Tag Archive | "homeless"

Share No More

 

90-Year-Old Florida Man Faces Jail
for Feeding the Homeless

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recently joined more than 30 cities that have restricted or are taking steps to restrict sharing food with the homeless.  But one Good Samaritan, Arnold Abbott, says he plans to keep breaking the law by feeding the homeless.

 

Late last month, the city of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., passed a series of laws that restricted where organizations could feed the homeless.

On Sunday, when a 90-year-old man received a citation in Stranahan Park, the effects of these new laws came into full view.

Arnold Abbott, who is ordered to appear in court, says that hundreds of homeless people had gathered in the park and then police arrived.  

Police issued court orders to him and two members of the clergy, who were handing out food.  He says he faces a maximum of a $500 fine and two months in jail.

During his arrest, onlookers were outraged and shouted ‘shame on you!’ to Fort Lauderdale officers.  At one point an officer yelled at Abbott to ‘drop that plate right now!’ as if it were a dangerous weapon.

Abbott put up his food-gloved hands to calm and quiet the crowd as he was quietly led away by the officers.

“These are the poorest of the poor, they have nothing, they don’t have a roof over their heads.  How do you turn them away?”Abbott told NBC News.  “I don’t do things to purposefully aggravate the situation.  I’m trying to work with the city.  Any human has the right to help his fellow man.”

Also cited were two Christian ministers — Dwayne Black, pastor of The Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale, and Mark Sims of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs.

In 1999, Mr. Abbott sued the City of Fort Lauderdale after he was banned from feeding the homeless on the beach.  A court ruled that such a law was against the Constitution. 

The new regulations require groups to be at least 500 feet away from residential properties and food sites are
restricted to one per city block, but various charities have
criticized the rules as forms of social cleansing.

Mr. Abbott is a longtime advocate of the downtrodden.  He says he has been feeding the homeless at a local beach for more than 20 years, and founded his organization, Love Thy Neighbor, in 1991.  He says he will return to that beach tonight– and expects a repeat of Sunday’s interaction with police.

“After I was cited, I took everybody over to a church parking lot,” he says in a phone interview.  “We did feed everybody.  It wasn’t a complete waste.”

Mayor Jack Seiler, who was unavailable for an interview by press time, told the Sun Sentinel that providing homeless people with a meal perpetuates a “cycle of homeless” in Fort Lauderdale.

“Providing them with a meal and keeping them in that cycle on the street is not productive,” Seiler said.

David Raymond, who served for nine years as executive director of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, said last month that limiting outdoor food service could make sense.  Food, he said, should connect homeless people with other services.  And he noted the tensions that can occur when those providing food bring homeless people periodically to the same place, which can hurt area businesses.

One of the recent laws passed in Fort Lauderdale, aiming to mitigate this tension, will require volunteers to bring portable toilets to all food distribution events.

These rules, Abbott says, are “ridiculous.”

“They’re doing everything in the world,” he says, “to rid the area of homeless persons.”

The National Coalition for the Homeless released a report last month called “Share No More,” listing more than 30 cities that have restricted or are taking steps to restrict food-sharing programs.  The report also aims to correct assumptions about food sharing.  To the coalition, a lack of affordable housing, few job opportunities and disability perpetuate homelessness more than food-sharing programs do.

Other cities that have attempted to restrict, ban, or relocate food-sharing programs are Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Phoenix, according to the report.

Rules that restrict organizations from feeding the homeless, Abbott says, show a lack of common sense among legislators.  Without outdoor feedings, homeless people would need to resort to digging through dumpsters or similar drastic measures, he says.

“This I don’t want to happen,” he says.

“I will continue fighting, I will promise you that. I will not let up.”

  ~Via Christian Science Monitor, Broward-Palm Beach New Times,
    Sun Sentinel, UK Daily Mail, and YouTube

 

 

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Going the Distance

 

Ronnie Goodman’s Long Run

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Ronnie Goodman may well be San Francisco’s
most unexpected half-marathoner. 

He might not have a comfortable place to rest his aching feet at night, but that didn’t keep the homeless artist from running 13.1 miles in San Francisco’s half marathon for charity.

Drug addiction and prison time left Goodman without a home, sleeping on the streets of San Francisco.

Now, sober for more than a decade, Goodman trained for the city’s marathon, setting out to conquer the same streets on which he sleeps.  He finished the race
in 1:43, raising $10,000 for charity.

When he’s not out beating the streets, he paints.

Goodman, 54, has been living under a freeway in San Francisco for two years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.  Still, he trains two or more hours every day to fulfill his dream of running in the famed local event.  And his fans have found a way to make sure he will.

After reading about his love of running in the Chronicle’s original profile of Goodman, the fans stepped in and donated $120 to cover his entry fee for the July race.

While Goodman could have certainly used the race as a way to raise additional funds for himself, he’s decided to give back to the organization that’s helping him get back on his feet.

He collected money for Hospitality House, an organization that empowers homeless and low-income people through a number of initiatives including an art program that encouraged Goodman to pursue his passion.

The self-taught artist paints and draws works that explore both the beauty and diversity of his city along with images of human despair, according to his website.

Setting a pretty ambitious goal for himself of raising $25,000 for the organization, his donors were entered into a raffle to win one of Goodman’s original works.

Looking forward to showing the Hospitality House just how grateful he is, Goodman feels confident he can reach his goal.

This is my chance to give back to them,” Goodman told the Chronicle.  “That makes me very happy.”

~Via Ronnie Goodman, Google News,
SF Gate/Huffington Post, Vimeo

 

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Making the News

 

From Headlines to Hard Times

Award Winning VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Ed Mitchell is a former Reuters, BBC and ITN-TV journalist who lost it all.

Educated at England’s prestigious Durham University, Mitchell had stints at Channel Four, the European Business Channel, Asia Business News, European Business News and CNBC Europe in the 1990s until he was let go by CNBC in 2000.

From there it was a downward spiral for Mitchell.  He struggled to find work without success.  Once earning a salary of $200,000 per year, he fell into a vicious cycle of alcoholism, divorce, credit card debt and bankruptcy, and then ultimately, homelessness.

In 2007, the media revealed that the once famous newscaster had become homeless, sleeping on the park benches of Brighton’s Hove seafront.

In January 2008, the documentary Saving Ed Mitchell was shown about his struggle.  The end of the bleak documentary, presented by his former ITN colleague Carol Barnes, showed him being given an opportunity to return to news casting if he attended the Priory Clinic for his alcohol abuse treatment.  He made the choice to do it.

