DonLaneEmail by SantaCruzSentinel


									From: Don Lane []
Sent: Saturday, March 16, 2013 2:49 PM
To: Lynn Robinson
Cc: Monica Martinez; Claudia Brown
Subject: comments on your letter to Monica Martinez

Dear Lynn

Thanks for your call on Thursday night… I appreciate that you let me know about your
letter to Monica Martinez. As I mentioned, I had asked Monica to forward it to me a
couple of weeks ago (soon after you told me about it) and I’ve had a chance to review it
quite carefully. I especially appreciated the letter’s clarity expressing your specific
concerns… because our recent meeting about these issues did not get to as much
specificity as I had hoped.

As I mentioned to you in our phone call, I stepped down from the Board of Directors of
HSC in February. I did that in large part because I have been working on a few different
projects related to homeless issues and I was spreading myself too thin, especially in
combination with my City work and my other employment. I also think it’s important for
the community to know that when I speak about issues of homelessness in our
community, I am not speaking on behalf of HSC. My focus is moving more and more to
larger policy issues and I want to work primarily in that mode.

Having said that, I want to respond to the content of your letter and acknowledge that
some of my response is informed by my knowledge about the work of HSC and its
neighbor agencies stemming from my past work there.

In your letter, I found it particularly notable how authoritatively you spoke about HSC.
This surprised me because of your statements to me at our meeting a couple of weeks ago
where you specifically told me that it has been a very long time since you’ve actually
visited the homeless programs located on Coral Street. I think this fact is indicates how
your strong feelings about HSC are informed more by your personal perspective as to
what is going on at the Coral Street “campus” rather than on a truly thorough
examination of homelessness and homeless programs in Santa Cruz.
Perhaps the most obvious example of this is your apparent assumption the Homeless
Services Center organization is solely responsible for the Coral Street campus. I think
you are aware but failed to acknowledge that the Coral Street campus is shared by three
organizations: the County Health Department’s Homeless Persons Health Project
(HPHP); the Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center’s River Street Shelter; and the
Homeless Services Center. Did you know this and chose to single out HSC… or did you
forget to include the other organizations in your communications about the Coral Street
area? It was particularly noteworthy that your letter described how Paul from HPHP was
working with one of the people you had concerns about… and then blamed Monica and
HSC (an organization completely separate from HPHP) for the alleged failure of Paul to
solve the problem you wish he could solve. (I should also note here that there is probably
no single individual in this community who has more constructively addressed the health
issues of homeless individuals than Paul, who is a public health nurse with HPHP. You
could not have picked a poorer person to single out. His work is exemplary by any
standard and until you’ve learned more about the work he does and tried to do the kind of
work he does, you would be well-advised to steer clear of mentioning his work in the
negative way that you mentioned it.)

Next, I wonder if you are aware of the functions and activities of the Homeless Persons
Health Project in general. More than 100 individuals drop into HPHP on a typical day.
Did you know, for instance, that if a homeless person in the Santa Cruz area is interested
in receiving help with their substance abuse problems, HPHP is the most appropriate
place for that person to go for assistance? Since there is no other similar drop-in program
designed for homeless persons with this problem, do you have a suggestion for where
these persons should be going instead? I understand that you would like these folks to go
to some other place in the county for assistance but there is no other such place right now.
Soon there will be a new facility for HPHP in South County (which I think we agree will
be a positive thing) and there will more of the jurisdictional sharing that you seek. But
there will still be many homeless IV drug users in the Santa Cruz area (until there is a
sea-change in funding for treatment and a dramatic reduction in the flow of heroin and
meth into this area) and they will continue to seek help at the Coral Street clinic of

Perhaps the most alarming assumption contained in your letter is the idea that HSC is
primarily responsible for every homeless person in the vicinity of Coral Street. I believe
this is based on the idea that HSC staff have tried to create a no-impact zone near its
Coral Street location. I believe HSC staff has worked seriously toward this within the
limited resources it has… because you and others have demanded that HSC take
responsibility for this. I have always supported HSC’s effort to do this even though it
pulls staff resources away from their primary function of safely serving homeless persons
who come to HSC itself for services. However, I have also had reservations about your
demand because, though the demand came from representatives from the City, it did not
come with any new dollars from any funding source including the City. In fact, HSC’s
funding from the City has fallen by about $100,000 during your time on the city council
and you have supported that reduction. So, in other words, you want HSC to use funds
the City Council has designated for meeting the basic needs of low-income people to
patrol city streets and sidewalks and other people’s private property… and you want HSC
to take on that extra burden with a lot less money.

