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Shame On the City Council of Santa Cruz for Maintaining the Sleeping Ban!!!
by Philip Hamilton (hamilton.philip [at] gmail.com)
Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 8:58 PM
This article summaries how the city council voted 5 to 2 to maintain a sleeping ban in Santa Cruz County, which unjustly punishes the homeless for their condition.
On March 8th, 2015 the Santa Cruz City Council held a hearing on an amendment to the current anti-camping law that Council Member Don Lane proposed. Lane's amendment would keep police from using the camping law to fine homeless individuals for sleeping in public.
There are about 2,000 homeless individuals in Santa Cruz, and about 100 shelter beds are available to them by the city of Santa Cruz during the winter season. Additional shelter beds are available from various non-profit groups, such as ones helping women who are victims of sexual violence, but not enough to shelter the entire homeless population.

In 2015 alone, 1,551 citations were issued against hundreds of residents and a few non-residents of Santa Cruz City. There were about a thousand citations issued by police officers and about 500 by park rangers. Out of all of the citations, 97 percent of them were unpaid, which demonstrated that the anti-camping law has been used, by law enforcement and park rangers, to target the homeless population that resides in Santa Cruz City.

In Council Member Lane's presentation, he argued that to not change the camping ordinance is akin to voting for a motion that states:
• The act of sleeping outside at night is so harmful to the community that it needs to be illegal.
• People who are found sleeping outside at night should be penalized for that act even if they do not have a place to sleep legally.
• It is okay for a person to sit on a bench on Pacific Avenue at 2AM as long as that person stays awake. The harm comes when that person falls asleep.

In these statements, Lane emphasized the absurdity of making it illegal for the homeless to sleep in public places, especially considering the fact there are not enough rooms in shelters for all of the homeless and since there are no legal encampments in place for the homeless to go to.

Certain council members, such as council member Comstock, claimed that if the city is more lenient on the homeless, by invoking a sleeping ban reversal, the change may encourage more homeless to come into the county.

Applied Survey Research did a homeless survey census and discovered these following changes from 2013 to 2015:

• Veteran homelessness decreased from 395 persons in 2013 to 155 in 2015
• Chronic homelessness decreased from 989 persons in 2013 to 512 in 2015
• Unaccompanied homeless children and young adults (<25) decreased from 947 in 2013 to 272 in 2015
• 69% are unsheltered
• 21% live in vehicles
• 24% have a foster care experience
• 84% were housed in Santa Cruz when they became homeless
• 53% have a disabling condition
• 86% said ‘yes’ to wanting safe, affordable and permanent housing

Overall, the homeless census determined that the homeless population decreased by 44 percent from 2013 to 2015. The council members concerns of an increasing homeless population, when the population has actually almost been cut in half is unmerited, since the sleeping ban itself is not a factor that causes a decrease in the homeless population, since fining people for being homeless will not deter them from being homeless if they cannot afford their own home. Council member Lane stated that the homeless can be charged with various other fines, such as obstructing a sidewalk or trespass, even when the sleeping ban is revoked. Therefore those other local ordinances will remain as a deterrent for the homeless to sleep in certain public locations.

During public testimony, Representatives of non-profits, such as the United Way, claimed that the unpaid fines adversely affected the credit scores of the homeless. Therefore the fines not only lack a deterrent effect, but their existence makes it harder for the homeless to obtain rental properties.

Council members brought up a federal case in which bans on sleeping in public were deemed as a violation of the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In addition the city could face a decline in HUDD funding for maintaining the status quo. However, despite the fact some of the council members were concerned about losing HUDD funding they still voted 5 to 2 (with Council Members Micah Posner and Don Lane supporting) to strike down the amendment.

The council members who voted to strike the amendment claimed they wanted to help the homeless by increasing mental health services. Hypocritical of those Council members to want to help the homeless with mental illness when they support a law that leads to sleep deprivation and to individuals falling asleep in less safe locations that are not as visible to the public. Shame on the mayor and the four council members for their lack of compassion for the homeless.

For more information on the Homeless Census go see the article, “Census Results Show Major Decline in Homelessness in Santa Cruz County”

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/06/24/18773908.php
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
I didn't say it was tailsRazer RayTuesday Mar 22nd, 2016 7:06 PM
Tails is Linux.GTuesday Mar 22nd, 2016 4:07 PM
Re: [offtopic] Apparently you are into GNU/Linux nowRazer RayTuesday Mar 22nd, 2016 3:22 PM
Yet more false assumptions presented as fact.GTuesday Mar 22nd, 2016 7:13 AM
Re: Camping citations per year?Razer RayMonday Mar 21st, 2016 6:23 PM
Camping citations per year?GSaturday Mar 19th, 2016 10:11 AM
Santa Cruz homeless activists are heroesNazi SaluteSaturday Mar 19th, 2016 1:10 AM
Santa Cruz activists in the limelightWord on the streetFriday Mar 18th, 2016 11:57 PM
Response from Pat ColbyNazi SaluteFriday Mar 18th, 2016 9:24 PM
If the Government was Open and Transparent?Open-Transparent GovernmentFriday Mar 18th, 2016 6:24 PM
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