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"Clear 'em Out" Cruelty as Usual: Deportations Slated from San Lorenzo Park

by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]
City Manager Martin Bernal and Parks and Recreation Boss Tony Eliot are expanding an existing crisis in San Lorenzo Park. Staring Monday December 21st, they have announced they will begin removing unhoused survival camps there with no shelter destination. Community activists Alicia Kuhl and Peter Gelblum have published their responses to this latest insanity.
Santa Cruz Homeless Union president Alicia Kuhl sent me the Memorandum and Order issued by Bernal and Eliot on 12-17.

That document is reprinted here and can be also be accessed at .

Kuhl and Gelblum's responses were forwarded to me.

I'm reprinting Gelblum's because (a) I regard it as articulate, concise, and frighteningly relevant; and (b) it is a public document since it was sent to a Martin Bernal, the Santa Cruz City Managler (or City Manager, as he styles himself). Over the years I've had (and probably will continue to have) real problems with the ACLU's positions regarding civil rights for homeless folks here in Santa Cruz. But Gelblum's public positions on local issues have gotten stronger over the past few years.

Kuhl operates at a ground level directly with homeless people both in her job, her struggles against repressive behavior from city officials that directly threaten her family's health and well being. The Santa Cruz Union of the Homeless will also be throwing its own masked-and-distanced Memorial at Laurel and Front Sts. Monday afternoon 4 PM 12-21.

Abbi Samuels reportedly e-mailed County Health official Gail Newel: "Can you please let me know why the City is evicting people at the encampment at San Lorenzo against CDC guidelines? The camp is the cleanest encampment I have seen in Santa Cruz. The CDC says dispersing encampments leads to more spreading of COVID. The shelters are all full."

Newel replied: "Hi, Abbi, I agree with you and share your concerns. This was a decision of the City of Santa Cruz, independent of the County for which I work. Public Health was not consulted about this. If we had been, we would have advised against this for the very reasons you cite. Thank you for being an involved community member."

Samuels is an ACLU Board member and active Copwatcher whose facebook posts have document repeated and selective harassment of survival camps and vehicular residents.

Some activists are calling for community members to come down to San Lorenzo on Monday and the days that follow to witness, support, and assist those whose housing is being uprooted without alternatives provided.

In the absence of public accountability at meetings the community can weigh in on, activists have taken to doing speak-out's outside the homes and offices of the powerful and privileged creating increased public danger.
§The Bernal Decree Evicting 200 in Disregard of CDC Guidelines
by Robert Norse
Bernal's house at 96 Brookwood Dr. near Dominican Hospital was the scene of a small speak-out protest Sunday night. Given the lack of accessibility public officials have engineered, activists believe such protests are necessary and inevitable.
§An activist with the ACLU speaks out
by Robert Norse
Peter Gelblum, though not necessarily speaking for the ACLU, quickly responded to Bernal's "dead of winter" "no shelter alternatives" order
§A fighting mom talks sense to the Cruel and Callous
by Robert Norse
Alicia Kuhl and her family were recently denied the right to park on Olive St. by the reactionary City Council in a move prompted by right-wing activists. The Council action reversed the Public Works Commission's decision supporting the right of the public to park on public streets in spite of political pressures from homeless-hostile NIMBY's.
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by Herman Kalfen (posted by Norse)
Dear Lee Butler / Martin Bernal / City of Santa Cruz:

I have proudly called Santa Cruz home for the best parts of 4 decades. I am grateful, lucky, and blessed, including to own a home in our beautiful community, to have a safe roof over my head.

You likely share this good fortune. Many others are not so lucky!!

I am disgusted and sickened and appalled and shocked and horrified by what you Martin Bernal / Lee Butler and others involved are doing right now!!!!!!

I do not have deep or poignant or emphatic enough words that describe my feelings for what you are doing now, it hurts to the heart of my soul and the soul of our community - shame shame shame on you!!!!!!

Why do you choose, just before xmas on the solstice / Dec 21, in the worst of a pandemic, why do you choose to crush people’s only shelter / home on public land, evict everyone as you are planning to do???? Why cause so much suffering on people who do not have more stable housing at the moment? Your actions seem so clearly patently very cruel / counterproductive!!!!

Please change course without delay!! Please do not crush the little refuge that people have right now!

Instead, please improve the situation, go in pairs, provide services, be helpful,meaningful, life saving, not the contrary - otherwise, shame shame shame on you!!!!!! In any event, history / humanity will not forget your role.

It is also noted this email includes bcc line to many influential members of our community and nation, including attorneys from the ACLU, and is a call to action please, and this email will likewise be posted to all social media urging change). Please also consider this as notice of potential impending legal action.

I look forward to your prompt reply to the above, and again urge your change of conduct per the above. Please advise forthwith as to all.

Thank you for your time and attention to this most urgent matter.

As always, please feel free to contact me any time regarding any matter.


Herman I. Kalfen, JD, REA, NAEP
Kalfen Law Corporation
4 Embarcadero Center, Suite 1400
San Francisco, CA 94111
by Matt Nathanson (posted by Norse)
Dear Members of The Santa Cruz City Council:

I learned today that the City of Santa Cruz has decided to close San Lorenzo Park, and in so doing displace all of the unhoused residents of our city who have been sleeping there. Sadly this is just one more chapter in an ongoing policy of closing down an encampment without designating a viable safe alternative location, then waiting for another encampment to take shape, under-resourcing that encampment, waiting until it gets too big or too offensive to its neighbors, and then closing it down: Paradise Park, the front lawn at City Hall, the
benchlands, the Pogonip, Ross Camp, and so on.

As the attached notice of closure acknowledges, the process is expensive, and on its face, the process is cruel.

We would all like to see effective long term solutions, so every person has a safe home. But even with the unprecedented number of new shelter beds that have been created with COVID19 pandemic response dollars, there are no where near enough shelter spots for all of our unhoused neighbors.

As the pandemic goes on, and more people lose work, the number of people facing homelessness grows. Since it is clear we will still have people sleeping and living unsheltered, we as a community need to identify safe spaces that people can exist.

And I do not mean a strip of Highway 1 right of way where cars traveling at 55 miles per hour zip past only feet away from human beings sleeping. I mention that because city police staff were heard offering that location as an alternative to people they were notifying today to leave the park.

Let me be clear, I don't think they were suggesting that location because they are callous; I think they were suggesting it because like the homeless residents they were speaking with, they were frustrated that a safe alternate location had not been identified.

We all know, we are in the midst of an epidemic that has killed over 300,000 U.S. residents and over 1.6 million people worldwide. The recommended CDC guidance during such a pandemic is not to disband encampments (causing people to scatter and mix), but to resource them properly with access to basic hygiene (toilets, handwashing, drinking water, refuse disposal).

Using the fear of this camp becoming a covid "hotspot" strikes me as cynical. Outdoor encampments, if properly resourced, actually have the potential of decreasing disease transmission. Ventilation is a key factor in reducing disease spread, and outdoor encampments are by definition well-ventilated.

The simple, hard truth is we as a community need to identify open spaces that we can accept people living outdoors until we can master the long term solutions to homelessness. Parks, vacant fields, unused open spaces. And ideally all jurisdictions (city and county) would do this.

Right now I am asking you, as my city council representatives, to take action and identify places where human beings who live in our city and do not have a home can live without being moved along every few months.

Matt Nathanson, RN
by Brent Adams (posted by Norse)
Brent Adams has worked on expanding services for those outside for the last decade. He runs Footbridge Services and provides video commentary on Homeless Outside in Santa Cruz. See for his latest.
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