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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Santa Cruz Indymedia | Government & Elections | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and Prisons
Bathrooms....in Santa Cruz??!!
Today's Sunday Sentinel featured Jessica York's story around Santa Cruz, the Town Without Crappers. A front-page above-the-fold story, no less. It can be found at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/social-affairs/20170701/santa-cruz-seeks-public-bathroom-solutions-while-its-homeless-population-crosses-its-legs but since such stories disappear or become accessible only to those who pay for on-line privileges, I'm repeating it below along with my commentary.
Thanks to Jessica York for a long overdue story.
The headline is mistitled, of course.
City Manager Martin Bernal's government has not been "searching for solutions" other than to run homeless people out of sight or out of town.
However, trying to blame homeless people for the stark stench of sewage when the City is shutting off nighttime (as well as much daytime) crapper use does make Mayor Chase's "compassionate" image seem ridiculous if not slightly demented.
Still-in his attempt to shut down the Freedom Sleepers protests at City Hall (coming up for their 104th night this Tuesday, Bernal and Chase have closed and locked City Hall bathrooms even during the day.
His staff has refused to keep open 24-hours the Soquel/Front garage bathrooms.
The City has declined to seek out and fund even the more limited Visitor's Bathrooms. The Coonerty Bookshop Santa Cruz bathrooms have been open only to those whose political views and actions the Coonerty family supports. Many have excluded in spite of the fact that in getting public money, the Coonerty clan is required to keep its bathrooms open to all. And is not doing so.
Much of the information York presents is instructive and valuable if years overdue.
She's been sitting at City Council meetings for years and has been well-aware of the situation.
The "dirty homeless" label has long been a big part of the drive 'em out of town campaign (here and in other cities). And you might imagine locked bathrooms may have a tad to do with this problem.
The drug scare story which York leads with, of course, can only be addressed through a radical change in policy--such as drug injection and inhalation centers and treating drugs as a medical rather than criminal issue. The Sentinel has been a cowardly observer on this issue.
Former Councilmember Pamela Comstock fought a commendable (if only partially successful) struggle to open the Locust/Soquel garage bathrooms in the summer of 2014. She was resolutely opposed by the staff, who were able to dilute and restrict her motion--even though it was passed by City Council.
The bathrooms were closed at night 6 months later not because of needle use or vandalism, but because people were sheltering themselves in there. Because there was no legal shelter then as now for the overwhelming majority of those outside.
This lack of shelter receives no mention from York. And all the while Mayor Chase holds meaningless Study Sessions on housing while her City Manager drives elderly and disabled women away from the protection of the City Hall corridors and onto the streets, dispersing the fragile community that gathered there two months ago.
The wretched 24-hour portapotty, which I dub the Posner Poopster, was an expensive
alternative to actually opening up the more sanitary, easily cleaned, and accessible brick-and-mortal bathrooms. These already existing in San Lorenzo Park, at City Hall, in some of the parking garages, and elsewhere.
But, as York quotes in her story, the Posner Poopster at Front and Laurel was designed to fail in spite of the well-intentioned efforts of Brent Adams and others. At best it was, a token and inadequate alternative to opening already existing bathrooms.
It's hard to support massive police action against the homeless for "unsanitary" when there ain't no place to be sanitary. Well, then, reply our gentry, they should just leave--even those whose families grew up here.
One needn't even mention the shut down of the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center's bathrooms two years ago under the "show your ID or the guards will stop you at the
gates" management of Phil Kramer.
The cruelty and hypocrisy of forcing the most poor to crap all over themselves or hide in the bushes exposes something fundamentally rotten here.
York's front page article is a start, however limited. Now start comparing enforcement costs with the costs of restoring adequate needle disposal, functioning 24-hour bathrooms, and emergency campgrounds.
If only we could find a journalist with the stones, focus, and energy to pursue that story. But then I suppose we'd need an entirely new paper.