I should also note that I had reservations about HSC taking on your demand for a no
impact zone because I suspected that HSC did not have the legal authority and powerful
tools that would be required to make it effective… thereby setting up HSC for failure and
your subsequent criticism. That suspicion was certainly borne out by your letter. And, to
add insult to injury, now you have randomly expanded the zone you expect HSC to
“police” to an even greater area by throwing in a business on the other side of the
Highway and a Costco driveway. I dare say that your placing expectations on locations
so detached from the HSC campus made what was originally a dubious demand into an
unreasonable one.

Even more to the point, since the “no impact” effort began, HSC staff members have
been working very closely with the SCPD to protect the safety of both clients at the Coral
Street property and in immediately adjacent areas. I am not aware of any way HSC has
not cooperated fully with SCPD. HSC has also worked closely with the First Alarm
security staff and, again, I’m not aware of any situation where HSC has not worked
cooperatively with First Alarm. I am also not aware of any action you or other city
officials have taken to deputize HSC staff to enforce local nuisance behavior and drug
laws. If a person outside the property of the homeless programs at Coral Street is seen
violating laws, what tools have you provided HSC staff to enforce those laws? I’m pretty
sure the answer is that you (and the City in general) have provided the same tool to HSC
staff that you have provided to every other community resident… you have given them
the phone number to call the police. HSC staff does this on a regular basis just as you
have asked. HSC has also continued to deny access to its programs by people who have
violated the rules of HSC. (This has been HSC’s practice since long before you got

I’d like to go a bit further with you on the question of who is responsible for all the
problematic behavior that some homeless individuals are involved in around the Harvey
West district and the city in general. I’ll start with a bit of history… on two separate
occasions I have been approached by key people dealing with Downtown issues asking
me to encourage volunteers serving meals on the streets Downtown to stop doing this
Downtown. On both occasions, I was able to get those volunteer groups to re-locate their
meal programs to the Coral Street facility. This was applauded by both city officials and
representatives of private businesses Downtown. In other words, HSC and its partners
took on an extra burden at the request of the City because it knew that THE CITY
LOCATIONS. That is still the case. Only City officials have the legal responsibility and
authority to do this. HSC cannot walk Downtown and do anything to address
problematic behavior of homeless persons. This is true in every public location in the
city… the river levee, the parks, the Pogonip.

My point here (in the form of a question) is simply this: what are you, Lynn, doing to
FULLY address this behavior in public spaces? I know you have tried different
approaches and made some inroads but all the things you have proposed and supported
have not eliminated this problematic behavior in these public places. Shall we cut
funding from the Parks and Rec budget because there are still some homeless individuals
perpetrating illegal and problematic behavior in Parks facilities? Shall we cut the Public
Works budget because they cannot ensure that there are no homeless people gathering on
their sidewalks? Shall we cut the Police budget because they have not eliminated crime
among the homeless population? I think you know that we should not…and will
not…make these cuts. The only question that remains unclear is this: Shall we cut our
salaries because we have not eliminated problem behavior and illegal behavior in public
locations entrusted to our care as City Councilmembers? I suspect the answer is “no”
because we are both working pretty damned hard on a lot of difficult issues… and we
don’t believe in punishing ourselves for our imperfect records… because we are still
doing some good work.

I’d like to pose another question on a related topic: Have you been consistent with
private property owners who have ongoing behavior problems related to homelessness?
The first property that comes to mind is the rail line that runs through Harvey West and
the Pogonip. Have you placed expectations on Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railway
similar those placed on HSC? You specifically noted problems along the railroad
tracks…yet you target HSC for responsibility when problems on the tracks have existed
for decades… long before HSC existed. Is there a different standard? If so, what is the
basis for that double standard? And if you do contact Roaring Camp in the future and
they successfully cleared their railway property of problem behavior by nudging it to the
nearby sidewalk, would you then approach them again to demand more because there is a
problem NEAR their property? This seem to be how you have treated HSC… will you
be taking the same approach with others?

