Aug 19 2007

From Sea to Shining Sea


HUFF et al have had a demonstration against the sleeping ban on the lawn of city hall. It began Sunday night and ended Saturday morning when a number of police confronted them, ticketed some, and broke everything up.

What they will do now is any one’s guess.

On my way to the library this morning I stopped to drink a soda and smoke a cigarette, and a couple sat in the bench across from me. They spoke as if they knew who I was or had read more than a little of my writing. He began by telling me he had a trailer towed and rather than pay $100-$200/day to get it back he just let them have it. I’m sure that happens many times. For a lot of people, paying that means they can’t pay the rent.

For other people, it’s their home that’s gone, and they wouldn’t be living there in the first place if they could pay to get it out.

He went on to say his father used to be a big contractor here but he left because they wouldn’t let him build any more homes. He said they could take half of one of the state parks and build enough housing to house all the homeless – though he didn’t seem clear to me on what the numbers really were. And he spoke specifically about all the forestland between here and San Jose.

I don’t know about that. And I got kind of irritated with them. I guess I didn’t really want to think about it, and I was a little angry it had taken me all day to get online because I’m homeless. And because my reading glasses broke yesterday and I had to take a bus to get to a drug store that had the kind I would pay money for; in short I was angry because it took all morning to get a pair of reading glasses and a fast food lunch and if I had a home I could have gotten the glasses in an hour (at most) and had my coffee while I checked my email and forums and been online hours by now. And I could have eaten a decent lunch I prepared myself, while I worked on my genealogy online.

As it is…

…here in Compassion Central, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave it is illegal to sleep between 11pm and 8:30am. Now besides the obvious problems with that such as: What are the poor supposed to do all night?, and “How are they supposed to take advantage of the bountiful kindness of the community?”; free showers (sign a list and wait at least an hour), free food (stand in line for at least an hour), etc. – besides the obvious problem, there’s the problem that if such a law was in force from Sea to Shining Sea, then where would the poor and homeless go?

For the purpose of that law, and all the others, is to make being homeless such a torturous ordeal that the poor will leave. So what shall we do when they have no where else to go?

I found myself thinking about that after I snapped at the couple and left; that such a law would not, could not, be enforced everywhere.

In my case, it was about 1997 I left San Francisco because it was too expensive for me to live on my disability income. And I’ve been hounded and run out of one town after another, from one end of the state to the other, because I’m a medical marijuana patient. The fact is, anywhere in the state that has a ‘dispensary’ is EXPENSIVE. And anywhere that doesn’t is not the kind of place you can grow your own without the police stealing everything you have and throwing you out in the street. I know this because I tried it.

Ryan Coonerty made a public statement that Santa Cruz’s sleeping ban is one of the oldest laws in the city, enacted before he was born. Well, slavery flourished in this country for well over two centuries before it was abolished through the bloodiest war ever fought on native soil.

Being poor is a kind of slavery. And being homeless, particularly, is a kind of slavery. I’d be willing to bet that those who scream the shrillest that it’s expensive here and the poor should go somewhere else, are the same ones that scream that homosexuality is wrong because ‘if’ everyone did it, it would be the end of the human race.

Or, let me put it this way: Those of you who think the sleeping ban is legal and should stand or who think it’s the proper tool legal or not, do you think it should be law county-wide, state-wide, and nation-wide?

And then what? Should it be illegal to be poor here in The Land of The Free and The Home of The Brave? Or is Santa Cruz so special that only it (and maybe a few select other places) should have such a law?

Or, let me put it this way: If it were ‘legal’ to be poor and homeless, would you people on West Cliff abandon your mansions and sleep in Light House Field? How many of you would? Other than the disabled, the chronicly unemployed, and students fed up with paying $750/month for a room without even a toilet – other than those who have no viable choice – who would?

The couple talked about the weather here, and it is nice I suppose. Though I get really bored with one perfect day after another. I like a little variety. A good thunderstorm now and then. That sort of thing.

And when the rain starts, it rains every morning about sunrise, and every evening about sunset. And it gets freezing cold, with a huge chill factor in the hours before sunrise. Other places have huge chill factors every now and then, but here it’s day after day after day of damp cold, with a huge chill factor, rain, and biting wind for months, generally from November to May, with the worst of it toward the end, about February and March.

