Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lives may founder, but yacht sales will flourish

Steve Lopez

August 29, 2007

Every time I think Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is starting to get a clue how to lead, he snaps me back to reality. This time it was his boneheaded elimination of a program that saves money, draws raves and helps thousands of poor souls lead productive lives.

But before I get to Big Boy's blunder, I want to tell you about a man named Bill Compton.

From Los Angeles to Sacramento, people have been calling and e-mailing me the last couple of days with tributes to William H. Compton Jr., whose battle with schizophrenia helped inspire the program Schwarzenegger axed.

Compton, 61, died Monday of cancer at a hospital in Anaheim. A theater arts major who had managed theaters in several cities, Compton ended up living on the streets of Hollywood after being stricken with late-onset schizophrenia in his 40s.

Early in 1990, he happened into Project Return, a network of more than 100 social and advocacy clubs in Los Angeles County sponsored by the National Mental Health Assn. of Greater Los Angeles. Members help each other live independently, go to school, get jobs and find professional help that will advance their recovery.

Less than two years after Compton joined up, the mental health association's president, Richard Van Horn, decided to bump the professional staff and turn Project Return's administration over to the clients, with Compton as director. Some thought it was a risky move, but Compton made Van Horn look like a genius.

"I think my proudest moment with Bill was in June 2001," said Van Horn, who helped present Compton with one of his many national honors. "After receiving the award, Bill was to ring the 300-pound bell that was cast from shackles that had bound mental patients to the walls of state hospitals up until the 1940s. I still see the glistening of tears in Bill's eyes as he rang the bell, proclaiming his own recovery and advocacy for others."

Stephen Mayberg, director of the state Department of Mental Health, fondly recalled Compton's many missions to Sacramento, where he would lobby for mental health clients to have a seat at the table when public policy is planned.

"His legacy will live on as we continue to lead transformation of mental health services in California," Mayberg said.

If so, it will be no thanks to the governor.

Bill Compton's Project Return helped pave the way for AB 2034, which, until its funding was cut by Schwarzenegger last week, was keeping nearly 5,000 people off the streets of California with a smart mix of housing and all the necessary support services.

The governor's staff has argued that the program can be funded with other revenues, such as money from the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63). But state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, who introduced AB 2034 when he was in the Assembly, said the latter ploy is both illegal and a subversion of voter intent.

"I was sick to my stomach for two days," said Steinberg, who believed until last week that the governor would be on his side, particularly since the program has substantially reduced hospitalization, incarceration and criminal justice costs for its participants.

Steinberg said Prop. 63 funds will be used to cover the program temporarily, so 4,700 current clients are not abandoned. But that will mean other programs go begging. Meanwhile, Steinberg said he would press for a lawsuit to reverse the governor's cut.

If the governor was looking for savings, he could have taken his scalpel to an estimated $45-million tax break for purchases of yachts, planes and RVs.

To find out just how the break works, I called a yacht company in Marina del Rey. A sales rep told me I would have to buy the boat outside of California, but there's a loophole available in that regard. Technically, he said, if I took ownership of the boat three miles off shore, I'd be out of the state.

In other words, if I wanted to buy a $100,000 sailboat, I would sign the contract at the shop in Marina del Rey and then navigate around the tax bite with a little vacation.

"We would effect delivery out of state, three miles out, with a hired skipper who would take you out," the salesman explained. If I then sailed down to Mexico for 90 days, I'd avoid the sales tax of $8,250.

That's roughly the cost, Van Horn told me, of keeping someone in the AB 2034 program for a year, if you count the matching Medi-Cal funds.

May Bill Compton rest in peace.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Poor people equated with animals while Mayor conducts Massive Homeless Sweeps of Golden Gate Park

Press Contacts:
Lisa Gray-Garcia, POOR Magazine: 415-863-6306, 510-435-7500 (cell)
For Immediate Release:

On the eve of the Summer of Love 40th anniversary San Francisco residents ask: Where is the love? and demand retraction of irresponsible journalism and hate speech
What: Retraction Rally and Press Conference
When: August 31st @ 12:00 noon
Where: The SF Chronicle Building @ 5th and Mission streets
Co-sponsored by: POOR Magazine, The Coalition on Homelessness and Western Regional Advocacy Project

“Where is the love?” Mary X 66, a houseless elder and a participant of the original Summer of Love “Love-ins” that took place in Golden Gate Park in 1967, asks the City.

