Most people on the streets today suffer from some form of mental illness. If we focused our energy on caring properly for the mentally ill in our society, we could transform the homeless population, and reduce violent crimes caused by those who suffer from mental illness but are not receiving the care they desperately need.
To: Ms. Lara Public Law Center Santa Ana, California
From: Dwight Smith OC Catholic Worker occatholicworker.org
Dear Ms. Lara,
The City of Santa Ana has for the last fifteen years knowingly engaged in a deliberate and cancerous falsehood unbecoming any City in this nation. I'm speaking about the our Camping Ordinance and it's non-existent permits.
Copying a U.S. Forest Service law reasonably intended to ration access to our National Parks, our City Council enacted a pair of "camping ordinances" the first of which required a permit to camp on any public land within the City, and a similar law whose scope was limited to the area immediately adjacent to the multi-jurisdictional government plaza known as the Civic Center.
Two years ago, through the offices of Matthew Fletcher of Fletcher, Connor, Blake, I requested such a permit, asking Mr. Fletcher to make sure through his good relationship with our City Attorney that my request was not ignored on First Amendment grounds: "I want a permit to camp about camping, and not about the right to camp. Sort of a camping celebration of camping, only." Mr. Fletcher did as I asked, and Deputy City Attorney Sandoval made it clear to Mr. Fletcher that the City had never intended to issue permits for camping and would not.
In a recent blog post attached below, I outline my religious argument:
I'm currently soliciting counsel to sue the City of Santa Ana on behalf of all the persons arrested under the camping ordinance. I maintain that they have been illegally detained, prosecuted and imprisoned in a process in which both City Attorneys and County Prosecutors made material mis-representations to the Court in that the permits upon which the law depends were in fact, callously and fraudulently withheld from those persons who would gladly have paid for the permit to avoid conviction. The County and City's fraudulent misrepresentation of the availability of permits and their subsequent mis-representation, through illegal prosecution and imprisonment of the homeless, that such permits were, in fact and in law, possible to obtain, was a material fact denied the Defense as a mitigating factor in these persons' innocence.
(As an aside, a permit to camp at Yellowstone throughout the same era would have averaged $7 per night. I just purchased 100 $7 money orders to facilitate the homeless' acquisition of California ID's. We'd have gladly done the same to obtain camping permits for the Civic Center. From the defense perspective, we could argue that permits would have been made available, at least for some of those convicted, had they been made available at a price derived from appropriate campground marketing practices.)
Cities and Counties cannot be allowed to invent lawful and yet impossible ways to control human behavior, and then deny such impossibilities in later prosecutions. This is carnage, not justice.
If the State of California had made it imperative that every patient in an emergency room obtain a patient permit, and then failed to make such permits available, as a way of circumventing federal Hill-Burton ER regulations, we'd never hear the end of it.
Recently, I contacted the County Auditor and filed a fraud charge against Julia Bidwell, who is in charge of counting the Emergency Shelter Bed Inventory in Orange County, attached. She had invited me to the 2020 Planning Committee Meeting which would "develop guidelines" for disclosing to the public the number and kind of Emergency Shelter Beds available in Orange County. I insisted that it was fraudulent for her to assign (one of her) duties as Director of Homelessness to an as yet unformed and unfunded public-private partnership. I insisted that her own employees had already publicly advised first responders and the hospital ER community that there were, in effect, no County emergency shelter beds at all in the OC, and that the "trial census" she had gifted me, showing a total of over 500 such beds being available, was yet another fraud.
A year ago April, I received an open records response from Kelly Lupro showing that no County funds had been allocated for "low-threshold, non sub-population restricted emergency shelter beds like those at the Armory" anywhere in the County. Privately, the Salvation Army provides 56 such beds, my wife and I about twice that many. Since we provide more Emergency Shelter Beds than everyone else in the OC, we are deeply involved in a religious commitment of long duration to confront this duplicity.
Orange County provides not a single Emergency Shelter Bed of the type discussed in Jones v. Los Angeles.
The Director of Homelessness is disseminating xls. spreadsheets and other data that would incline a City PD to believe that such beds do exist.
The City of Santa Ana is arresting people for camping on public property without a permit that is impossible to obtain, based upon the availability of the beds the County pretends to exist.
If we assume, however, that America belongs first to the people, and then to the landlords who stole it from likewise illegitimate predecessors (all they way back to us Franciscans, who like Israelites, got the State from God) it begs the question "Why can't the public repose upon the commons when necessary?" Even the misdirection involved in falsely pretending the City is a campground harkens back to this ancient right. Were the city to declare "No sleeping on public property" every drowsy judge in the Courthouse would rise up with a constitutional challenge, and if the American Campground Association discovered that there are no public restrooms between 8PM and 8AM in our "campground" we'd be closed on order of the Public Health Department as a menace to the health of the public.
(I have long cautioned against obtaining coffee anywhere near the Civic Center. A fair number of the homeless, who are forced to use leaves and bushes, carry fecal contamination bearing the Hepatitis C virus, contaminating the cups, lids and stirrers in every shop in town.)
Were it not for unobtainable permits, the City would have to arrest people for sleeping or loitering, both of which are constitutionally permitted. It seems that, in Santa Ana, complying with the law depends upon the performance of a deliberate impossibility, and as such, makes the enforcement of such a law "unconstitutional as applied." The law has already been deemed facially constitutional.
I am just an orthodox Catholic who knows that many homeless people lie and cheat. What is surprising is how many City Attorneys and County D.A.'s prosecuting "camping" do exactly the same, and by so doing, avoid a similar fate. Is that all justice for the poor means?
