letter from tad to Dr. Holschuh

July 14, 2005,
Dr. Jane Holschuh,
Professor of Social Sciences,
Department of BSS,
Humboldt State University,
Arcata, Ca. 95521

Dear Dr. Holschuh,

The elimination of campgrounds in subcommittee is of great concern, not only to the disenfranchised who suffer at the hands of faulty-policy decisions, but also to the entire political, social, economic, judicial and spiritual well-being of our fair town. Sleep is not only a human Right, but also an unavoidable fact of nature. The federal view is that shelter for the homeless should be a permanent and long range goal, even though the wait for most homeless (90%, “Homelessness: Programs and the PeopleThey Serve,” Urban Institute, 1999), does not even begin until the “chronic homeless” (10%) are finally housed – best estimates which are at least ten more years.

Many Arcata residents realize that shelter isurgently needed tonight. Though the costs of housing“chronic homeless,” with supportive services far exceed the cost of housing any other group in our society with the possible exception of prisoner housing, the creation of a chronic homeless bureaucracy promises to provide high-paying prison industry type career fields for HSU’s department of BS2 graduates for many years to come. It would be one thing if these jobs were employing the homeless, thus curing the economic realities of some of the 90% of homeless persons, but the homeless are rarely considered even when gregarious grant jobs are being sought. Until you and all other so-called “experts”realize that every person on this planet has the right to life; including the right to sleep, food, shelter, education, job and hygiene opportunities, not just in ten years, but tonight, then the dream of everlasting peace will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained.

Diminishing job opportunities, both in numbers and wages, have directly led to increases in homelessness. As a matter of government policy, both worldwide and locally, homeless are managed rather than employed. The problem with hierarchal management systems is the false belief that there will be perceived value at all levels. Authoritarian dominance over the homeless is not mutually beneficial, in most cases, and leaves little recourse or alternative for those who decide upon their own choices for dealing with their homelessness.

“Chronic homeless” grants, being federally prioritized to communities who make the “Chronic Homeless Initiative’s ‘continuum of care’” their top priority, create a situation in which desperate homeless become forced by necessity to lie and violate laws in order to get life sustaining needs. To heap both the burden of desperation and guilt upon another human being in order to sway their decisions about their own self-worth and their resulting need for “chronic homeless initiative’s ‘continuum of care,” is inhumane in and of itself, but when pharmaceutical cures, distributed with the same coercion of basic human needs, are used to “modify” behavior of an economically depressed class, then it becomes a crime against Humanity. We as Americans have denounced the using of food and as in this case sleep, as a lure to dangle before the disenfranchised to entice coerced “solutions” (See Lenin’s Soviet and Hitler’s Reich). Leaving homeless people with no option to Bush’s agenda seems designed for failure at best and a deliberate political stand by HSU, its President, Rollin Richmond, Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences (BS2), its faculty, staff, and student body, especially Dr. Betsy Watson, and yourself.

Any law that excludes sleep is an assault on Human and Civil Rights, and is wrong! There can be no argument that sleep is consistent with healthy physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing. To have a law that forbids sleep to those who have no legal alternative is violation of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s “cruel and unusual punishment” clause, a violation of Ninth Article’s “right to travel” clause, creates mental illness, alienates classes, and interrupts the “ . . . as you would do unto others” rule attributed to “God” in every major religion. Likewise, the right to shelter, along with the right to have life sustaining property to utilize, all fall under the umbrella of the aforementioned protections.

Through your expert guidance we now find the most attainable, economic, and fair accommodation to the afflicted non-chronic homeless, a place to camp, is not only being ignored but is being discouraged by you. Is it a very disconnected vantage from which we view those believed “less” then ourselves that produces a belief that hunger, sleep deprivation, and incessant police harassment will lead to anything other than resistance in the long term.

David Wright, a Michigan State University professor who has researched why scientists cheat, said there are four basic reasons: some sort of mental disorder; foreign nationals who learned somewhat different scientific standards; inadequate mentoring; and, most commonly, tremendous and increasing professional pressure to publish studies (Cases of faked medical research up 50% in last two years, San Francisco Chronicle, July 10, 2005). I am at a complete loss as to why an “expert” homeless surveyor, like yourself, would ignore “conduct[ing] a survey, and assess[ing]the needs and solutions of the homeless community” (City Council Study Session, June 7, 2005, collective memory), while conducting a poll to find out how much hate for the homeless the housed, especially the business, community has. Your polling methods are faulty. With questionable polling procedures, bias questions, and bigoted solicitations, all we can expect is more of the corrupt data your team has already gathered.

