Santa Cruz IMC
Santa Cruz IMC
Indybay Regions North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area California United States International Americas Haiti Iraq Palestine Afghanistan
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature

Third Anti-homeless Fence Decorating Party

Saturday, March 18, 2017
3:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Event Type:
Location Details:
Post Office
850 Front St, Santa Cruz

Please bring signs, clothing, shoes, flowers, hats, toys, toothpaste and toothbrushes, socks, ribbons, books, and any item that people can use or is beautiful.

Santa Cruz Post Office joins residents in face-off over
Food Not Bombs food distribution By Jessica A. York, Santa Cruz Sentinel 03/13/17

SANTA CRUZ >> A disagreement between downtown residents and a nonprofit activist group over its weekly free public meals has heightened with involvement of the U.S. Postal Service.

On Thursday, a chain-link fence was installed around the Santa Cruz Post Office’s exterior, including its Pacific Avenue and Water Street sides. The fence, said U.S. Postal Service regional spokesman Augustine Ruiz, is intended primarily to protect the nearly 105-year-old building from damage and limit its use only to branch customers. The downtown building, he said, “has a serious homeless issue” that has progressively escalated recently. Ruiz added that social activist group Food Not Bombs’ twice weekly vegan meal distribution nearby has added to the situation.

The Postal Service is responding to an increase in customer and employee concerns about homeless people, Ruiz said. Recently, an apparently homeless man threatened to stab an employee, Ruiz said. Authorities will need to undertake a more formal process with its Postal Inspection Services before more permanent fencing can be set up, he said.

“Many times they block the egress going in and out of the post office lobby,” Ruiz said. “Not only have they been blocking the egress, they have also been leaving great amounts of trash, needles and feces/urine around the entrances and around the perimeter of the building. This creates an unsafe and unsanitary environment for our customers and employees.”

The building, among California’s oldest continually operating post offices, is designed in a Renaissance Revival style and is part of the National Register of Historic Places. Those without shelter have slept and stored their possessions along the building’s walls and steps for years.

Downtown resident Janet Fardette has zeroed in on Food Not Bombs’ twice weekly demonstrations and sidewalk meal offerings as the primary problem. Fardette has worked on and off at curbing the weekend effort from occurring, within blocks of her home, for at least two years.

“I want people fed. I am not arguing that at all,” Fardette said on Monday. “We’re against doing it on the streets. What he’s doing is creating a mess downtown.”

The 25-year-old Santa Cruz chapter of Food Not Bombs most recently began gathering at the post office not long after Occupy Santa Cruz protests in late 2011 and serves between 89 and 150 people a day, said Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry.

The downtown location is optimal, said McHenry, due to its space and high traffic visibility. The new fence intensified the usual weekend effort into a “party,” as many supporters gathered to decorate the fence, draping signs and donated clothing across it, he said. McHenry said a number of volunteers with the group are specifically dedicated to cleaning up after each event and that he believes the latest outcry is part of a welling “anti-homeless” movement.

“The purpose of Food Not Bombs is to end the economic and political system that causes people to be homeless and hungry,” McHenry said when asked if he had considered relocating in order to placate Fardette and others. “We do it through sharing food.”

Fardette, who also organizes the community cleanup group Leveelies — which she says is not involved in this push — has gained more than 100 supporting signatures on an online petition urging the outdoor meal distribution to end. Similarly, McHenry launched his own petition on March 1 rebutting Fardette’s, with more than 1,110 signatures.

Fardette cited her reasons for wanting the meal offerings, currently held each Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m., to move indoors as: availability of tables, chair, toilets and garbage cans. Fardette said she believes that while Food Not Bombs may clean up debris while they are on site, the problem is unsanitary conditions left after they are gone. She said she has observed an increase in the downtown rat population since November.

McHenry said the increased rat population could be attributed to the season’s flooded rivers, increased plant growth and/or downtown food-serving businesses’ clientele. He said there are also some people, as with any population, who are careless with their trash.

“What happens is these people get treated so badly, like they themselves are garbage,” McHenry said of Santa Cruz’s homeless population. “One, they don’t have much self-esteem. But two, it’s just not practical to be carrying away all of your litter when you have to guard your sleeping bag and your backpack from people stealing it or the police taking it.”