Successfully abstaining from drinking after his treatment, Mitchell got back onto his feet and returned to broadcasting.  He is the author of the best-selling book, From Headlines to Hard Times

He now helps with the recovery of others and considers himself fortunate for being given a second chance turning his life around.  He emphasizes that a life of regrets lead to resentments, alcoholism to homelessness, and that it can happen to anyone.

Making the News, an award-winning video, reflects on the period of life when Ed was homeless, living on Brighton’s seafront.

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Everyone Should Have Hope

 

Even Kids:  Mark’s Story

Pigeon Road Films

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Everyone needs a little hope from their friends.

Project Hope Alliance, a non-profit charity based in California, strives to move homeless families out of motels and shelters into affordable homes of their own, and to provide homeless children a proper education and brighter future.

They share this story of Mark, a 10-year-old boy who is homeless like 28,000 other kids in Orange County.

His story is not unlike those in Humboldt.  Or anywhere and
nowhere, for that matter.

Homelessness is usually something we see only with a passing glance.  It’s easy to brush off the nameless adults as people who’ve merely chosen to settle into a rough spot for their adult lives.  After all, it was their choice, we say.

But when we see the tragedy of being homeless told through the eyes of a child, it’s a more difficult situation to fathom and looking the other way no longer seems acceptable.

 

 * * * * * * * * *

Project Hope Alliance – Alternate version of My Life, (Poem) from Pigeon Road on Vimeo.

Film Credit:  Pigeon Road Films
Written and Produced by Andrew Maguire
Original Score by Jordan Calig

 

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Humboldt’s Contentious Meeting on the Homeless

 

Hundreds Attend Arkley’s Throwing Down of the Homeless Gauntlet

(Local Reading Links)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The mighty Thadeus Greenson filed his firsthand report in
the Times-Standard this morning best explaining what had
transpired last night:

“Hundreds of people descended on Eureka’s Wharfinger Building on Wednesday night to passionately discuss homelessness and its impact on Humboldt County at a meeting called by local businessman Rob Arkley.

Contentious at times, the meeting saw more than 300 people pile into the building’s main ballroom, as at least another 100 were forced to wait outside by Humboldt Bay Fire Chief Ken Woods because the building was at capacity.  

As about a dozen protesters clamored on the Wharfinger building lawn — leading to four arrests — a string of dozens of speakers touched on all angles of the local homeless debate…

…Many in attendance booed, cheered and jeered speakers on all sides of the issue in the meeting’s early minutes before the audience seemed to mellow slightly as the meeting went on…” 


For his full and detailed story, we suggest reading Mr. Greenson’s full Times-Standard article here
“Hundreds Attend Arkley’s Meeting on Homelessness– Raucous Gathering Shows Community is Deeply Divided on the Issue” 

…There were reports by others in attendence, too.  Here are some partial excerpts from the local media posts, with links for reading the full article:

 

From the Samoa Softball blogspot’s “Arkley’s Home-Poor Meeting:  What Was That?”

So I went to Rob Arkley’s impromptu meeting regarding the home poor and was surprised at what a huge gathering it was.  Biggest at the Wharfinger since…..the gala for the Marina Center a few years back  (No, I didn’t attend that one, but I drove by out of curiosity).

It was standing room only and some were left outside because of Fire Marshal rules.

Rob gave a quick introduction and said he wanted to fix the root problems leading to homelessness and create a process for a solution… Then he passed the meeting on to his secretary, Shirley.  And she was overwhelmed and had no format to deal with the hour Rob had earmarked for the public to speak and go home to have dinner…

 

Lost Coast Outpost’s Andrew Goff filed his report, “At Rob Arkley’s Homelessness Symposium (Audio)”

“This is a case where our desire to do right has become wrong. We’ve become an absolute magnet for the homeless unlike other communities.”

Arkley kicked off the evening by laying out how he thinks Eureka arrived at the place it is and asks people to join together to attempt to solve the problem. 

“Our goal tonight is to create a process, to get a list of people who’d like to participate in the solution,” he told the standing room only crowd…

Your Lost Coast Outpost, for better or worse, has included the full roughly hour-long audio of what was said below.  If you want to hunt around for the highlights, here’s a quick reference guide to the giant audio file…

 

From John Chiv Words Worth’s Wharfinger Meeting on Homeless Drew Crowd That Packed The Building

The meeting at the Wharfinger today regarding the homeless issue had the building packed to capacity. 

About 50 people had to stand outside until people exited and came in one by one as people left, in accordance with the fire chief’s instructions.

Eureka Police Department and private security dealt with some polite people who had RSVP’d and arrested a small group of disruptive protestors led by the queen of protest du jour, Verbena, aka Kim Starr…

 

KIEM-TV had a brief reports focusing on the anti-social behavior of homeless advocate protesters.  

“The protesters could not have done a better job of alienating those around them who would have been more sympathetic to their cause because of their deliberately disruptive, intolerant and inciteful actions,” one observer told us.  “They did a real disservice getting their jollies.”

Not included in one KIEM’s video was Eureka Chief of Police Murl Harpham being shouted at and having water doused on him, other attention-getting protesters angrily inciting the waiting crowd outside, and the wanton goading of security officers towards escalating verbal arguments while claiming harassment:

Four people were arrested at a protest last night outside the Wharfinger Building.  The community packed the house to hear businessman Rob Arkley talk about on-going homeless issues.

As the debate escalated indoors, protesters were outdoors using horns and drums.  Police officials said they got a report of a disturbance at the building and when they arrived they found people yelling in the parking lot.

Officers arrested 41-year old Kimberly Starr, 41, Elise Gerhart, 26, Chad Kemp, 21 and Stephanie Bartlett, 21 for resisting arrest and disturbing the meeting.

 

Other local reading links of Wednesday night’s divided meeting can be found here:

Democratic Humboldt–First “Money is Ruthless.  Money is Cruel” and “Our Feudal Overlord Requests Our Protection”

North Coast Journal’s article by Kaci Poor: “Update:  Arkley Draws Big Crowd to Talk About Homelessness”

* * * * * * *

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

~Thomas Jefferson

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Fiona’s Second Chance

 

Her Amazing and Inspiring Transformation

(VIRAL VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Last year, animal rescue had their moment.

Get the Kleenex ready for a tearful happy ending.

In March of 2012, Hope For Paws released a video documenting their rescue of Fiona, a blind dog they found in a heap of trash.  

Eldad and Audrey Hagar already had a long history of documenting their rescues, with more than 130 YouTube videos to their credit and just over 1,000,000 YouTube views. 

