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Indybay Feature
Human Rights Under Attack in the City of Santa Cruz
by Dennis Etler
Tuesday Jun 9th, 2015 5:06 PM
The impending closure of the Homeless Services Center, due to the withdrawal of State administered federal emergency funds, will deprive the homeless of Santa Cruz their basic human rights. The United States is not a poor, developing country, but the self-avowed richest nation on Earth. It is deemed exceptional and indispensable by our leaders. but it can't supply necessary, minimal services such as shelter, meals, showers, toilet facilities and a secure place to store personal belongings and receive mail, to its most disadvantaged citizens, as mandated by Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a founding document of the UN to which the United States is a signatory. As such, the City of Santa Cruz is in gross violation of the basic human rights of its citizens. In a civilized society an injury against one is an injury against all.
Human Rights Under Attack in the City of Santa Cruz.

The impending closure of the Homeless Services Center (HSC), due to the withdrawal of State administered federal emergency funds, will deprive the homeless of Santa Cruz their basic human rights. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a founding document of the UN to which the United States is a signatory, states unequivocally that, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” The United States is not a poor, developing country, but the self-avowed richest nation on Earth. It is deemed exceptional and indispensable by our leaders, but it can't supply necessary, minimal services such as shelter, meals, showers, toilet facilities and a secure place to store personal belongings and receive mail, to its most disadvantaged citizens.

While the HSC has been providing basic humans services to its clientele since 1986 it is still far from adequate and many people are turned away or otherwise go unserved. The recent denial of emergency funding to the tune of $350,00 and increases in insurance premiums and other expenses have resulted in the HSC running a structural deficit of $600,000 or approximately 18% of its $3.4 million dollar 2015 budget (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/social-affairs/20150526/santa-cruz-homeless-services-facing-cuts ).

This shortfall is being used as an excuse to curtail all essential services to the homeless, resulting in the locking of the HSC gates as of July 1, 2015. But in 2012 with revenues of $2,114,000 and expenses of $2,538,000 the HSC was able to continue functioning with a $423,000 structural deficit or a 20% shortfall. Thus the loss of some funding in 2015 ($350,000 or about 10% of the overall budget) and other increased expenses should not of necessity entail the denial of basic human rights to a significant portion of the population of Santa Cruz.

This is especially the case when funds are readily available from the City for a $420,000 increase in monies allocated for “economic development” (City Budget page 248) and while over 100 city bureaucrats and functionaries make more than $200,000 in total annual pay and benefits (http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/santa-cruz/?page=3&s=-total). The assault on human rights in Santa Cruz, however, is apparently not happening in Monterey or Salinas that are said to have received similar cuts in emergency federal funding. Recent news stories from Monterey for instance report that the City Council has voted an additional $500,000 for homeless services (http://www.montereyherald.com/social-affairs/20150520/monterey-approves-500k-homeless-spending-plan), especially targeting homeless youth, veterans and women (http://www.montereyherald.com/social-affairs/20150527/advocate-community-has-resources-to-help-monterey-homeless-women).

Meanwhile, the Salinas City Council apparently has the the discretion to disburse federal funds as they see fit. According to the Californian “The Salinas City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to disburse a little more than $2.6 million in federal Department of Housing and Urban Development funding. The money is distributed to American cities annually in three main ways — through the Community Development Block Grant program, the HOME investment partnerships program and the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program — the latter of which primarily addresses homelessness. This year, on staff’s recommendations, the council voted to spend $1.9 million on CDBG programs, $543,083 on the HOME program and $172,842 on the ESG program.” (http://www.thecalifornian.com/story/news/2015/05/13/council-doles-million-federal-hud-money/27221591/). If Salinas has the ability to allocate federal Department of Housing and Urban Development funds why not Santa Cruz?

Santa Cruz likes to portray itself as an affluent, progressive California city. But nearly 22% of the population of Santa Cruz lives below the poverty line (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/0669112.html) (http://www.city-data.com/poverty/poverty-Santa-Cruz-California.html), and most of the 41% who rent cannot afford the sky high prices for even modest accommodations and have to live hand to mouth just to make ends meet (http://www.cityonahillpress.com/2015/06/09/inching-up-and-crowded-out/). Santa Cruz is statistically one of the poorest cities of its size in all of California (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/general-news/20110922/santa-cruz-county-poverty-rate-highest-among-bay-area-counties). So while the majority of Santa Cruz residents struggle to survive and while City workers are denied a living wage (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/government-and-politics/20150527/santa-cruz-city-labor-workers-take-over-budget-meeting), City bureaucrats get fat at the public trough. Whose interest does the City serve when its policy makers earn incomes that dwarf that of most Santa Cruz residents? Who do they hobnob and identify with, the poor and downtrodden on our city streets, the working poor servicing the restaurants they eat at and the struggling working (former middle) class who spend their meager paychecks at local businesses or the wealthiest stratum of Santa Cruz society? Who do they serve? Need I ask?

