Perusing the very local newspaper produced in Boulder Creek, my ire was aroused by a top of the page headline on the trash produced by “the homeless” in the community. I am moved to ask, “What kind of community do we have here in the San Lorenzo Valley? Does it only care about trash, or does it care about people?”
I want to try to tell my homeless neighbors up in the redwood forest here that they are not alone. Not everyone wants them to disappear without a trace. In my small circle of acquaintances in town, one had a family living in a motor home in their back yard, and another was helping his son “get back on his feet” after a car accident by having him live on his property in a small outbuilding. We have folks who need a little help, and we have compassionate community members helping them by offering them a place to sleep at night. We have church and community programs helping in organized programs as well.
Providers of homeless services have been promoting a new vision of service for the people that need the most help: permanent supportive housing for those chronic homeless, many of whom have untreated mental health issues or substance dependencies or both. Many people support this model of providing help, but it is more expensive than another model that homeless advocates are now discussing. If there were enough community support, either through charities, government, or private entrepreneurship, this community could house people in a campground where trash could be collected, sanitary facilities provided, and a sense of interdependency could be created, with peers helping peers. Other communities have found that this helps people “get back on their feet.”
Currently, we have many paths leading nowhere. People sleep in their cars. People sleep in the woods. Those who have drawn attention to the problem in creative non-violent political protest have been sent to jail or fined. A fraction of the homeless population are sheltered at night in the city of Santa Cruz, another fraction in spare bedrooms and backyards all over the county. The community can do better by coming together, finding those that agree with our project, creating new partnerships amongst those that are already caring for people in need, listening to our critical rivals, and finally by taking action.
Occupy Santa Cruz will be discussing a “Sanctuary Camp” this Saturday in front of the downtown Santa Cruz Post Office. You may meet at 4 PM for a vegan meal shared by Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs, and stay for the General Assembly at 5:30 PM. Decisions are made through a consensus process open to all. I look forward to seeing you there.