WHY FREEDOM SLEEPOUT #14
For more than 3 months, Freedom Sleepers have held weekly food-sharing and sleeper protection to mobilize the community to end the City's institutional hate crime of criminalizing homeless people if they fall asleep at night or seek to protect themselves with camping gear.
In a City with 1000-2000 homeless (and a County with far more), the Comstock-Mathews Santa Cruz City Council majority has declined to reopen closed shelter space and kept sleeping for the poor at night a crime--in vehicles or outside.
Repression against protesters and city-wide citations and stay-away orders against homeless sleepers continues in spite of Department of Justice statements that such behavior is unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment (Bell v. Boise Statement of Interest).
The threat of HUD funding cut off for cities that don't decriminalize homelessness may have some impact, but even liberal Councilmembers have remained silent instead of inspiring support to end Santa Cruz's Legacy of Shame.
WE URGE COUNCIL TO OFFICIALLY DECLARE THE SIDEWALKS AROUND CITY HALL A SAFE SLEEPING ZONE
IT'S ALREADY HAPPENING
The 14th Weekly Freedom Sleep-Out will invite the community and City Council to declare the sidewalks around and near City Hall "Safe Sleeping Zones".
Perhaps to avoid a blatant record of repression around the specific MC 6.36 which criminalizes homeless survival sleeping at night, police have notably given out no citations for camping or sleeping at the protest.
They have ticketed for "being in a park after closing hours', 'jaywalking', "failure to sign a ticket", and other such harassment "crimes". But almost without exception folks sleeping on the sidewalk have not been cited.
This has led Freedom Sleepers to invite the Community and City Council to officially declare the sidewalks around City Hall a "Safe (from Citations) Sleeping Area"--since no such area currently exists for hundreds and hundreds of people.
We invite housed (and unhoused) folks to join us Tuesday night in solidarity, to witness, and to document the proposed Safe Sleeping Zone.
CITY COUNCIL'S ABOMINABLE AFTERNOON AGENDA
City Council's afternoon agenda impacting folks outside includes Preparation for the Winter Storm Event--El Nino (Item #11); Banning RV's From Parking in Any Spots the City Engineer Cares to Designate (#12), & Endorsing Rental Profiteering in the Summer (#13).
Around 5 PM those who oppose discrimination against the houseless outside are invited to bring sleeping bags and signs and speak about the issue during the Oral Communications session.
DRIVING THE POOR FROM THE PARKS
During the evening session,the City's Parks Master Plan Study Session is up. It includes reference to "illegal" activities (i.e. the visible presence of poor people at night, homeless gathering day or night, smoking, drinking, yelling) See "Safety and Illegal Activities" at http://scsire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/cache/2/ls4iafvlsinbqldrspddipdc/428205310122015120017953.PDF
(p. 4) .
Here the apprehensions and prejudices of middle-class NIMBY's are being raised as a new "public safety" standard, as done by the hand-picked Citizens Public Safety Task Force of 2013. There Deputy-Chief Steve Clark portrayed citations given to homeless people for sleeping, being in a park after dark, and smoking as constituting a "crime wave".
Dannettee Shoemaker, Parks and Recreation boss, used similar scare tactics to push through the first-in-the-state No-Court-Necessary Stay-Away laws in 2013 and 2014, which ban poor people from the parks without court appeal, trial, or even formal charge. These unprecedented powers are proposed to remain permanent.
MORE SCARE STORIES TO BOOST PROPERTY VALUES
Building on the Needlemania hysteria of those years, the report validates the Hyper-Drug Warrior mindset that prompted City Council to destroy the City's Needle Exchange program behind closed doors in 2013--providing real estate agents and property owners dramatic pretexts to clear away the poor and gentrify the area.
Recent fencing and locks at Grant Avenue Park (not to mention the Homeless Lack of Services Center itself) as "security measures" are an ominous sign of the growing class war being waged against those outside. Increased appropriations for First Alarm and P&R patrols funds and fuels the advancing police state. More policing means more citations justifies a bigger threat justifies more appropriations...and so on.
There is no reference to using any of the Pogonip as vitally needed campground area for those outside.
While there is no specific proposal, the staff report suggests (p. 4.) that one of the "community concerns" which it apparently takes seriously is to "limit food giveaways". Since Parks and Recreation has city-wide authority as far as the City manager may designate not just in parks, this may mean renewed attacks on Food not Bombs-style operations.
Last week, police gave out no citations by my reckoning (though there were fewer sleepers), came only once, and made no arrests.
On Saturday, Freedom Sleepers held a dusk Portapotty Parade through the downtown lasting half an hour. It drew active supporters and encouragement from the evening crowds (as well as the occasional heckle). Cries of "Stop arresting the homeless! Sleep is not a crime" were met with smiles, thumbs up, and an occasional new marcher.
IN THE WORKS
At a time to be announced--a showing of the Exodus from the Jungle film documenting the resistance of San Jose urban poor (i.e. unhoused) to the displacement of the largest encampment in the country last fall....along with a KNOW YOUR RIGHTS training for those seeking legal tips to beat back the Sleeping Ban.
JOIN US TUESDAY SHARING FOOD, PRINCIPLES, AND SOLIDARITY TO RESTORE JUSTICE TO SANTA CRUZ !
Editorial Note: The views expressed here are mine and in my view likely shared by many of the Freedom Sleepers. It is not an official statement however.