Friday, July 9, 2010

Sleeping Ban Protest in Santa Cruz

Sleeping Ban Protest in Santa Cruz

Story by Azenith Smith

(view article online to see video interview with Becky Johnson and Ryan Coonerty)

Posted: Jul 04, 2010 6:13 PM PDT Updated: Jul 04, 2010 10:54 PM PDT

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Signs are posted all around town from the Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom. That stands for HUFF. They are a grassroots organization, and they are inviting the community tonight to bring their sleeping bags to protest a "sleeping ban."

"We sleep comfortably and safely in our beds," says Johnson. "We don't even consider it, but homeless people are denied that right by law."

Becky Johnson is camping overnight in the protest and says, she's willing to go to jail, if it brings attention to what she calls, a violation of human rights..

"Fifty-five homeless deaths last year, a new record for Santa Cruz county," says Johnson. "Denying people the chance to sleep at night, does impact their health."

She argues the city doesn't have adequate shelter space.

"Tonight we have shelter for six percent of our homeless population," says Johnson. "Police are writing 60 citations a month."

"We are happy with the law and will continue to enforce the law," says Santa Cruz Vice Mayor Ryan Coonerty.

The city has had the ban for the last 40 years for safety reasons.

"If we undid the law, it would undo public support for the many services we provide for homeless people to help them get out of poverty," says Coonerty.

He's frustrated with the timing of this event.

"We need all our law enforcement officials up and down the coast, dealing with fireworks and other illegal activities," says Coonerty.

The group plans to keep it peaceful and will camp out every night until the city suspends the ordinance or sets up a legal place to sleep at night.

The group held a similar event in 2007, where they camped out for six days. It ended after police started confiscating belongings.

The city says, the event shouldn't disrupt courthouse services.

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