Little did they know that Fiona’s video would change everything not only for their rescue, but the animal loving community at large.  Her story is the ultimate celebration of the journey from tragedy to triumph.  

It begins with a dire situation about a blind, homeless dog living in a rough neighborhood, struggling to survive. By nothing short of a miracle, two loving people find her, and make the impossible, possible.  They provide Fiona with a surgery to restore her vision, and give her a second chance at life.

The day the Hagar’s posted Fiona’s video, it took the world by storm.

Animal lovers, advocates and everyday people all felt a connection to Fiona and within days it hit dozens of major news sources around the world.  The Hagar’s were flooded with calls, emails, donations and people just wanting to say thank you. 

Fiona was adopted into the Gentry family home and given a new life following her inspiring transformation.  The above video has garned over 2 million views throughout the world.  The Hagars hope you will share it with others to raise animal rescue awareness, because as they point out, ”a billion people haven’t seen it yet.” 

Below is an update of how Fiona is doing today.

In life there is a moment when everything changes.  The moment itself is what matters; because afterwards nothing is ever the same and everything else less important didn’t matter after all.

 


(Via Annie Hart, DogHeirs.com)

To find out more about Hope For Paws, please visit their website or facebook page

If you enjoyed Fiona’s story, you may like our other Sentinel video article, “Rescuing Bethany, Saving Grace

For Allyn Lee and Lucy, Animal.Girl, and Susan Kennedy

* * * * * * * * *

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Rescuing Bethany, Saving Grace

 

A Sick and Homeless Dog’s Inspiring Transformation

(VIRAL VIDEO– Please Share)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Everyone needs a helping hand—or a paw—and someone
to lean on.

Eldad Hagar is well known online for his animal rescue endeavors, and with the help of Annie Hart of Hope For Paws and the Bill Foundation.org, frequently posts the emotional rescue videos for others.

His latest rescue was of Bethany, a sick and homeless dog.

After being contacted by a worried animal lover, Annie and Eldad coaxed the sick dog into the car with the help of a cheeseburger to take her to the vet.  Soon, with plenty of love and attention and care, Bethany would turn out just fine.

Making a touching account of her progress, Eldad and Annie ask that you share this with others.

 * * * * * * * *

If you liked this story, you may enjoy the Sentinel video article,Fiona’s Second Chance”

Please spread the word.  Share this– and all of our posts– with others, and friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  We appreciate and thank you for reading, and for giving us a little push in the right direction.

 

 

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Verbena V. Eureka

 

Occupy Eureka and the Scales of Justice

 

By Mitch
Guest Post to the Sentinel

 

Kim Starr, aka Verbena, is one of the people who spent time working with Occupy Eureka when they staged a protest in front of the Eureka Courthouse.

She’s also a member of the group called “Copwatch” which videotapes the police.

Verbena Kim StarrVerbena is not afraid to be rude or antagonistic.  She was born, perhaps, to be behind a bullhorn.  

Like all American citizens, Verbena is theoretically guaranteed certain rights by the Constitution of the United States.  These rights only exist to the extent that our elected officials and law enforcement officers are reminded of their existence, to the extent they are told they’ll lose office and perhaps go to jail unless they enforce them.  

We all like “freedom of speech” until American Nazis decide they’d like to march — then many people get upset when fans of the Constitution point out that our liberties are only solid if they are applied equally to those we may find
repulsive.  When the Nazis lose their civil liberties to march in public, we’ve
all lost our civil liberties; liberties that apply only to the popular are not liberties
at all.  People who aren’t fond of Nazis should understand this; not all do.

It’s hard for me to imagine a less pleasant demonstration than the one staged by Occupy Eureka at the courthouse a year and a half ago.

Occupy Eureka2It succeeded in uniting much of Eureka’s population behind one desire — to clean up the courthouse grounds and get rid of the mentally ill people who were staging a 24 hour nuisance and party.  If that was not the goal of Occupy Eureka, it can honestly be said that it failed completely and spectacularly.

Occupy, with its noble but problematic concept that decisions be made by consensus of who shows up, and with its antagonism to the idea of leaders imposing directions, was a sitting duck for a takeover of their efforts.  

The police did not do a good job of dealing with the mentally ill people who formed a hazard in front of the courthouse, and the compassionate members of Occupy tried to help those people rather than send them away.

When people see a dozen concerned citizens trying to make a point, along with one or two mentally ill people yelling obscenities in their faces, they tend to focus on the mentally ill people yelling obscenities.  To the extent that the dozen concerned citizens are the ones who attracted the mentally ill to the area, the general Eureka population proved uninterested in the point the twelve might be making.

Occupy Eureka4Unfortunately, Occupy and its hangers-on generated enough disgust and dismay that the county and city felt moved to restrict rights in the interest of moving it along.  With an “urgency ordinance” put in place quickly enough that no real thought was given to its Constitutional problems, law enforcement was able to move in late in 2011 and force the Occupy campers off the courthouse lawn.

On November 7th, in pre-dawn hours, the campers were rousted and instructed to move their belongings across the street from the courthouse.  

Video of the scene shows a bedraggled group of perhaps a dozen or 20 people dragging stuff across the street in compliance with instructions from law enforcement.  Video shows one guy playing bongo drums and Verbena, camera and bullhorn in hand, shouting.  Shortly afterwards, the Eureka Police Department declared the group across the street from the courthouse an “unlawful assembly,” ordering it to disperse.  Verbena did not, and was arrested.

Verbena says that some of her property, including a pop-up canopy that remained across the street from the courthouse lawn that morning, was seized by Eureka police.  It remained in police hands for five months, ostensibly for use as evidence, though it was never used as evidence. 

Occupy Eureka5Despite repeated attempts, including repeated trips to Eureka Police Department, Verbena was never able to get some of the property back. The pop-up canopy came back broken, I believe.  I’ve heard that the internal cords holding it together had been intentionally severed, but I haven’t seen that, and I couldn’t know who might have done that or when.

Verbena was arrested again three days later.  

According to a digital audio recording made by the arresting officer, Sergeant Guy of the Eureka Police Department, it took about 20 seconds from the time Guy
exited his cruiser to the time he had Verbena in custody.  

Guy testified at the criminal trial that he arrested Verbena because she was unruly and encouraging resistance to his mission, which was to keep people from sleeping on the lawn.  But the audio recording indicates otherwise, with no shouting preceding the arrest.  (I haven’t heard the tape but have heard descriptions of it.  At most, Verbena may have said “people need to rest.”)

After the criminal trial regarding that arrest, which included testimony from Verbena, Sgt. Guy, and eyewitnesses to the arrest, a jury ruled 10-2 for Verbena’s acquittal.