In 1967 thousands of people flocked to San Francisco for “Summer of Love” celebrations and stood in Golden Gate Park together. Forty years later, the Mayor is conducting massive sweeps of homeless and poor folks from Golden Gate Park in an effort to “clean up” the City by eradicating all poor people.

These unconstitutional and un-loving sweeps have been supported in a series of Chronicle articles by former sports writer, C.W. Nevius who stated, “Forget coyotes. Do you really think your biggest concern is getting bit by a wild animal in Golden Gate Park?” in his article entitled, Here’s the Real Problem in Golden Gate Park.

In this column, which appeared above the fold on July 24th and many others, Nevius, not only equates poor people with “dangerous” animals, but also calls the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council recycling center a “cash machine” for homeless people that “may lead to illegal activity” (Recycling Center Near Golden Gate Park May Lead to Illegal Activity). In addition, in another article, Nevius refers to homeless people’s walk to the park, as the “march of the junkies” and wrongly accuses the needle exchange program of being irresponsible. (Golden Gate Park Sweep: Can City Make it Stick?)

This journalism is not just inaccurate and irresponsible, but also an outright attack on homeless people in the City, just in time to garner support for the Mayor’s longstanding plan to exterminate houseless people from the park.

“Nevius is producing irresponsible journalism that fuels hate for houseless folks” , said Ron Lipson a formerly houseless San Francisco resident…

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Homeless are FREE! (Sort of)

Medford, Oregon

The judge has released two of the three homeless people, who have witnessed a crime in Medford out of jail, and placed them in (a pretrial release program) through the Local Control Unit of the Probation Department.

The two witnesses have to check in with the probation department daily, which puts them in a similar category to what happens when someone is charged with a crime and the judge wants to make sure that the person is around for the trail date.

The whole case started with the judge locking up three homeless people to make sure that they are available at the time of the trial. Obviously, the criminal justice system does not trust that homeless people are going to be easy to find, or does not take their word. The judge gave a remark that his reason was because they “were difficult to find by police” and “were not forthcoming.”

The judge also claimed to be open to alternative options, and almost three months after witnesses have been in jail without any charges, and with the increasing local and media attention, two of the three were released with conditions and restrictions.

Local attorneys and righteous groups have been putting a lot of effort and hard work to get the three out of jail. Some attorneys were filing with the federal court to protest the judge’s decision.

The case of those three witnesses shows how homeless people’s rights are being violated by the criminal justice system, and are being criminalized because they’re homeless. A similar case has occurred in Scranton, PA.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

PRESS ADVISORY 22 August 2007 – “Free the Oregon Three!”

From: Western Regional Advocacy Project, Street Roots, Sisters Of The Road, Los Angeles Community Action Network, San Francisco Coalition On Homelessness, Real Change

SUBJECT: HOMELESS People who witness crimes are being thrown into jail because prosecutors want easy access to them

On June 3rd, three homeless people who witnessed a disturbance in Medford, OR that led to a death and an arrest on manslaughter charges were themselves jailed - because a prosecutor argued, and a judge agreed, that as homeless people, the witnesses might prove too difficult to locate at the time of the trial. That trial is scheduled to start Sept. 25. No charges have been brought against the witnesses.

On Friday, Aug. 24th, the three individuals will be going before a judge to fight for their freedom from incarceration. But they are not the first homeless people to be jailed for the crime of stepping forward to tell police what they witnessed.

"It should alarm everyone in this country, regardless of how you see the issue of homelessness, that our courts are locking people up simply based on the fact that they witnessed (not committed) a crime. Guantanamo Bay comes to Medford Oregon," says Paul Boden, Executive Director of Western Regional Advocacy Project based in San Francisco.

“An alarming trend has emerged in this country, one that criminalizes those that merely witness a crime; a trend that has led to the jailing of witnesses for indefinite periods of time. This trend has the chilling effect of silencing those who would otherwise be used as tools in the pursuit of justice,” says Pete White, founder and Co-Director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network.

This incident comes on the heels of another case, in Scranton, PA. On July 6th Randy Barr, a 41-year-old homeless man, saw a man slashed to death during an argument, called police and waited for them to arrive at the scene in order to make a statement. He was jailed for four weeks before being put on a house arrest program earlier this month, fitted with a monitoring device and required to check in with house arrest officials once a week. He is banned from using alcohol or drugs and must also submit to random drug tests and pay $10 a day for the program.

