Friday, August 13, 2010

A Challenge to Sentinel Editor Don Miller

Snooze, you lose in Santa Cruz

Attorney and camping ban protest leader Ed Frey gets ready for court after spending the night this week at the City Hall "Peace Camp." Photo: Shmuel Thaler/Sentinel

*****

Friday, Aug. 13, Editorial in the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

It was a refreshing wake-up call to hear how Santa Cruz police handled the latest protest of the city’s camping ban by homeless activists.

The time for warnings has passed, said Deputy Police Chief Kevin Vogel, and demonstrators who show up and sack out at City Hall will be cited.

The SCPD has years, if not decades, of trying to work with activists, who seemingly ignore the fact that Santa Cruz, city and county, provide far more homeless services than most other communities in the country.

The city’s ban on sleeping in public places didn’t materialize out of thin air, but was enacted with other regulations because residents long ago said enough was enough with having to wade through downtown crowds of panhandlers, drunks and small-time dope dealers, who give the legitimately homeless a bad name.

Santa Cruz’s reaction to an incipient demonstration this week stood in stark contrast to what happened outside the county courthouse on Ocean Street for nearly six weeks. Activists, vagrants and homeless folks set up camp, seemingly thumbing their noses at law enforcement and county officials, who took weeks to begin cleaning up a situation that had become intolerable for many county employees trying to get to work and for visitors to the courthouse.

Finally, sheriff’s deputies moved in, and the camp moved out. Some of the campers then tried to move their protest to Santa Cruz City Hall.

We agree with Santa Cruz City Councilman Don Lane, who has long worked to support shelter services for the homeless, that people sometimes fail to make the distinction between protesters and transients — and those who by circumstance or health find themselves without shelter and need help.

We also hope protest supporters read Thursday’s Sentinel report, which quoted Monica Martinez, executive director of the Homeless Services Center in Santa Cruz. Martinez noted that while there were no shelter beds available the day she was interviewed, only five people had signed up to be placed on a waiting list. Every Monday, she said, beds open for those who need shelter and that people who really want a bed will almost always get one relatively quickly.

If camping ban protesters need a place to sleep, the center is located at 115 Coral Street in Santa Cruz’s Harvey West area and the phone number is 831-316-5000

  • Robert Norse // Aug 12, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Don:

    You might want to inquire a little more deeply about shelter availability at the Homeless Services Center [HSC].

    At the Injunction trial today of Anna Richardson and Miguel de Leon in Judge Volkman’s Dept. 4, HSC”s Daniel White, Shelter Manager for the Homeless Service Center gave testimony under penalty of perjury.

    He testified under oath exactly what he told us a week ago when we tried to get a bed for PeaceCamp2010 homeless activist Timothy Smith, who was told there were no beds.

    We were further advised, that there has been no walk-in shelter available since April 15th; none would be available until November 15th. Waiting list time: 4-6 weeks.

    Strangely enough, Daniel wouldn’t put that statement on paper to pass on to your friends the police when they come with flashlights and ticket books at midnight to ticket people for sleeping who have no shelter.

    The Paul Lee Loft has less than 48 beds.

    Paul Brindel is the Shelter Project Director at the Community Action Board, regularly involved in charting homeless population and homeless shelter–as well as trying to provide shelter.

    He testified that there were at least 450 unsheltered homeless people at the last census count (my estimate is much higher). That’s after adding in all other North County shelters than the HSC.

    So it looks like HSC Executive Director Monica Martinez’s suggestion is wildly optimistic, but maybe we can all test it out by trooping down there one Monday, hopefully with you there, notebook in hand, to see things first hand.

    Let me know if you’d agree to do that, and I think we can meet you down there on Monday. In the meantime, perhaps you can ask your buddies in blue to lay off the harassment so people can sleep at night until then.

    Yes, Virginia, there really is no shelter in Santa Cruz for the overwhelming majority of unsheltered homeless people here.

    For you not to know that after decades of Sentinel writing makes you either incredibly ignorant, willfully blind, or (most likely) terminally prejudiced.

    It may be unwise to offend the local paper of record, but the Sentinel’s longstanding sewer gusher of misinformation feeds the bigotry of those in the community who rely on it for even vaguely accurately information.

    The Sentinel’s knee-jerk police support also backs up politicians who cater to that bigotry and repeatedly issue misinformation that demeans and vilifies homeless people.

    Apologies and some real investigative journalism would be in order there, Don.

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