Verbena was arrested once again, at the end of the month.

courthouseShe sued in small claims court, alleging that her civil rights had been violated and that her property had been unfairly taken.  The hearing happened over the past two weeks, in front of a judge, Arvid Johnson, brought in from outside the county.

I decided to attend after the first day, at least when I was able, because I didn’t find any reporting of the hearing in the county’s paid media, and I viewed the Constitutional violations used to up-end the Occupy group as tragic.

I never did hear any coverage of the hearing until after it had finished, when the Times-Standard published a press release generated by the City of Eureka.  It accurately stated that the judge had found against Verbena on all three events about which she was suing.  

Occupy Eureka6I’m writing this because it’s hard for me to understand how an objective observer could listen to the digital audio recording as described and not reach the conclusion that Sergeant Guy’s testimony about Verbena’s arrest was erroneous.  Yet that testimony did not pose any problem for the visiting judge, who ruled the testimony credible.  If he had not, he would have had to take Verbena’s Constitutional claims more seriously.

It’s nice to be able to think that the problems of society will be dealt with by “someone else.”  

You pay your taxes, and, you hope, the government will do its job more or less acceptably; it will  fix the potholes, keep you safe, and administer justice.  If we can convince ourselves that other people are doing the dirty jobs necessary to run a society, we can remain on the sidelines and feel that things will function without our direct attention. 

Occupy Eureka7There are times, of course, when it becomes evident that the government is not doing its job acceptably. When I was in junior high and early high school, increasing numbers of protesters took to the streets against the government’s decisions about the Vietnam War.  Few things concentrate the mind as much as the realization that you or your friends might get drafted to get killed in a war against a group of southeast Asian peasants who have done you no wrong.

Somehow, around the time of the affable-appearing salesman Ronald Reagan, we largely seem to have decided as a nation that the government is doing — more or less — an acceptable job of things, and that we don’t need to intervene personally.

But what happens when someone sues for their rights and, perhaps because of their obnoxious behavior, a judge does not attempt to administer justice?  What happens when no one from society’s supposed watchdog, the “free press,” bothers to attend the trial, or even mention its existence until it’s over?

Occupy Eureka8On a larger scale, what happens when a set of bankers is allowed to rob a nation’s pension funds, or when a set of executives decide to rob California’s “little old lady” electricity consumers, or when a set of oil executives decide they can risk drilling in the Gulf of Mexico because it is completely safe.  What happens when a society continues acting as though more equals better, even when “more” civilization is destroying the environment that supports civilization itself?

What happens when the government doesn’t intervene, because expensive lobbyists represent the bankers and the executives and the oil companies, and lobbyist-Congressmen realize that they need those lobbyists’ money to buy the expensive propaganda campaigns that they must use to convince enough of the electorate to vote against their own interests?  What happens when a stint in Congress or government office becomes an entree into the lucrative field of lobbying, instead of an opportunity to take part in moral self-government?

scales of justiceWhat happens when people protest that despicable behavior, and the disastrous effects that behavior has had on our society, but the population is so bothered by the mentally ill people that are attracted to the protest that they take sides against those who are protesting, even though their instinct, in many cases, is that the protesters are right about the problems to which they tried to call attention?

I think what happens is that society breaks down.  Government loses its ability to persuade people to sacrifice for moral reasons, because people no longer see any fairness in what the government requests.  I think, eventually, you get a population that sees the government as the enemy, instead of as its self-selected leaders.

And I think that’s what you’re seeing today.  Verbena, though obnoxious when speaking through her bullhorn, is right.

What are we going to do about that?

 

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For those who may be unaware, here’s some background for Mitch’s guest post:

Verbena fistOn May 14, a Sacramento visiting judge sided with the City of Eureka and four members of its police force in a civil lawsuit brought by activist Kim “Verbena” Starr.

Starr claimed her civil rights were violated when she was arrested attending Occupy Eureka protests on three separate occasions, according to the Times-Standard and the City of Eureka’s press release.

In addition to Eureka Police Chief Murl Harpham, the suit named EPD sergeants Patrick O’Neil and Mike Guy, and Officer Terry Liles.

In his ruling, Judge Johnson stated that the City and its officers acted professionally, “despite the fact that there was ‘clear and immediate danger’ due to the protest and attempts by Occupiers to deliberately elicit a reaction from Officers,” according to the release.

Starr is just one in a group of people associated with the Occupy Eureka movement who filed claims for damages against the city, its police department and various county offices stemming from several incidents in November 2011, December 2012, and January 2013 in which Occupy protesters were arrested in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse by police.

 

The Humboldt Sentinel welcomes opinions, submissions, comments and suggestions from all points of view.

(Images by the Humboldt Sentinel.  Posted by Skippy Massey)

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‘An Evening With Betty’ Fundraiser for Betty Chinn’s New Day Center

 

Saturday, May, 11 at St. Bernard’s High School Gymnasium

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The community is invited to attend ‘An Evening with Betty’.

Come hear local advocate for the homeless Betty Chinn share stories of her life, her work with our local homeless population, and her recent trip to China to receive an international award.  This was Betty’s first trip back to China after having escaped over 45 years ago.  

This event will take place at St. Bernard’s High School Gymnasium on Saturday, May 11.

Doors will open at 6 pm, with dinner at 7 pm.

This is a kick-off fundraiser for Betty’s new Day Center, which will open in the fall.  Come see the building plans and learn about the programs that will be offered, while enjoying a delicious dinner provided by Rita’s.

easter lilyBeer, wine and margaritas will also be available.   

Tickets for this event are $20 each, and are available in advance at Picky, Picky, Picky or The Booklegger in Eureka, or at the door.  Get your tickets early!  This event WILL sell out!

For more information, please call Lisa at 822-7923.

~Thank You

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Betty Chinn Revisits Her Homeland– and Reclaims Her Past

 

Award from Chinese Media Group is Seen by Millions

(VIDEO)

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Betty Chinn left China as a young girl to start a new life in America. 
Now, she has returned to visit her former home-
land to accept an award.

She’ll also revisit her past there after 40 long years.

betty bannerThe International Chinese Media and Entertainment Group invited Chinn to Beijing to receive an award recognizing her service for the homeless on Saturday.  Chinn accepted the award in her usual and gracious manner:  sincerely reserved and humble, a bit misty-eyed, and wearing a beautiful silk purple dress underneath the ceremony’s logo of,  “You Bring Charm to the World.”