Initially, Barr was thrown in Lackawanna County Prison where, he said, no one told him about anything that was happening with the case.

As advocates for homeless people, we are outraged at this egregious violation of their civil rights. Instead of giving the individuals in these cases a hotel room or other place to stay, they have been thrown into jail and treated as any other inmate for the crime of coming forward as good citizens, while not having a roof over their head. “Just because an individual is without a home, shouldn’t mean you are stripped of your rights as a citizen of the United States,” says Israel Bayer, Director of Street Roots newspaper in Portland, Ore.

It has often been said that the most precious thing we have in America is our freedom and that government must be able to show good cause before our freedom can be infringed upon. Protections were created that government must be able to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that we have committed a crime before it can lock us up in jail in an effort to preserve our individual freedom. Apparently, those days are over.

“If you've got money, you've got rights. Since when do you have to buy due process and human rights in this country?” says Rachael Myers, Advocacy Director with Real Change newspaper in Seattle, Wash.

Press Contacts:

Paul Boden, Western Regional Advocacy Project, 415-621-2533
Genny Nelson, Sisters Of The Road, 503-284-6629
Israel Bayer, Street Roots, 503-228-5657

Public Defender:
Christine Herbert,, 541-779-2006

Homeless Advocate Organizations:
Western Regional Advocacy Project is a coalition of west coast social justice-based
homelessness organizations.

Street Roots is a bimonthly street newspaper in Portland, Ore.

Sisters Of The Road is a customer-driven model focusing on solutions to the calamities of homelessness and poverty. Running a cafe that accepts food stamps or bartering, as well as family advocacy.

Real Change is a weekly street newspaper in Seattle, Wash.

San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness initiates program and policy change that results in the creation of exits from poverty.

Los Angeles Community Action Network works to help people dealing with poverty create & discover opportunities, while serving as a vehicle to ensure they have voice, power & opinion in the decisions that are directly affecting them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Judge says homeless witnesses must stay in jail

Judge says homeless witnesses must stay in jail
Posted by The Associated Press August 14, 2007 13:41PM

MEDFORD -- Three homeless people who saw a fatal fight at an encampment must remain in jail until the case is tried, a judge has ruled.

The three have been held for 10 weeks as material witnesses, getting $7.50 a day in compensation. A trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 25.

"We are talking about innocent people being held in jail," said Christine Herbert, a public defender representing Carl Bogenschneider, 51.

He, his wife Lynn Ann, 46 and Timothy Williams, 39, argued that they should be allowed to record their testimony and go free.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Ron Grensky said they should remain in jail, as he ordered in June.

"When they weren't incarcerated, they weren't easy to find," the judge said.

Grensky said they are the only people who can testify about what happened at a late-night fight between Brian Garrett, 40, and James Revier, 42.

Revier was found dead June 3. Garrett faces a manslaughter charge.

Jackson County Deputy District Attorney David Hoppe said he needed live testimony to make the case against Garrett.

When Grensky handed down his ruling Monday, Lynn Bogenschneider began sobbing. The couple has been separated in jail. She had mouthed "I love you" to her husband in the courtroom.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Community March to End Homelessness and Poverty

Community March to End Homelessness and Poverty
San Jose – Monday, August 27, 2007

Join CHAM, the Affordable Housing Network, Santa Clara County Collaborative on Affordable Housing and Homeless Issues, and others in a large march on Monday, August 27 in downtown San Jose. We call on Congress and the Federal government to take action to rapidly end homelessness and poverty in America once and for all.

* Section 8 Vouchers: Increase HUD funding to provide an additional 59,000 Section 8 vouchers for Santa Clara County. This is the number of families and individuals currently on the Section 8 waiting list.

* NHTF: Pass the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund legislation. The NHTF would fund the construction of 1.5 million low-income housing units - 75% for extremely low-income households over - 10 years.

* A right to housing: Legislation giving everyone in the U.S. a right to decent, affordable housing in a good neighborhood.

The Federal Government has the authority, the power, and the funds to end homelessness and poverty in America immediately, as called for by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, Congress will not act unless we the people create the political will to make it happen.

