a druggie, and as a displaced worker with 35 years residence I have to live with this TRULY unchecked threat (which due to... umn certain cultural understandings, I 'cope' with instead of 'fear') .

Much of the reason it's unchecked is many of the people in that cohort are local kids from fine upstanding Santa Cruz families who have nihilistically reacted by escaping to drugs or (Especially) alcohol and pills snitched from their parent's pill cabinets, from the SIMPLE FACT that they may have been born and raised here but economic circumstances INTENTIONALLY created by the city of Santa Cruz will most likely force them to leave the area just to survive, even as their parents were too busy to notice, or simply don't care.

It's EASY to blame the victims who then victimize others. It's non-constructive in any way, and it's ignorant. Because ignoring the root cause is an imperative for those who created and benefit from the economic circumstances that cause this problem.

Let's assign the blame where it's really due: The commercial and rental property interests of Santa Cruz, their prostitutes on the SC City council, all of them (for decades now), and the LOCAL business interests who don't even hire local kids because UC students are "Flexible Labor" Ie. cheap, disposable, and plentiful, that according to Fitch bond rating agency, maintains the good financial rating status of Santa Cruz, at the DIRECT expense of it's own children.
by Leigh Meyers
Wednesday Nov 28th, 2012 11:52 AM
This chart and article are specific to Mississippi but in MY lifetime (almost 60 years) California's public schools have been BELOW ol' Miss' educational standards more than once, and for extended periods.

In other words educationally, if not in myriad other ways, Santa Cruz has created a similar circumstance for their children... Despite the fact their parent's relative affluence often leads the child towards "Drug Programs", which like prisons are absolutely ineffectual at resolving the problem.