The media group presenting the award is one of the largest news and entertainment organization in China and is primarily involved in the production and licensing of news, film, television and satellite television
programming in and outside of the country.  The telecast seen above
was viewed by their audience of millions.

“Since I left as a young teenage girl, this is the first time I’ll return,” Chinn said previous to accepting the award.  “It’s really exciting, it’s a dream, it’s really emotional.”

betty hugIt’s been a long journey for Betty Chinn.  Chinn was forced into a child labor camp where she was tortured, practically starved, and escaped by walking 1,600 miles to Hong Kong, leaving her country behind.  Her young years were arduous, emotional, and traumatizing until coming to the United States, marrying, and starting a new life of service for others.

After immigrating to the United States, she silently lived out love and compassion by helping the poor of Humboldt County for the past 24 years.  With the salary earned from work at her children’s school, she applied herself towards helping hundreds of homeless
people.

betty truckChinn would drive to places in search of the homeless living under bridges, beside railroads, and even in the bushes to give them food.  Most were mentally-ill, veterans, run-away youths, and drug-users.  In 2006, with the help of many, she raised $40,000 and purchased a blue food truck so she could serve others while meeting the standards of the Health Department.

Delivering food– and with an army of volunteers– Chinn would try to understand the needs of homeless people and how she could help.  She found housing
for teenage mothers who had just given birth to a child at government-funded locations, connect mentally-traumatized veterans with their families, and even bought a grass cutter for a homeless person and gave business referrals, enabling him to become self-sufficient.

betty and obamaIn 2008, Chinn received the California First Lady Maria Shriver’s 2008 Minerva Award, along with a cash prize of $25,000.  With the award in hand, she partnered with the Society of St. Vincent De Paul in Eureka to help fund her shower project and a laundry facility for the homeless.  With her selfless compassion touching many, businesses and individuals started donating money and food.  Many more people volunteered to help.  In 2010, she received the United States Presidential Citizen’s Medal from President Obama at the White
House for her service.

Chinn was looking forward to the trip to her home country under much different circumstances than when she was younger.  Being welcomed and honored, Chinn has seemingly come full circle in her life.  Rather than being shunned and ostracized as she was under China’s Cultural Revolution, she’s now being recognized for her work.  She also hopes to revisit and reclaim a part of her past.

bettys smile“There’s a tiny piece of puzzle I left in China,” Chinn mysteriously said. “Now I can go back there and find it.”

She said this trip presents closure — to help her continue on with her life and her journey of helping the less fortunate.

“It’s healing for me,” Chinn said. “It’s time for me to finish that part of my life.”

 Why is she receiving the award?  The media conglomerate chose six people from around the world that are Chinese to come home,” Chinn explained.

“I asked them, ‘why are you choosing me, there’s billions of people,’” she said.

“They tell me they want to learn something about compassion-ship and then I tell them, ‘that comes from your heart.’”

betty earthJust like the steps leading up to her house in Humboldt County— this trip serves as a reminder to her that there’s always an opportunity to spread love.

“I want to send a message to the people, never give up, always have hope, always have love,” Chinn said.

She told the Chinese audience while accepting the award that she couldn’t have done this without the constant support from her community and gave praise to her hometown of Eureka for supporting her mission.

“Thank you so much,”  Chinn said in Mandarin.  “It’s so nice to be coming home.”

* * * * * * * * *

Here’s another video from the award: after the three minute introduction in Chinese, Betty explains her Humboldt County mission– in English.  Forging new bridges, this televised video of Eureka was also seen by tens of millions of viewers across ChinaYou may recognize a few places and faces.

…Our appreciation goes to Mike Dronkers for embedding a video from the Chinese language.  No easy feat, Mike.

Posted in Local, MediaComments (0)

Kai, Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker, Defeats Racist Jesus

 

“Dude, that Guy was Fucking Kooked Out!  Smash, Smash, Smash!”

(VIRAL VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Kai is a homeless hitchhiker.  He’s being hailed as a hero
after saving a woman several days ago from the clutches of

the man who was giving him a ride — who suddenly crashed
his car into a utility worker, began spouting racist invectives,
and claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus.

kai2Kai was hitching a ride with 54-year-old Jett Simmons McBride, of Tacoma, Wash., when McBride decided to run his car into a black Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) worker in West Fresno.  With the worker was pinned against his utility truck, McBride hopped out of his vehicle and began physically pulling on the injured worker.

A local woman, Tanya Baker, witnessed the crash and tried to stop McBride from continuing his assault or leaving the scene.  That’s when McBride reportedly grabbed her in a bear hug her while claiming to be Jesus Christ and uttering racist epithets.

“The guy just went crazy and was trying to pull the guy from underneath the car and the truck.  Then he gets in his car and tries to move the car… and we weren’t going to let him do it,” Baker told local Fox News affiliate KMPH.

Kai, the hitchhiker who was sitting in the car, saw McBride assault Baker– and sprang into action.

“Like, a guy that big can snap a woman’s neck like a pencil stick,” he told KMPH.   Kai grabbed his hatchet and battered the six-foot, 300-plus pound McBride with the blunt end, reportedly saving Baker’s life.

“I fucking ran up behind him with a hatchet — smash, smash, smash!” Kai said afterwards.

Kai4When first responders arrived on the scene, the PG&E worker was rushed to the hospital with two broken legs.  McBride was also removed from the scene with non-life-threatening injuries and is now in police custody and booked into jail on suspicion of attempted murder.

Kai has become a minor internet folk hero of sorts; a person who didn’t have to get invoved– but did so only because it was the immediate and right thing to do.

Kai said he wants to spread the love:

“Before I say anything else, I want to say no matter what you’ve done, you deserve respect, even if you make mistakes.   You’re lovable and it doesn’t matter your looks, skills, or age, or size or anything.  You’re worthwhile—no one can take that away from you.”

Since his interview with Fox affiliate KMPH went viral (below), there has been next to no news about Kai’s current whereabouts.

kai3A year-old video of the homefree celebrity strumming his ukulele on a British Columbia beach and in a music store surfaced, but that hardly provided any insight into the man behind the myth.

“He’s kind of like a superhero,” reporter Jessob Reisbeck said.   ”He’s impossible to get ahold of because he has no phone and he’s this mysterious guy, but he has this hero status.”

But Kai is still out there.  He recently said in a Facebook post:  “I’m sleeping in a hay field across I-99 from the chevron/days inn in Lathrope CA.  Do any, uh, new friends feel like sharing couchspace?”

kaiReisbeck managed to track Kai down yesterday not far from the site of the incident that made him a digital star.

“Shock and awe,” Kai responded when Reisbeck asked him for his thoughts on his overnight fame.