Santa Cruz County Health Officer and Environmental Health Director Dr. Arnold Leff said in the past he has urged McHenry to obtain a permit to ensure safe handling and distribution of the food. Leff said Monday that he was in the process of drafting another letter to McHenry along the same line. Unlike with a restaurant, Leff said, he cannot simply close down a Food Not Bombs demonstration. Other cities attempting to prevent sister Food Not Bombs distributions have failed, Leff said.

By Keith McHenry March 11, 2017

The anti-homeless fence at the post office puts a face on the ugly campaign by Santa Cruz’s leaders to drive their poorest residence out of town. The numbers of poor in our town are increasing. This fact is obvious when you see the growing numbers coming to eat at Food Not Bombs. Even though I’ve shared meals with the hungry for over 36 years, I find it shocking the increase in people depending on Food Not Bombs.

The National Center on Family Homelessness reports there are “2.5 million children in America that are homeless each year.” A society that lets millions of children live on its streets is a society that’s collapsing.

To address this crisis, we need to change our local and national priorities. That’s why Food Not Bombs shares its meals outside: to encourage public dialogue about redirecting taxes from the military to providing real security in the form of housing, education and desperately needed services. Instead of a humane sensible response, Santa Cruz City Council criminalizes the homeless making it illegal to sleep outside. To make matters worse, the emergency shelter was cut.

Anti-homeless architecture is also common in Santa Cruz including hi-frequency Mosquito Boxes in parks, removing planter boxes and free speech zones on Pacific, replacing the City Hall lawn with gravel and rocks and now the ugly chain link fencing at the historic downtown post office.

These policies contribute to the death of our homeless, including 53 year-old Michael Mears who died of hypothermia on February 17, 2017. Medical staff told his sister, Jenny, that his body temperature was 70 degrees when found on Potrero Street.

Another response to homelessness is to pass laws seeking to end meals in public hoping that hiding the “problem” will reduce pressure to fund programs to help the poor.

To justify laws against sharing meals outside, advocates of repression site a theory claiming “street feeding” keeps people homeless.

One of those seeking to drive homeless and groups that share food outside out-of-sight is Janet Fardette. In her 2009 Sentinel letter, “Time to take back downtown Santa Cruz”, Janet writes “Our city no longer belongs to us. It has been taken over by drug addicts, homeless, panhandlers and the like.”
I can understand it must be frustrating for property owners and businesses to see an increasing number of people living outside. They worked hard and the growing number of people living outside their property must be disheartening and a threat to their investment.

The campaign to stop our meals includes an online petition, phoning and emailing local officials. Janet suggests in a February 13, 2017 email that officials look into “Robert Marbut’s widely successful” theory mentioned on NPR, “More Cities Are Making It Illegal To Hand Out Food To The Homeless.”

Marbut’s theory claims "Street feeding is one of the worst things to do, because it keeps people in homeless status. I think it's very unproductive, very enabling, and it keeps people out of recovery programs."

Marbut’s “solution” focuses on “correcting” the behavior of those living on the streets, treating people as though they’re naughty children. He doesn’t consider a failing economic system, gross wealth disparities and obscene housing prices. In short, he posits that it’s the person’s behavior that keeps them from paying for housing.

Blaming the victim isn’t working. Thousands of people still live outside in cities that adopted Marbut’s program and many still rely on Food Not Bombs. Those who would like the homeless to disappear from Santa Cruz are lobbying to adopt Marbut’s “solution” and drive Food Not Bombs from public view. The $5,300 a month that might be spent to hire Marbut could be much better spent on maintaining 24-hour bathrooms.

Food Not Bombs is not a charity, sharing vegan meals in visible locations with signs and literature promoting change so no one lives on the streets or depends on soup kitchens. We can end homelessness if we divert some of the billions spent for war on real national security of jobs, affordable housing, education and healthcare. Blaming the homeless for their condition is clearly not working.
Added to the calendar on Fri, Mar 17, 2017 5:36PM
We are 100% volunteer and depend on your participation to sustain our efforts!


$55.00 donated
in the past month

Get Involved

If you'd like to help with maintaining or developing the website, contact us.


Publish your stories and upcoming events on Indybay.

IMC Network