They talk about how expensive it is here, and use that as some kind of justification for excluding the poor. Well, in my case it would be more expensive to live almost anywhere else. As an unapologetic gay medical marijuana patient, I find myself wondering if a left-handed black lesbian in Alabama could have it any worse than what I’ve endured here in Compassion Central, Home of The Free and Land of The Brave. I do believe if I could do it over again I would have kept those twenty acres I inherited, for I don’t think there’s anything they could do to me in Alabama that could be worse than what they’ve done to me here. And, at least, I would have been able to live like a human being for a little while.

Who knows, I might have been able to sit in a rocker on the front porch in my own house on my own land and smoke a bowl while I worked on my genealogy, unmolested. At least once…

A giggle, a handshake, and a tap

I think if I’d tried to act like a jerk I couldn’t have come across as more of one in my interactions with a couple of the people who organized the sleep-in. It could have been my disease. I ran out of medicine sometime Saturday and by Sunday night was really short on patience. But while I’m not at all proud of my behavior, I’m certain I couldn’t have worked with them. They rubbed me the wrong way.

But the fact is, they did the work. I saw them out there all day long day after day. And I admire that. And I’m somewhat lucky I’ve found a place to sleep for the past month unmolested and unharassed. Usually, when I find a place, sooner or later other homeless see me going and coming, and start sleeping there, and then the police roust every one. And when it’s raining I’m not going to have a place to sleep.

But I don’t think I could tolerate all the rules and regulations and nit-picking and ‘requirements’ that sleeping in a homeless camp would entail. When I listened to the organizers ‘report’ to Robert, I realized it would just be a matter of time before they would come at me the wrong way at the wrong time and I would exclaim a heartfelt “Go To Hell!” and give them a larger piece of my mind than they could digest.

I spent a lot of time asking myself why I behaved the way I did and going over what happened. I know I said to myself, “I’ll give them half an hour and then I’ll say something.” And they were still chattering away, completely oblivious to the dozen or so people sleeping, or trying to sleep, near them. And by the time half an hour had gone by I was so angry that when I did say something – actually I started packing up before I said anything – but when I did say something and she giggled…

After being prompted and reassured I returned the next night. And they rattled off their ‘report’ to Robert. They came across as attempting to be a professional and no-nonsense as they could be, which was all well and good. But besides the handshake that was too intimate and too ‘friendly’, there were other things I’d as soon not mention. But it put me off.

And then there was the ‘tap’. Another of them asked me for some of my medicine. The didn’t offer any documentation that they were a patient. And when another patient that was present said something about, “what happened to that green I saw you with yesterday”, they replied, “Oh, I sold it.”


But they didn’t want to mix the issues of the issues of “The Sleeping Ban” with the refusal to provide homeless services, housing, and social services to medical marijuana patients.

I told Bernard while we sat in the courtroom waiting for my arraignment, that in short I didn’t want to ‘butt heads’ with those people all night.

But I’m not here to criticize them. And I think I wish I’d never said anything at all. We share a common grievance. We have a common enemy. The Sleeping Ban is wrong. It would never stand from Sea to Shining Sea. And they worked their butts off, whether they were the best people to do it or not, they are the ones that did it.

Could I have done it? No, I couldn’t have dealt with the public all day long, and I couldn’t have dealt with the ass-holes all day long and I am far to tired. I am exhausted.

A friend had me over to clean-up yesterday and let me sleep on his futon. I feel asleep about 6pm. I thought I would wake up in an hour and could do my laundry before the laundromat closed. I slept till midnight. And within an hour or so I was asleep again, and slept till 7 or so.

I am exhausted.

Robert sent me an email yesterday about the sleep-in being raided Saturday morning. And mentioned 3 meetings (the last of which has occurred by now) where ‘they’ would decide what, if anything, they do next. He says they were told by the police they would be left alone if they slept anywhere but the lawn in front of City Hall…

Myself, I think they should stick together, if they can. And sleep the ‘designated’ hours in front of City Hall, on the lawn, right where they were. From 8:30am in the morning until 11:pm at night. Day after day after day. Week after week after week. Month after month after month.

But I’m not doing the work. And I’m not going to be the one worried about someone dealing drugs, or using drugs illegally. And I’m not going to be the one that has to deal with any and every Tom, Dick, Harry, Jane, Hermione, Moon Beam, Stray Cat, and Homie, that comes along…

…I wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

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