But besides feeling a bit more loved by the Universe than before, Kai remains unchanged.

“He’s just doing the exact same thing he’s always done,” Reisbeck said.  “Living a homefree
life, as he calls it.”

* * * * * * * * *

Identifying with Humboldt, Kai has spent time wandering through and living in Eureka and in Arcata.

The interesting and must-see viral KMPH interview of Kai describing the incident is here.

The original KMPH newscast is here.

UPDATE May 16, 2013Kai is arrested for murder.

Posted in Crime, Media, StateComments (3)

Freezing Weather and No Shelter

 

PARC Group Offers Temporary Shelter for Those in Need

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

We don’t always subscribe to Humboldt County activist Verbena’s point of view or her more sometimes controversial methods for initiating change.

Sometimes we do agree, however.

This is one of those times.

Her heart is in the right place on this one– and we would like
to show her some love and bring this grassroots message to
the forefront of your awareness.

The following is her post from the Humboldt Herald:

 

EMERGENCY- Freezing Weather and People with No Shelter

 
fam1Cold weather, especially over an extended period of time, takes a heavy toll on the health and well-being of the most vulnerable members in our community.

Recently, a small household in Eureka, made its garage available as a safe sleeping space for people with no shelter.  The household and a group of friends (many PEOPLE PROJECT folks) organized the space in response to the dangerous weather and police conditions on the street.

It was actually quite simple.  Prior to opening the safe sleeping
space, we discussed how we thought it would work best.  One of the
things decided beforehand was that we would make the space available
for 11 nights (December 21-31), and we would be explicit about that time
frame so that people sleeping there could depend on a stable schedule.

fam2At this time, opening your home or some covered space is imperative.  We were so grateful for the garage, and all went well.

Being only a temporary situation, we are reaching out to you, asking you to open your garage, yard, or big room for whatever time you decide is possible.  We imagine a rotating emergency sleeping space.  We have found that when a community cooperates and shares in the protection of its most vulnerable members, the result is a vital sense of security experienced by all.

The people who recently shared their garage and those of us who supported
and helped coordinate that emergency shelter space are available to talk
with you about our experiences.  We are eager to assist you in many ways
if you are able to open up a sleeping space.

Ways we can assist you include:

  • loveCollecting floor padding, blankets, sleepware, and other necessary warm things (the garage just used had a cement floor);
  • Driving folks who need a ride to and from the space;
  • And being present in the sleeping space overnight.

The volunteer-run PARC (Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community) in Old Town, Eureka, fully supports the creation of temporary or permanent dignified community sleeping spaces.  PARC is available for any set-up you may provide, as a phone contact, a donation drop-off, and a dedicated resource for people offering or utilizing a safe shelter.

People can and do freeze to death in cold or wet or windy weather.  Here
we have all three at once.  And the police continue to harass people and
ruin their gear in the rain and cold.

love tatPlease call and/or email if you want to talk about opening a space up yourself.  It is freezing at night, and we can make a way through these hard times together.

Please Call PARC: (707) 442-7465

The following are the guidelines that were posted on the inside of the garage.  You may have some different ideas for your place.  We believe that emphasizing honor, dignity, and relationship makes for a truly “safe space.”

                     –WELCOME–

Truleshis is a hate-free space.  That means…
NO racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
* please no physical or verbal violence
* smaller room is for women only
* bigger room is for all

To protect this safe sleeping space…
- no drinking alcohol or doing drugs (including pot) here
- use lights, not candles
- every night, come through front house door when you first arrive;
then use the front gate to go in/out.
- use bathroom in the house (walk in back door, then to right)
- quiet after 9pm, and during cigarette breaks

You are welcome to sleep here…
- every night through the night of Dec 31st.
- Please come in no earlier than 6 pm and no later than 10:30 pm
-mornings, out by 9 am please

Please do not leave your belongings here,
as no-one is here to protect them.

Please communicate theses guide-lines with newcomers.

If you need anything, please feel free to ask.

Thank you.

grace

 

 

 

 

 

(Images by the Humboldt Sentinel.  Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in LocalComments (2)

Transient Camp Suspected of Fire in Community Forest

 

Old-Growth Redwood Tree Flaming, Smoking 70 Feet High

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

On Saturday, December 15 at about 10:30 in the morning, officers from the Arcata Police Department and two engine crews from the Arcata Fire Department were
dispatched to the Arcata Community Forest on a report of

a tree on fire, APD reported.

On arrival, firefighters and officers discovered an old-growth
redwood tree with active fire extending about 70 feet up the tree.

burning redwood2The tree, estimated to be about 15 feet in diameter at the base, had likely been on fire for up to 24 hours, based on the extension of fire throughout the tree.

Firefighters used 2500 gallons of water in battling the blaze– but due to the height of the active fire in the tree, were not able to fully extinguish the fire.

Due to the extensive damage to the tree the precise cause of the fire is undetermined.  Based on the high moisture level of the surrounding area and recent weather patterns it’s believed this was not a naturally occurring fire.  The “goosepen” area of this tree, an interior area of the tree hollowed out by prior naturally occurring fires, has been the site ofburning redwood illegal campers in the past.  It’s believed that this fire was caused by an illegal warming fire started by campers seeking shelter.

In the interest of public safety, Trail 15 is closed until further notice.  Staff from the City of Arcata Department of Environmental Services will monitor the tree and surrounding area and determine when the area is again safe for the public.

The Arcata Police Department reminds all residents and visitors that the Arcata Community Forest is a resource preserved for the enjoyment of all.  Fire is always a danger, even in wet weather.

For the protection of the forest, fires and camping are strictly prohibited.  If you observe any campers or fires in the Arcata Community Forest,
Sunnybrae Forest, Jacoby Creek Forest, the Arcata Marsh, or any other
natural areas in Arcata, please contact the Arcata Police Department.

From the Facebook posts:

We have a lot of homeless in Humboldt , many travel to Humboldt , many get stuck.  The redwoods hide and shelter many of them.  Be safe out there.”

* * *

“ It’s on now…  I run/bike through here all the time and I will be calling the police for every campsite I see.  Don’t mess with the trees!”

* * *

“I am sure the people were cold and wet last night.  They were probably trying to stay warm.  I don’t think they meant to light it on fire like that.  They should of at least contacted the someone when they realized it got out of control.

It’s almost Christmas and some sleep outside by choice.  But many do not :(

* * *

“That large old growth redwood off of the power line trail has been a popular transient campsite for awhile now.  It is ironic and unfortunate how many people adversely impact the forest by leaving their trash and other waste, not to mention the makeshift campfires.