There are properties all around Harvey West and other locations in Santa Cruz that have
persistent overnight camping and gatherings of people who are behaving in ways similar
to those described in your letter. Have you been putting the same pressure on these
businesses and property owners to address these problems? If so, I hope you can fill me
on how you are applying that same pressure. (Perhaps you could show me the letters
you’ve sent them.) Of course, we all know that those property owners might try to rely
on the currently favored approach of blaming HSC for everything (simply because it
exists and is doing its job) and using that as an excuse for avoiding their share of
responsibility. But legally, that is not how it works. If any property owner is allowing
nuisance behavior to persist on his/her property, they are responsible for addressing it.
HSC is meeting its responsibility by excluding people who break the rules or the law
while on its property—and by calling the police as needed. That is what the City and
police have expected of HSC. Now shall we penalize them for doing what we have

At this point, I feel compelled to address the anecdote in your letter that demonstrates
how far off the mark I think your entire message is. I refer to your recounting of the tale
of the woman with prosthetic legs. Your city government, with your strong support (and
my support, as well) has undertaken an ongoing program of cleaning out and removing
encampments occupied by homeless individuals in and around our community. This
woman was one of the homeless individuals living in that kind of situation who was
displaced in one of those cleanups. So an action that you vigorously supported drove this
woman into a more visible place in our community (and a more vulnerable situation). It is
very troubling that you are blaming HSC because you are now seeing her out there in a
visible location. The real question is what are YOU doing to help this woman who you
have made more vulnerable by your actions? The answer appears to be that you are
demanding that someone else deal with her—while at the same time consistently moving
to reduce funding for one of the principal organizations that is trying mightily with
limited resources to help her. Since you are a person of great compassion, how do you
justify this?

Some of us have been working without any financial support from the City to expedite
the 180-180 project in Santa Cruz. The woman with prosthetic legs has been surveyed
by the 180-180 project and could possibly be housed through that project. But she won’t
be housed sooner because your City (and mine) pushed her into an even more vulnerable
situation. She will be housed because HSC and its partners and volunteers and supporters
put together the resources - without your help - to make it possible. It is so disappointing
to me that you would play the role you have played in making her more vulnerable and
then expect someone else to clean up a problem you helped create.

It appears to be less than constructive that you would poke around these issues and these
programs with such a lack of information and understanding. Do you really think that
programs whose funding you have voted to cut should now be taking care of every needy
person you see just because you make a phone call? Is this a responsible approach for an
elected leader of this community? If and when the woman with prosthetic legs is housed
and taken off the street safely, it will be because HSC has been working on this for
months and it will happen in spite of your actions.

Your letter and your approach to these issues may end up impressing some people in the
community with its “get tough” language and demands now that it seems to be coming to
light. However, it will not impress many of us actually trying to help the most vulnerable
and impoverished people in our community. If you want to dig in, as you said you will
do in your “gardener” mode, I want to encourage you to plant some seeds of intelligent
solutions rather than throwing around “enough is enough” language. Anyone in the
community can express frustration and say “I’ve had it.” There are plenty of things that I
can list around the community that I could say “I’ve had it” about. My view is that
leaders move quickly past their frustration to identify thoughtful solutions based on good
information. I know you have shown this kind of good leadership on other issues. So I’m
looking forward to your thoughtful answers and suggestions that go beyond what I see
right now as unfair and misdirected complaints on these Coral Street area issues.

Finally, despite the criticisms contained in this letter, I want to acknowledge how hard
you are working on a range of important community safety issues. The community is
definitely benefitting by much of your work. I hope you will recognize that I share your
desire for a safe community. I simply cannot support particular approaches that are off-
target and unfair and inadvertently play into the fear-based demands of some frustrated
community members.

I respectfully request that you take the next step in your Coral Street efforts by answering
the questions I raised in this letter. The questions may seem rhetorical in nature… but
every one of them needs and has a real answer. I hope you will take the time to
thoughtfully answer each one. In turn, I would be happy to answer any questions you
have for me-- to the best of my ability -- about homeless issues and homeless services.

Thank you for considering my request…and for your continued service to Santa Cruz.


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