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Robert Norse
Wednesday Jun 10th, 2015 7:52 AM
Perhaps "same stupid foot" can identify the particular "wild assumptions" and attacks Etler makes in the article. Mindless support of bad behavior by the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center [HLOSC] is as bad as mindless opposition a la TBSC.

These behaviors include silence as more laws are being passed criminalizing the homeless, refusal to provide the documentation needed to deter Sleeping Ban citations, failure to provide obvious direct services (lockers, adequate shelter), prison-like conditions (locked gate, fence, ID card), and closed bathroom at night.

It's also telling that the HLOSC has declined repeatedly to make its budget for this year and last year public in spite of repeated requests. And significant that apparently they move immediately to announce cut off of the most essential emergency services [shelter, food, bathrooms, laundry, mail] when only 10% of their budget has been cut and 90% remains.

It appears that HLOSC is colluding with an agenda to reduce or eliminate emergency services. Perhaps this is being done to follow the federal money, perhaps to deter TBSC criticism, or perhaps simply as a wake up call to encourage more donors [this is the most hopeful prospect--if you're a balls-out supporter of the HLOSC).

In any case, community support for meals, shelter, and other essential services--in whatever form--must be mobilized. Come to the Thursday June 11th meal tomorrow at 10 AM at Hiway 1 and Hiway 9. Support real alternatives to police harassment that will face more homeless people on June 29th.

A recent letter from Shelly McKittridge, a Program Director at the HLOSC complex, to a client being evicted from the Page Smith Community House sent yesterday reads:

"I think you are confusing the information about the Paul Lee Loft with Page Smith. We are not closing Page Smith Community House. We are, however, needing to move folks who have been in Page Smith over the 18 month limit on. The notices you have received are a structured part of the Page Smith Program. The Paul Lee Loft and Daytime Essential Services Program will close on June 29th because of the loss of funding for those programs. Page Smith, the Recuperative Care Center and the Rebele Family Shelter are not impacted by this funding loss."

Folks can ask McKittridge herself what's cooking at smckittrick [at] santacruzhsc.org or call her at her office 831-458-6020 ext. 3110 or on her cell at 831-345-5998 .
by ???
Wednesday Jun 10th, 2015 1:56 PM
Evidently the emergency shelter services were specifically funded by those federal dollars. HUD is moving towards funding Housing First and Rapid Rehousing instead of shelter activities. On the other hand CDBG funds don't have nearly the strings attached but many communities are shifting those dollars towards housing.
by G
Thursday Jun 11th, 2015 5:44 AM
Well paid bureaucrat, alleged rain maker; now revealed to be a fail whale?
by Warming Center Program
Monday Jun 22nd, 2015 5:10 PM
Our program was honored to be included in the Grand Jury Report on Homelessness.
Yet, while following a chastisement of the Winter Shelter at the Armory, it does cast a strong shadow on the recent All In effort to focus on permanent supported housing efforts.

The All In document also mentions focusing on Warming Centers, which high-lights the broad support and need for this important program.

While Dennis's essay cites several information sources, it still speculates on the broader intentions of the cuts, local programs and doesn't offer anything substantive to the conversation other than to instigate protest rather than solution-based activism.

In a town with little or no investigative journalism, it's a shame that the "Indy" side of things is so info emaciated as to set up straw-dogs rather than real targets. We encourage community members to support and rally for real-world solutions rather than vague calls to protest the wind.
by unsigned
Monday Jun 22nd, 2015 6:33 PM
This is true and I was thinking about it yesterday:
"In a town with little or no investigative journalism ..."

There are no journalists in Santa Cruz who regularly do investigative work and writing. Of course the Warming Center Program is welcome to pick up the ball and do the investigative journalism which is sorely lacking in our beach town.

There does not appear to be much institutional support for an investigative journalist writing about Santa Cruz politics. Since there isn't support, and there are definitely social consequences, a potential scribe may find anonymity a prudent course to take.
by Meredy Wells
Thursday Jul 2nd, 2015 10:44 AM
Made to help people living outside in Santa Cruz who also have basic human rights - Share the Santa Cruz Free Guide on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/santacruzfreeguide docs.google.com/document/d/15sOPWmJLVxi0xlK6PIj1e5-pwCRaLGok8KpgXgNgV8A/edit
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