A few years ago two park rangers were hired to patrol the forest, but I rarely saw them out there.”

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in Arcata, Environment, LocalComments (1)

The Graffiti Ruins of Eureka

 

 

Behind the Bayshore Mall, Beauty and Tagging is in the Eye of the Beholder

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The concrete ruins behind the Bayshore Mall are a canvass of sorts for artists.  They paint and spray and tag the concrete in a variety of forms for an unknown audience.

The area has long been known for it’s homeless encampments, supposed Satanic rituals, and being a junkie haven over the past three decades.  It’s a No-Man’s land, a spooky and apocalyptic place, especially come night time after the sun sets.

We found this 7-minute video posted today giving a tour of the place.  The description only read:

Somewhere in Humboldt County, California, on the bay in the city of Eureka, lies this hidden derelict of a graffiti collection.  Crazy walk to, get to, and crazies along the way – the good homeless kind!

All photos by Snaps Provolone in July 2012.  Music by J Starr: “Interstellar Mode.”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

Posted in Eureka, LocalComments (1)

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)

 

Posted in StateComments (4)

The Unfortunate Aren’t Going Away

 

By Gerald Olesen
for the Humboldt Sentinel

 

I pray each day for the homeless, the aimless, the mentally ill, the laid-off and the evicted, the overworked, the underpaid, the undereducated and the prisoners, all of whom I have met at some time in my life.

I am a Humboldt County native who lived in Eureka from 1943-1950.  For the years 1949 and 1950, I worked for Eureka
Newspapers, selling the evening paper (The Standard) on the
streets.

In those days, no one EVER warned us (there were around 20 street sellers) of any dangers in any of the areas we worked, which included the “north of fourth” area, including every bar and card room in the area.  I do not recall any of us boys (yes, kids were doing that work in those days), who were usually 10-13 years old, ever being troubled by anyone on those “mean streets.”  Yes, there were some men who were drunken derelicts around, but they did no harm, except to themselves.

What has happened to Eureka?  As I see it, the advent of available drugs, the aftermaths of the Vietnam and later wars we have been involved in, and the closing of mental facilities, have changed our society and left us with many mentally ill and drug-laced people who are seen all over town.  Some of these have self-inflicted problems and others are simply victims of circumstances their minds would not tolerate, who were turned out upon the streets to live as best they could.  Whatever the cause of their troubles, they are REAL and are simply not going away and we who are unaffected should do what we can to ease their pain.

I have been retired for many years and have worked at the St. Joseph Pantry Shelf in Fortuna for a long time and have seen many of folks who, for whatever reason, are in need and we do what we can to give them a bit of food.  In our sort of business, judgments are best left to others (preferably God).  If one becomes too judgmental, one would probably not help.  I think the situation is pretty well summed up by this:  If you have two shirts, one belongs to you and the other to the person who has none.

This is a thorny issue and any of us will, at times, wonder if we are enabling such people to continue their lifestyle.  No doubt there are abusers, as there are in any human endeavor.  It is said that we should teach a man to fish, instead of merely giving him a fish.  That makes sense, as far as it goes, but if the man is hungry today, we need to, first, give him something to eat and then think about fishing lessons.  We who do this work will be called “do-gooders” by some and that is o.k., because that is exactly what we are attempting to do, some good.

In the recent article regarding the homeless day center that has been proposed by Betty Chinn and Catholic Charities (”Opening a door for those in need,” Times-Standard, Oct. 26, Page A1), those who are complaining would seem to be folks who have been fortunate to have received a rather large slice of the “stuff” of this life.

I do not doubt that they worked very hard to amass whatever they have, but to withhold aid from our brothers who have fallen upon hard times, regardless of the cause, comes off as a bit selfish.

Yes, some folks can be very thoughtless and destructive and we certainly wish they would do better, but they are still members of our imperfect human race and we should do whatever we can to help them and, if possible, change the course of their lives.  I think Betty Chinn and Catholic Charities are trying to do just that in the best way they know how.  We should support their efforts.

I believe in this, from Luke 12:48: Everyone to whom much is given, of him much will be required.

* * * * * * * *

Gerald Olesen resides in Fortuna. He kindly gave us his permission to reprint his letter which first appeared in the Times-Standard news on November 4, 2012.

We read much material and many letters in the course of our day.  This one hit both the mark and struck home.

Thank you, Mr. Olesen.

(Images by the Humboldt Sentinel.  Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in Local, OpinionComments (1)

Brutal Stabbing of Homeless Mother Goes Unsolved

 

Santa Rosa Police Look for Killer of Michela Wooldridge

 

–Reward Offered–

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Police are still searching for the killer of a homeless mother
who was found by joggers in downtown Santa Rosa the morning
after Halloween, as reported by the Humboldt Sentinel.

They don’t have any suspects yet but do have some leads that are being followed up on.  So far, no witnesses have come forward.

Police said 24-year-old Michela Wooldridge had recently become homeless after dropping out of a drug recovery program.  She was killed off Fourth Street just outside downtown Santa Rosa, near a lamp shop.  She was a former Humboldt County resident.

Investigators said Wooldridge was stabbed several times with a knife or blade- edged instrument.  They believe she was most likely was killed where she was found.

Wooldridge leaves behind a 2-year-old son.  Investigators said she came to Santa Rosa from at the beginning of October.  Growing up largely in Cloverdale, she had recently been living in Humboldt County. 

Friends said she had a rough childhood.  She was wrestling with repressed memories of childhood molestation and more recent sexual trauma, as well as episodes of drug use, family members said.

She came to Santa Rosa to take part in a one-year recovery program at the Victory Outreach Women’s Christian Recovery Home.  But she left the program Oct. 11, apparently with a man she met in Santa Rosa, according to her former boyfriend, Clearlake resident Nick Azbill, the father of Wooldridge’s 2-year-old son.

Wooldridge’s mother, Elizabeth Vawter, and her husband, Kevin Wilson, have recovered her daughter’s remains and taken them back to Humboldt County to bury her alongside her
grandparents in Fortuna.

People at Santa Rosa’s The Living Room and the nearby Interlink Self Help Center saw her more recently after she left her recovery home including up to the day before her body was found, said Celeste Austin, program coordinator for The Living Room Day Shelter at Church of the Incarnation.

Wooldridge was a sweet, approachable woman who made friends easily and whose naivete and vulnerability makes her violent death all the more difficult to bear, Austin said.

Women in the Santa Rosa homeless community are worried after one of their own was violently killed in an alley off of busy Fourth Street, Austin said.

