Categorized | State

Nevada City to Issue Permits for the Homeless

 

Police Chief’s Unique Program:  Have Permit or Leave

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

A Nevada City police chief says he’s found a one-of-a-kind way to manage a growing problem in his city, and it’s putting the homeless on the hot seat, the Nevada City
News
reported.

A new law would give Nevada City the power to hand out permits to a small group of homeless, which would give them permission to sleep in public.

While the new ordinance would give some homeless a place to stay, it would tell others, mostly the troublemakers and the criminals, to stay away.

“The goal is to start managing the homeless population within our city,” said Nevada City Police Chief James Wickham.  Wickham had asked council members to pass a no-camping ordinance which was approved.

“It just basically means you can’t set up a tent.  You can’t live in your vehicle. You can’t live in the woods in Nevada City,” he said.  “That is, unless you have a permit.”

The police chief says his program is unique, making only a select few of the city’s homeless population an exception to the law– like William Peach.

“There’s some of us out there like me who try and want to blend in with the community,” said Peach, a homeless individual camping out in the rural areas of Nevada City.

For Bob Barton, another homeless man who chooses to live in Nevada City, the new ordinance is music to his ears, he said.

“I come down here every fall and don’t want no trouble,” Barton said.

The new ordinance would essentially identify law-abiding homeless and reward them with a permit and hassle-free immunity as long as they behave appropriately.

For others, however, who come to Nevada City to commit crimes or
with a criminal history, well, they won’t be so lucky.  They won’t be issued permits.

“Those are the ones we really don’t want in our city and that we’re trying to keep from camping in our city,” said Wickham.

“We’ve seen a huge upsurge in homeless people,” Teresa Mann said.  Mann, who owns a business in downtown, says it’s about time– and so do the homeless who stay out of trouble and want trouble to stay away.

“If they’re homeless and heartless, hey, we got a place for them,” said “James”, who is homeless. “It’s called County Jail.”

For now, the police chief will give out about six to 10 permits.  He’ll check back in six months to see if the program is working.  If it is, that’s when he says he’ll give out more.

Chief Wickham says he’s identified at least 60 homeless in his community, and 500 homeless countywide.

 

* * * * * * * *

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

 

4 Responses to “Nevada City to Issue Permits for the Homeless”

  1. Robin M. Donald says:

    This is still the iron fist of the Criminalize the Houseless Policy adopted en masse by city governments across the country. Nevada City Police Chief James Wickham’s categorization of good people who are houseless and bad people who are houseless (“troublemakers and criminals”)is of the same mindset of the 1930′s Nazis who came up with the categories “productive worker” and “unproductive worker.”

    Wickham’s demonization of some people who are houseless as “troublemakers and criminals” is in line with the law and order, moral authority based mentality which, when confronted with the decades-long failure on the part of the “job creators” to actually create jobs and the consequent high number of people who became unemployed because of this failure – many of whom are houseless – this mentality totally drops out of consideration the state of poverty millions of people have been cast into as being a relevant – if not dominant – factor in any subsequent activity which has been determined to be criminal.

    Once the person who is in an unemployed-houseless state has had that state be conceptually isolated and removed from the economic and political realities which are the contexts and underpinnings of their lives, and the focus and blame for a person being houseless is reduced to being the responsibility solely of the person who is houseless, than any “criminal” activity is seen as being solely caused by their inherent personal moral weakness: it is seen as being their own fault.

    Even after someone has paid for their “crime,” done the time, paid the fine, they are still stigmatized by their “criminal” status. How soon before, just like in 1930′s Germany, will we require people to wear badges to signify their status?

    What does it mean that Wickham has decided to issue only 6-10 sleeping permits when he says there are 60 people who are houseless in his community? Does this mean that in Nevada City only from 10% – to 17% of the people who are houseless will get permits to sleep because the remaining 83% to 90% “come to Nevada City to commit crimes or with a criminal history”?

    Because proving intent to commit a crime is very difficult, and the effort to determine such intent can legally only be undertaken after the fact of a crime, I’ll wager it won’t be long before Nevada City is sued for stereotyping people and arresting them for thought crimes.

    I am not surprised that Wickham, the Chief of Police, suggested this plan of action to the Nevada City Counsel. He’s justifying his salary and the salary of the other law officers, court staffers and judges, and prison guards, etc. who will benefit from this criminalizing of people who are houseless policy.

    His plan of action, now Nevada City’s plan, to further criminalize people who are houseless is costly and cruel. It is also not as unique as Wickham claims. In one form or another it has been implemented and failed throughout the United States over the past decades, as is evidenced by the ongoing creation and existence of people who are houseless (whatever their status).

    As I said before, I don’t think it will be long before the City Council of Nevada City are legally enjoined to quit their callous demonizing and punishing of people who are the “unproductive” houseless, and forced to become good Samaritans.

    The bottom line is that the Republican-controlled House which has refused to discuss and pass job-creation bills; Wall Street’s sub-prime mortgage ponzi scheme; the illegal Iraq and Afghanistan wars; and the unscientific and highly politicized War on Drugs have more to do with a person becoming houseless and engaging in criminalized activity than their moral character or lack of one.

    It’s time to stop blaming the victims and instead to truly help them to help themselves. People who are houseless need housing (minimally self-regulated campsites) and jobs (socially productive and ecologically sustainable). As a society we need to change our values so that we can live simply so that others (people and species and the Earth as a whole) can simply live.

  2. Kyle says:

    Wow, I agree with Robin. I can’t believe I would see this article here. I moved away from the midwest to escape these crazy discriminating bigots and now it is spreading here.. What Robin said, you can hate the homeless and blame them for our problems but they are a result of policy determined by politicians who were determined by the people.. The more hatred I see aimed at the homeless the less faith I have in humanity. How can you hate a whole group of people because they don’t live in a house? How can you spit on someone because they’re sitting on the sidewalk? Have you ever thought that they have no where else to sit? That they would love to have your couch or your lazy boy recliner to sit back in and relax? They may not work from 9-5 like you do but they have to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They don’t get a fucking vacation. Every day there is hunger, sadness and loneliness.. Kids that didn’t have the opportunity that you did. Don’t lie to yourself by saying everyone has the same opportunities because if you knew anything about the real world then you would know that is bullshit. How can you morally step on the ones that have already been thoroughly stomped?
    “”Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

  3. Skippy says:

    Well said, Robin and Kyle. You brought up some very good points related to the more Draconian side of this thorny and sensitive issue. Thank you.

    We’ll be keeping an eye on this subject in the months to come to see what develops and where it goes– and if this ‘one-of-a-kind’ novel idea– or panacea– spreads to other communities, city councils, and police chiefs.

    We suspect it will end up in court as there are some Constitutional questions and issues to consider.

  4. Jim says:

    Nevada City is having a special meeting to determine what to do with $650,000 they’ve managed to compile in the general fund – an excess of money if you will. According to the agenda they’ve put together it appears they would rather see it all spent on important things like new 23″ computer monitors, sound systems they can use to better hear what they choose to ignore or a new police car to chase down the homeless that you criminalize. I just found out that California State law requires every city to provide the homeless with a shelter – I find it hard to believe that Nevada City hasn’t known thism, it’s as much their responsibility to know the law as it is to make it. But rather than actually do something that might actually help someone other than business owners and the more well to do population they’d rather keep studying, analying and brainstorming but never actually doing anything productive about this growing epidemic – other than make it even harder for these people to exist … shame on you. Stop evading your responsibility, start serving ALL the people in your community and stop being such self seeking unfeeling hypocrites.

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