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ACLU Statement of Opposition to Anti-Homeless Measures at Louden Nelson Center and Park

by ACLU (posted by Norse)
In April, ACLU Chair Peter Geldblum sent a letter to the City's Parks & Recreation Department expressing revulsion and concern regarding the recent closure of the bathrooms and other restrictive actions burdening the public and especially local homeless folks. I post it here.
April 13, 2018
Santa Cruz City Council
Carol Scurich, Director of Parks and Recreation (Interim)
Iseth Rae, Supervisor, Louden Nelson Community Center
Andy Mills, Chief, Santa Cruz Police Department

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Santa Cruz Chapter of the ACLU of Northern California has been holding its monthly Board meetings at the Louden Nelson Community Center (LNCC) for many years. We are concerned to see several recent changes at LNCC that appear directed to reducing the ability of homeless people to use this public facility. If our concerns are not satisfied, we will reluctantly –because we love LNCC as a community center and resource –need to find another place for our monthly meetings.

First, we appreciate that until recently, LNCC has allowed all members of the public, including the people living on the streets, to use the bathrooms, particularly because there are very few public bathrooms in the City of Santa Cruz. Recently, however, signs have appeared stating that the LNCC bathrooms are no longer for public use. We understand that vandalism occurred in one or more of the bathrooms, but it seems to be an extreme and unwarranted reaction to punish the entire range of homeless people and make their life more difficult, because one or a few unknown people vandalized the bathroom. It seems to us to make more sense to investigate, identify, and appropriately punish the vandal(s).

Moreover, it appears that the new policy is being applied discriminatorily and, therefore, illegally. We have heard reports of well-dressed people who are not LNCC clients using the bathrooms without difficulty. In fact,one of our Board members entered LNCC on a day she was not a client, used the bathroom, and was not approached. We believe
this new policy is both intended to discriminate, and is being enforced in a discriminatory manner.

Second, many people living on the streets spend time in the public park at LNCC. Although the park is open to the public, we have heard from several people who are homeless that they are being told by City employees or contractors to leave the park during the daylight hours. In addition, First Alarm employees have been forcing people who were taking shelter from the rain under the awnings to leave that shelter. This action is not only cruel, but obviously discriminatory.

Third, signs have recently appeared announcing rules that are plainly designed to keep homeless people from using the park, including closing the park from sunset to sunrise (enforced by a new fence surrounding the park), prohibiting personal property on sidewalks, walls, and pathways, and prohibiting sitting or lying on sidewalks, walls, pathways, doorways, and alcoves. We are certain that the police, rangers, and First Alarm are not going to enforce these rules against park users such as basketball players and families with children, but only against people they find undesirable, people they wish would simply disappear because they are poor and dirty and carry their possessions with them.

The ACLU seeks to protect the civil liberties of all people, including those living on the streets. As you know, LNCC was named to honor the man who donated the land to the City, London Nelson, a freed black slave who gave the land to the Santa Cruz City Schools district for the use and benefit of promoting the interest of education. We are certain that he would not be in favor of these discriminatory practices.

We would like to meet with those who have decided to make these changes and discuss how our concerns can be satisfied. Please contact us at santacruzaclu [at] or 831-703-4370.

Sincerely, Peter Gelblum
Chair, Santa Cruz Chapter of the ACLU of Northern California

NOTE BY NORSE: I was made aware of this letter, both because it was also published by Vice-Chair Steve Pleich and forwarded to me by another member of the Board of Directors. I'm not aware that the City, Parks and Rec, or the Louden Nelson bathroom-lockers have replied. I also understand a protest is slated for next week.
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Tue, Jun 12, 2018 8:18PM
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