The question of legalized camping in the city of Arcata is not a question of money. When ex-mayor Bob Ornelas first came to the city he was homeless and was allowed to sleep. Upon arriving for a second time again the former mayor was allowed to sleep. It has been done and can again be done. As the City is the title holder of over 2000 acres of land finding multiple sites for camps and safe zones would seem elementary to a true governance by the people, for the people. Immediate repeal of the camping ordinance, Arcata Municipal Code 10010, should be recommended as a first step in creating camp/safe zones. With the ordinance repealed effort should then be forthcoming to create zones, which attract campers away from congesting favorite city recreational sites. Many sustainable models should be explored, including but not limited to, resident-directed camps like Dignity Village, Educational camps, faith-based camps, alternative building single-room shelters, open city camps, and maybe even a CoC camp after adequate alternatives for those who choose not to have a case manager have been established.

The community and autonomy resulting from self-governed camps help camp residents better cope and even overcome the harsh realities of homelessness (“The faces of dignity: rethinking the politics of homelessness and poverty in America,” Dr. Susan Finley, QUALITATIVE STUDIES IN EDUCATION, JULY-AUGUST 2003 VOL. 16, NO. 4, 509–531” and “The power of space: constructing a dialog of resistance, transformation, and homelessness,” Susan Finley, Washington State University, Angela Calabrese Barton, Teachers College at Columbia University, QUALITATIVE STUDIES INEDUCATION, JULY-AUGUST 2003, VOL. 16, NO. 4, 483–487). Educational camps could encourage homeless to further their educations and better prepare them to compete for jobs once the economy recovers. Faith-based camps could take advantage of faith-based grants to shelter increased numbers of our homeless, who choose those kinds of environment. The Campus Center for Appropriate Technology (CCAT), once the show piece and major recruiting point of HSU, could work in conjunction with the city and its homeless to create alternative, temporary construction of single-room structures and communal facilities as both domiciles and examples of sustainable technology. Finally open places where those people who fit in no where else can stay is a must if you are not trying to divide even the homeless into their own version of haves and have-nots. Open places could be regularly visited by outreach and social workers and volunteers, to offer services, provide peer counseling and help teach healthy and clean camping. As you should know, creating and maintaining trusting relationships with mentally ill and chronic inebriates is very difficult when outreach can only contact chronic homeless when they surface for life sustaining homeless services or jail.

Many “policies” expected in your forthcoming Arcata Homeless Services Plan will surely drive more of the vulnerable segment of the chronic homeless further underground. Legal camping would save money in Police costs for the city. The City of Arcata hired a “park ranger” out of the wastewater fund. That fund became short and required another clear-cut of our community forest. Just prior to the drastic cuts in social spending, due two the enormous outlays in our defense spending, the City hired a total of two “park rangers” and two bicycle patrol officers to “rid” Arcata of homeless who sleep. These funds would be better spent creating peace from sleep rather than war against the poor.

A place to reach out to these individuals would more than outweigh its costs. I know most of the homeless who have been here for a while. These people for the most part are not counted in the point in time counts. They have learned how to fend for themselves, rarely use services and don’t “hang out” on the Plaza. There are chronic homeless among them, but they have been frustrated, belittled, and fooled by the very structure your plan hopes to impose.

As people are allowed to create their own sustainable solutions, the benefits will constantly increase. New solutions and positive social ramifications will come from interaction between the housed segment and those with a newly acquired sense of home. I see new ways of doing things that support who we are in Arcata. Perhaps allowing homeless to grow, preserve and put away their own food; create sustainable, temporary shelter; have more autonomy and self-direction; participate in their community as equals and not servants; reduce the harm caused by being homeless; and create security for the entire community by having food and shelter options in place, in case of a worst-case scenario, will eventually put Costco and Coldwell reality out of business. But if this happens it is because the market demanded it, not because the poor united for mutual survival.

We looked forward to your arrival at HSU with fantasies of an expert on the realities of homelessness. We had envisioned a sharing of expertise between the academia and those actually immersed in the problem. Many researchers studied chimpanzees in laboratory situations, but Jane Goodall went and lived amongst them. Dr. Goodall was able to gain insight into aspects of chimp behavior and society that was previously unknown to the outside researchers. Likewise people living with the homeless, especially those who are the chosen homeless and already know they have the best of time and space, have valuable insight into social intricacies that are not available to researchers only viewing them in professional-client relationships. Many concepts could be presented and many myths could be dispelled by a more corporative relationship between yourself and those who have been directly involved with the homeless issue in this community and surrounding areas for years. You presented yourself to this community of truly homeless experts with an attitude of vast superiority and an apparent agenda. Since you are claiming superior insight into this problem your every move will be closely scrutinized and all its faults and misconceptions will be made public. To you this may be an “experiment,” but to those whom are affected by your actions it is life or death.

An autonomous camp ground is the first step towards alleviating perhaps one of the biggest problems in both homelessness and mental health, the mental illness caused by the social rejection felt by homeless. In order to help anyone we must lift the burdens we can, not heap more upon them. Help lift the burden of illegal sleeping, promote healing, and take a more inclusive consideration of the causes and social failures of homelessness, in your approaches and research. Do the right thing, if only because it’s right.

love eternal
Homeless representative
Arcata Homeless Task Force

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s