Kristen, In Eichorn v. Santa Ana and Tobe v. Santa Ana, the Court decided that the Camping Ordinance was facially constitutional, but might be unconstitutional as applied. Is it possible that the deliberate witholding of permits makes compliance with the law impossible, and therefore unconstitutional? I daresay that permits are the only thing that make the Civic Center a "campground." If they're never issued, by intention, then the intention of the Camping Ordinance is to deny the citizens their constitutional right to sleep upon public land when necessary through the deceit of permits.
Subject: A Newsworthy question regarding Chief Walters suitability for his End Homelessness Presentation at 2PM on Thursday the 12th, 2011 at the SAPD Community Room.
SAPD Chief Walters c/o 2020 End Homeless Board
Dear Chief Walters,
I have great respect for you, and I very much wanted to see you defeat Marshal Carona in the race for Sheriff. My respect, however, is necessarily limited to your outstanding performance as Police Chief. It is for that reason I find it both misrepresentative and unfair that you will be holding your 2020 Presentation at the SAPD Community Room and presumably, in uniform. It is with great temerity, therefore, that I intend, as both a loyal supporter and homeless advocate of long standing, to call into question your fitness to end homelessness, since you, Mayor Pulido and the SAPD have done far more to destroy long-term opportunities for permanent housing than any other agency in America:
From the OC Weekly,
For years, Catholic Worker's Dwight Smith has railed against the exotic financing behind the opulent, $107 million Santa Ana Police Department headquarters and adjoining city jail—what one wag dubbed the "Glamour Slammer." The jail was partly built with a loan from the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency; the final installment is due in 2006.
The deal was perfectly legal, but with so many working poor in Santa Ana, using block grants from a low-income housing agency to pay off a loan for a marble-encrusted police/jail complex is shameful, Smith believes. Worse, he sees it as part of a pattern in Santa Ana to screw the poor. There was the city's infamous tent city breakdown in 1992, followed by ordinances that force the poor to move out of motels every month and forbid camping on public land. "Even their blankets are illegal," Smith said. Agencies like Catholic Worker are left to deal with the fallout.
So the 11th through 14th Stations of the Cross—the ones in which Jesus is nailed to the cross, placed in his mother's arms and laid to rest—were enacted with about 30 children, many homeless, sitting on the steps to the shiny Santa Ana PD. After the final prayer, Smith told the adults, "Now you all go on. The children are going to stay here for a moment and enjoy the housing the city purchased for them."
As the kids goofed around, adults lined up to kiss the cross propped up a few yards from the jail entrance.
"I want you to look over at all the children who are sitting on the steps of this building," said Leia Smith, Dwight's wife. "I want to remind you that on Easter Sunday, the armories close—all the armories close. And many of the people in this crowd know exactly what that means. People will not have a place to sleep. Look at the sky, feel the weather, and you notice it is cold, even though it may be the end of March. And we invite you to continue to ask some questions: Why—in a county that can afford a marble-covered building—are there men and women and children who have to sleep outside, exposed to the elements, for any reason at all?"
I have submitted to the OC Weekly and to Mike Anton of the LA Times, copies of those documents which show the result of your persuading Mayor Pulido and then HUD Secretary Cisneros to convince the Clinton administration to approve a 1996 Section 108 Transfer of $60 million dollars worth of subsequent low-income housing grants from Santa Ana's poor to the Chemical Bank of New York. This was to repay a $14.7 Million construction completion loan for your palatial HQ, necessitated by the OC BK. Had that $60 Million not consumed virtually half of all the low income housing funds sent to Santa Ana for the next decade, we might have built some long-term, low-income housing of the type you're going to be "presenting options for" in your talk today. All those millions, and pre-boom 1996 millions, to boot!
It's astonishing to me, of all the people in the OC, that you were handed the 2020 Board Role least suited to your CV. If I were to insinuate that you'd been set up by the very person who needs this to fail badly, that would probably be slander. What is self-evident, however, is that the OC Partnership is so dumb, and held in such little regard by the rest of OC's governance, that such really wonderful self-disclosing mistakes will continue to happen. I'm just sorry that you ended up the fall-guy for the OC Partnership's Karmic blunder.
I'm hoping that with this much advance notice you'll be able to completely address your role in the 1996-2006 debacle that robbed so many families of their "option for permanent housing" since you're now the one in charge of developing the same! Was there any thought, after the Chemical Bank loan was in place, to perhaps downgrade the quality of marble festooning the HQ is favor of squats for just a few tykes, or did the general "Cone of Silence" atmosphere surrounding the whole enterprise make charity problematic?
Does it still?
Or will your frank and disingenuous revelations finally let the voters know how important homeless children really are to Jim Palmer and the OC Board of Supervisors? Chief Walters, the real tragedy here is that, as always, really great public servants like you and the rest of the SAPD get "volunteered" by the likes of City Manager Reams and his good friend Jim Palmer. There's a reason that Mr. Palmer, until recently, publicly eschewed any association with Government, proclaiming loudly his utter reliance upon the Lord! He will never bear the humble "yoke" of public service. He will instead, rope the humble servants of the people into serving his selectively "anti-government" designs. The enduring problem, as demonstrated herein, is that he will do it badly. Jim probably isn't even aware of your involvement in the transfer of millions from the poor to the SAPD. That we would hold an "Options for Permanent Housing" presentation in the Community Room of the very "palace" that robbed poor families of their slim chances is ironic in the extreme. Perhaps no one would notice if you changed the venue to Jim Palmer's palace, and wore civvies.
Only in Partnership with the OC!
PS I'll be bringing a few students from the OC College Amnesty Chapter, and a score of homeless people.