- 4:00 PM Gather in front of the County Building
70 W Hedding St

- 4:30 PMBegin Marching

- 4:45 PMCongresswoman Zoe Lofgren's Office
635 N First St

- 5:30 PM Rally and Cultural Program, near
San Jose City Hall Plaza, 200 E Santa Clara St

If you or your organization is interested in endorsing the COMMUNITY MARCH TO END HOMELESSNESS AND POVERTY, please click here and complete the print the endorsement form and fax to 408-294-2963 or mail to CHAM at 80 S 5th St, San Jose, CA 95112.

For more information, call CHAM 408-295-4463 or email

Monday, August 13, 2007

Twenty Years of McKinney

Twenty Years of McKinney

Last month marked 20 years since the 1987 Stewart B. McKinney Act, the federal government’s first and still most dominant program to alleviate homelessness for poor people in America. Why then do we still see so many homeless people on our streets? Or know about the “invisible homeless,” the individuals and families who have lost their homes and had to move in with others, sleep in cars or bounce from motel to shelter to hotel.

The short answer is because there is not enough housing. Since 1979, the federal government has reduced subsidized affordable housing by $52 billion. Between 1996 and 2005, 100,000 public housing units have been lost and there has been zero funding for new public housing since 1996. When people can no longer afford the cost of housing, they must live without housing, they become “the homeless.”

But there is a longer answer. The Stewart McKinney act had its hands tied from the very beginning. It was never given the power to stem the growing tide of poor people newly created by cutbacks in federal agencies responsible for addressing poverty.

Here is how it worked. The last 20 years have seen massive cutbacks in the rolls for Social Security Insurance, widespread job losses through the North American Free Trade Agreement, a stagnant minimum wage still below poverty level, and other cuts to poverty programs. As financial support disappeared for more and more people, poverty spread, and at the same time HUD’s affordable housing programs were decimated. The McKinney legislation was never designed to deal with these underlying causes of homelessness. Or put another way, it was never designed to overcome these barriers to ending homelessness.

When McKinney was signed into law in 1987, emerging homelessness was just beginning to be recognized as a national issue. Local communities had already established emergency shelters and services, and many had set up task forces or councils to coordinate services and write plans.

It was in this environment that the McKinney Act was born. It first focused on the immediate emergency needs of homeless people in local communities – beds, blankets, and band aids. It did not regulate how long people had to be homeless to qualify. It did not require communities to discriminate between families and individuals. It did not pretend to be a housing program.

Over the years, however, and given the mushrooming numbers of poor people, McKinney applications have forced a variety of homeless sub-populations to compete for woefully inadequate funds. For example, now HUD’s system for scoring community’s applications for McKinney funds are weighted in favor of housing “chronically homeless” individuals versus homeless families with children. In fact, HUD scores a community’s plan to create and success in creating permanent housing beds for people who are chronically homeless, but does not even require communities to include in its applications its strategies for creating permanent housing units for families with children and individuals who are not chronically homeless. Communities which are new to the McKinney funding world received no funding this year in part because they prioritized assisting families with children.

It has become a zero-sum game, with children, families, and single individuals competing against each other. As housing and services are made more available to one group, resources are drained from others. It is a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It shifts homelessness but has no chance whatsoever of ending it, and it puts cruel burdens on local communities.

July will mark 20 years since passage of the McKinney Act. It has done some good for some people. But has it has not significantly reduced homelessness across the country. How could it? A $1.4 billion a year homelessness budget cannot compensate for a $52 billion a year reduction in affordable housing.

Its original name, the “Urgent Relief for the Homeless Act,” makes clear that it was never intended to be a comprehensive solution for homeless people. HUD has that responsibility, but cuts to HUD’s budget for affordable low-income housing have been relentless. Tinkering with McKinney to determine who wins and who loses accomplishes nothing toward ending homelessness. Nor, for that matter, will punitive new laws against panhandling or sleeping in public, or poverty courts that serve only to remove the more visible homeless people from public view.

Urgent relief is needed. What’s to be done? As a private citizen, what can you do?

1. You can insist that any candidate seeking your support explain how he or she would return McKinney to its “urgent relief” function for all homeless people, as originally intended.

2. You can insist that any candidate seeking your support explain how he or she would ensure that the federal departments of HUD, Health, Education, and Labor will revitalize programs that once served poor people. We need to get this country back to the days before so many people needed “urgent relief.”

3. You can write, e-mail, or call both your favored candidate and the Democratic National Committee and demand that a comprehensive plan to end mass homelessness in America be a mason plank in the Democratic Party Platform for 2008.

We need a true comprehensive federal government plan to take effect immediately. Think New Deal.