“Our women were impacted at The Living Room in a pretty deep way because it was a woman; it was someone who some of them knew, and she was murdered brutally,” Austin said.  “And so our women are feeling unsafe because they haven’t apprehended the individual.”

Staff and volunteers at the day shelter have offered counseling and support, but there were others “in a lot of pain around this death,” she said.

After a week of investigation, detectives are without a suspect, though they are continuing to conduct interviews and developing leads through family members scattered around the North Coast and members of the local homeless community, Santa Rosa Police Sgt. David Linscomb said.

“We’re going in a lot of directions with this,” Linscomb said. “We haven’t ruled anything out.  People in the homeless community, my advice — stay vigilant, and stay careful.”

A memorial fund has been established at Wells Fargo Bank to help cover expenses.  Donors can contribute to Michela’s Memorial Fund, account No. 2919021044, at any Wells Fargo Bank branch.

The Sonoma County Alliance is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in the case through its “Take Back Our Community” program.

Santa Rosa Police have a special tip line at (707) 975-1106.

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in Crime, LocalComments (1)

Eureka To Introduce New Anti-Homeless Laws

Sitting, lying, panhandling all targeted by latest bright ideas from City Attorney

 

By Charles Douglas
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s not every day when Eureka looks to follow the example of Arcata.

Turning decades of municipal rivalry on its head, Eureka is looking up to its smaller municipal brethren across Humboldt Bay — at least when it comes to firing off a fresh round of anti-homeless laws.

Fresh on the heels of a 4-1 Council approval of stiffening the ban on sleeping in public by boosting the legal definition of this famous crime from an infraction to a misdemeanor, City Attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson has cooked up two separate sets of amendments to city code on the eve of next month’s general election — one in which the sole dissenting Councilmember, Linda Atkins, faces stiff opposition for her Ward Two seat.




The first volley is a slight re-wording of Arcata’s decade-old law which bans sitting or lying on the sidewalk in a wide swath of the downtown and northtown areas — although the staff report is careful not to mention the dreaded A-word, but refer to examples in, improbably, Berkeley and Santa Cruz instead. Specifically, Eureka’s ordinance would set a 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. ban on the nefarious sitting-type behavior, and would set up 18 districts covering nearly all commercial and industrial areas of Eureka, along with adjoining residential areas. The obstruction of pedestrian traffic would also become a crime in the new ordinance.

“While the City currently has other laws that could address inhospitable behavior such as aggressive panhandling, that violation requires a citizen or merchant to sign a complaint and agree to appear in court before police can act,” Day-Wilson states in her report to the Council. “No one may be cited unless first notified by a police officer that he or she is sitting or lying in a prohibited area and is in violation of the law.”

“First time offenders would be charged with an infraction and either fined or ordered to perform community service. Repeat offenders would be charged with an infraction or misdemeanor at the discretion of the City Attorney.”

Cyndy Day-Wilson

Day-Wilson has taken a peculiar interest in prosecuting the lowest of the low-end, victimless crimes. Due to a series of severe budget cuts and grant funding fumbles, District Attorney Paul Gallegos has previously gone on record as stating that his office can no longer afford to divert scarce prosecutorial resources away from chasing down convictions for serious and violent crimes. Thus the City Attorney herself has spent a considerable percentage of her time in office this year fighting to convict local poor and homeless individuals on such charges as sleeping in public, open container, camping and panhandling — according to the staff report she wrote for this week’s meeting, her office has prosecuted over 300 such cases thus far in 2012.

Day-Wilson frankly admits in the second paragraph of her report on the anti-sitting ordinance that such laws are usually seen by opponents as “veiled attacks on the homeless.” She didn’t need any straw men to defend against, however, in her report introducing the second ordinance, given the proximity to Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholtsen’s ruling last week which gutted almost all provisions of Arcata’s anti-panhandling ordinance.

Her proposal steered clear of the latest embarrassment to befall Arcata’s city attorney, Nancy Diamond, and instead stuck to a short-list ban on panhandling outside of automated teller machines and on public transit buses — along with the usual missive against aggressive panhandling, which wasn’t part of the successful lawsuit against A-town by Arcata civil rights activist Richard Salzman.

“The proposed ordinance is neither overbroad nor vague and is narrowly tailored to serve a substantial government interest,” Day-Wilson stated. “The goal is to protect citizens from the fear and intimidation accompanying certain kinds of solicitation that are an unwelcome and overwhelming presence…by imposing reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on solicitation while respecting the constitutional rights of free speech for all citizens.”

In a startling about-face, however, the anti-sitting ordinance sneaks in a casual deletion of the entire anti-sleeping law in Section 130.02 which the Council upped the penalties for this summer. There’s no word yet on whether the threat of litigation played a role in this proposed repeal.

In terms of the role these issues are playing in Atkins’ re-election efforts, her primary opponent, former Republican Central Committee treasurer Joe Bonino answered a question about the Occupy Eureka protest by saying: “I am advocating something that’s common sense. You definitely do not want people out there camping, which is what it devolves to. I mean, you can definitely have a lot of people sitting on the sidewalk. When we do our protests for political things, you know, the police come and say very nicely, you gotta stay out of the street, and you’ve got to stay on the sidewalk.”

Also at their first debate on Sept. 12 (which the Sentinel helped produce), held at the Community Media Center on the Eureka High School campus, both Atkins and Bonino were asked by Redwood ACLU treasurer Peter Martin if they agreed with criminalizing sleeping.

“It’s illegal to sleep in public, but also, there’s really no place for you to sleep in public anyways because no one wants you to sleep near there in front of their house, and so that precludes all sidewalks, all alleyways, everything and all private property,” Bonino said. “So it’s a tough question but I don’t think what the City did is a harmful thing.”

Atkins shot back, saying Bonino didn’t live in her neighorhood of Cooper Gultch, where she noticed homeless people sleeping in front of, behind of and down the street from her house.

“We have a really big problem of homeless people not having a place to sleep in Eureka,” Atkins said. “And the Council’s been hesitant to even talk about the idea of a campground located somewhere away from our tourist area where people could come and set up their tent and have a place that is safe and comfortable for them to sleep in.”

Bonino in his rebuttal said he would be willing to entertain the idea of a campground, so long as it was strictly run, along the lines outlined in the John Steinbeck novel The Grapes Of Wrath.

 


 

Both Ordinance 856 (anti-sitting) and Ordinance 854 (anti-panhandling) will be taken up by the Council this Tuesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall — where sitting is as yet not a crime. If introduced, the ordinances would need to come back up for a second reading and formal adoption on Oct. 16.

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