Tuesday, October 11, 2016

An Open Letter to the Mayor and City Council of Pasadena: Let's end, not criminalize, homelessness!

This is a letter that I sent out today to the Pasadena City Council. If you live, work or worship in Pasadena and would like to see our City focus on ending, not criminalizing or managing, homelessness, please come to the Pasadena City Council on Monday, Oct 17, at 6:30 pm. You can also let the Mayor and City Council members know how you feel by writing them via the Clerk Clerk at mjomsky@cityofpasadena.net.

You can find talking points at http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2016/10/why-we-need-more-affordable-housing-not.html

Dear Mayor and Council members,

Like you, I am concerned about homeless people sleeping on our streets and would like to see every homeless person in our city housed. That's the solution to our homelessness problem, not tougher laws.

Lt. Morris, a police officer in San Diego, says what most police officers would agree with: "You can't arrest your way out of this problem." .http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/nonprofits/authorities-cant-force-the-homeless-off-the-street-heres-what-they-can-do/

It sometimes helps to arrest chronically inebriated homeless people and give them a choice between jail and treatment, but only if it's part of a community-based approach involving all the stakeholders, as was done in San Diego. Simply arresting and fining homeless people, sending them to jail, and giving them a criminal record only makes it harder for them to get housed.

Laws that criminalize the homeless can also jeopardize HUD funding for our city.

Pasadena already has lots of laws on the books that protect citizens and businesses from obnoxious or threatening behavior. (See below)

What we need is more permanent, supportive housing. We have the land to build affordable housing like "Marv's place" in every district. Council members need to have the political will and courage to do what's right and needed.

We also need to engage the religious and non-profit community, as was done in Santa Barbara with their program to let homeless people use parking lots. For health and safety reasons, homeless people need access to facilities like showers and bathrooms and lockers. See . http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-homeless-safe-parking-20160504-story.html

We have lots of space in this city where homeless people could sleep without being considered a nuisance..

Our city has been successful in reducing the number of homeless from around 2000 to around 500. Let's make it our goal to end chronic homelessness in our city. Si, se puede, if we spend our money wisely and use smart strategies, as Utah and other places have done with programs like Housing First. 

.        Pasadena police do not need “new tools,” i.e. more stringent laws, to protect the public from aggressive panhandlers and camping.  Current laws already provide ample protection to businesses and property owners:
·         If anyone leaves something (e.g. a tent or sleeping bag) on someone else’s private property, the owner can toss it in the trash or sell it as abandoned property.  If someone leaves their property on a publicly owned site, it must be handled according to certain guidelines. According to Officer Domino Scott-Jackson, police have a right to evict people from a public place using a 72 hour notice and at hour 73, their belongings can then be removed. Items must be kept in storage for 30 days. If they aren’t claimed, they can be disposed of.
·         Property owners have a right to put up a No Trespassing sign on their property. If someone goes on their property without permission to do so, they can call the police and the police on request of the owner can arrest the person for trespassing under Penal Code (PC) 602(o)(2).
·         The Trespass Enforcement Authorization letter makes it clear for the police that the person who is on another person’s property is not welcome. A business owner can file a “Trespass Enforcement Authorization Letter” with the police department that allows officers to make arrests of those individuals who are on the property afterhours. If that letter were not on file, the officers could not request the individuals to leave or make any arrests. They would have to contact the owners every single time they find people at the property to investigate whether or not the person has permission from the owner to be there.
·         A person can be arrested for illegal camping or lodging under Pasadena Municipal code(PMC) 3.24.110(8) and/or Penal Code(PC) 647(e)
·         A person in possession of a shopping cart (with an identified business) could face a violation of PMC9.62.070 and PC485.  
·         Businesses and churches that are open to the public have the right to ask folks to leave under PC602(o)(2). When the owner asks someone to leave and they refuse, they can be arrested.
·         Currently, It’s not illegal to pan-handle in Pasadena, as long as you are not blocking the driveway, impeding traffic or standing in the street (See Vehicle Code 22520.5(a) – infraction). But threatening behavior by a panhandler can be considered “accosting,” a crime according to California Penal Code Section 647.
·         If someone feels harassed by a pan handler, a citizen’s arrest can be made, showing that the pandhandler intends to do something illegal, under code PC647(c), which addresses  aggressive panhandling.

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