SENTINEL photo by Julia Moore
Homeless campers plead
with Santa Cruz city leaders
to change sleeping law
found online at: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_15619520
SANTA CRUZ -- The people camped out on the courthouse lawn at the County Government Center on Ocean Street since July Fourth protesting the city's camping law vow to stay put until Santa Cruz leaders lift the ban that restricts where someone can sleep during the day or night.
But no change in the law is in the works, according to city officials.
About a dozen members of the group dubbed Peace Camp 2010, led by homeless advocates Ed Frey and Robert Norse, marched to City Hall on Tuesday to berate the City Council into overturning the ban that has led to several homeless people in recent years receiving tickets from police who find them snoozing
Peace Camp 2010 participants arrive at City Hall. SENTINEL photo by Julia Moore
in parks or on beaches and sidewalks.
The group made a show outside City Hall with signs that said "Sleeping is not illegal" and songs criticizing city rules.
"Santa Cruz has a liberal reputation, but it's actually very conservative on this issue," said Norse, wearing a bath robe. "It is one of our most fundamental abilities and rights to sleep somewhere safely at night. Instead, they have a law to criminalize it."
Steve Argue protests the Sleeping Ban outside City Council. SENTINEL photo by Julia Moore
communications" portion of the council meeting, which allows comment on any topic not already under discussion by the council.
However, council members are not allowed to engage in issues brought up during that time.
Still, Councilman Ryan Coonerty, after being asked by a reporter, said he was not swayed by the group's comments that were often harsh and belittling.
"Desperate publicity stunts don't change policy or help those in need," Coonerty said.
Chris Doyon, 45, believes it's part of his "freedom and right" to sleep almost anywhere outdoors without harassment from police.
He said his request to the council was an easy one.
"We're not asking for money. We simply want them to lift the sleeping ban and let us sleep," he said. "It won't cost them a dime."
Doyon and others in his camp believe their protest is making a difference in public opinion.
"Surely, the City Council should be ashamed that they would treat poor people like this," Doyon said. "We should run them all out of office."
After 23 nights, an area near the county courthouse steps is filled with sleeping bags, coolers, food, books, backpacks and other personal belongings campers have brought with them.
Organizers say some nights have seen 55 people sleeping on the courthouse lawn.
Though the County Government Center is in city limits, it is county property and the county doesn't have a ban camping there.