Wednesday, August 27, 2008



August 27, 2008

Disability Rights Advocates:
Sid Wolinsky (510) 665-8644
Julia Pinover (510) 665-8644
Western Regional Advocacy Project:
Paul Boden (415) 621-2533
Zelle, Hofmann, Voelbel, Mason & Gette LLP:
Daniel Mason (415) 693-0700


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — A landmark suit filed in federal court in San Francisco today charges that San Francisco’s homeless shelter program “blatantly discriminates” against disabled homeless people. Although the majority of all homeless people are men, women, and children with disabilities, the suit is the first in the country to broadly challenge the homeless shelter program of a city as a violation of civil rights statutes that protect people with disabilities.

The suit alleges that the cornerstone of San Francisco’s approach to homelessness — the embattled “Care Not Cash” program that is the brain child of Mayor Gavin Newsom systematically excludes homeless men and women with disabilities.

Care Not Cash gives participants priority shelter reservations and case management services. Homeless disabled persons who receive social security or veterans benefits cannot participate in the program, even if they desperately need shelter. People with disabilities are thus denied any opportunity to use a major portion of the resources in the shelter system and are denied access to the hundreds of reserved Care Not Cash beds.

Disabled persons are also denied any opportunity to make a 45-day shelter bed reservation, a privilege that Care Not Cash gives to eligible participants. In addition, these disabled men and women must compete with thousands of others each night for a chance to occupy one of the scarce shelter beds available. As a result, homeless people who need shelter the most are the ones who are least able to gain access to the services they so desperately need.

The class action suit, seeking relief on behalf of disabled homeless persons in San Francisco, was filed by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a Berkeley-based nonprofit law center, and Zelle, Hofmann, Voelbel, Mason & Gette LLP, a major national litigation law firm. The suit seeks to end discrimination against disabled people and does not request money damages.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), a non profit coalition protecting the interests of homeless people, and an individual with disabilities who is homeless in San Francisco.

Sid Wolinsky, Litigation Director for Disability Rights Advocates, commented:
“San Francisco’s homeless ‘program’ is a bureaucratic mess. Under Mayor Newsom’s system, disabled people are more likely to be forced onto the streets and alleys of San Francisco. No amount of smooth talking can hide the fact that there are only 1,300 shelter beds for some 3,800 single adult homeless people. No wonder the last report of the National Coalition for the Homeless named San Francisco the ‘eleventh meanest city in the United States.’ The City has created a cruel shell game in which everyone is a loser.”

San Francisco has a very serious shortage of shelter beds. The City guarantees to anyone enrolled in Care Not Cash that they can obtain one of over three hundred beds specifically set aside for them. Because disabled men and women cannot participate in Care Not Cash, however, men and women in wheelchairs or with mental disabilities must attempt on their own to locate some other available bed, travel to that location carrying everything they have, endure lengthy waits until late at night, and often be told that no bed is available. Even if they find a bed, they cannot keep it. They are forced to repeat the process each day. Because homeless persons with disabilities often lack the mental and physical fortitude to overcome the obstacles which San Francisco imposes, they are often left unsheltered.

Dan Mason, an attorney with Zelle Hofmann commented: “It is shameful for a city with the civil rights history of San Francisco to treat people with disabilities so unfairly. People denied shelter beds are the most fragile shelter seekers — those with disabilities.”

People with disabilities, both mental and physical, make up a very high percentage of the homeless population in San Francisco. In a 2007 survey conducted by the Coalition on Homelessness, 50% of individuals in the shelter system self-identified as having a disability. Homeless advocates estimate that a far larger percentage of homeless people are disabled.

Paul Boden, Director of WRAP added, “Homelessness is an emergency. It is a crisis. For San Francisco to programmatically discriminate and to make this vital life sustaining service unavailable to people with mental health disabilities is unconscionable.”

The full text of the complaint is posted at the Disability Rights Advocates website:

Friday, August 22, 2008

Modern Times Book Store Event Up-Date

Aug.14, 2008 WRAP and local artists held a community meeting at Modern Times Book Store in San Francisco to discuss art as an organizing tool.

Turn-out was outstanding. Around 100 people showed up. Between 60 and 70 stayed for the complete presentation.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Foot Patrols to Discourage Homeless in Berkeley

BERKELEY, Calif. (KCBS) -- The problem of homeless street people has plagued Berkeley, but officials are hopeful that a new program will help. In September outreach workers known as “hosts” will troll Shattuck and Telegraph Avenues.

”We want to make sure that they get their needs met, but also allow visitors to enjoy their experience when they’re downtown,” said Deborah Badhia, executive director of the Downtown Berkeley Association.

The idea for foot patrols was hatched about a year ago, around the time Cody’s Books closed. Some theories are that the bookstore was forced to closed, in part, because Telegraph Avenue had deteriorated to a point that no one wanted to come to shop.

The foot patrol will give the homeless housing referrals and lists of city services.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mercer Island, Washington, is home to tent camp

An encampment for the homeless is set up on church property after a legal battle with local residents.
By Stuart Glascock, Special to The Times
August 6, 2008
(Full Article)

Diary: Challenging Gaza blockade

Activists from the California-based Free Gaza Movement are planning to sail from Cyprus to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade of the territory. Rachid Sekkai of the BBC Arabic Service will be on board and sends his first diary entry.

Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of Middle East envoy Tony Blair will be on board

About 45 people are here in the port of Larnaca in Cyprus, preparing to sail south to Gaza.
The group includes Americans, Palestinians and Israelis among the 15 nationalities represented.
President of the Free Gaza Movement, Greta Berlin explains the mission.
"This is a non-violent resistance project to challenge Israel's siege of Gaza. Israel claims that Gaza is no longer occupied, yet Israeli forces control Gaza by land, sea and air".
Israel imposed an economic blockade on Gaza after Hamas forces violently seized control from Fatah in June 2007. The squeeze is also aimed at stopping militants firing rockets at southern Israel.
No Israeli authorisation
The organisers' plan is to enter Gaza from international waters without Israel's authorisation, to recognise Palestinian control over its own borders.
Two wooden boats, Free Gaza and Liberty, will also carry a cargo of 200 hearing aids which are destined for children in Gaza whose hearing has been damaged by explosions and sonic booms.
Americans, Palestinians and Israelis are joining together on the trip

Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who is now an international envoy to the Middle East , tells me she is travelling as both supporter and reporter.
"I dearly want to go to Gaza again to support the Palestinians and to show the world the reality of what's going on there".
Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein is making the journey - at the age of 83 - for humanitarian reasons.
"We intend to open the port, fish with the fishermen, and work in the schools".
The organisers have been open about the risks involved in making such a trip.
Greta Berlin says if the first boat is stopped or attacked by Israeli forces, the passengers will use non-violent resistance, and the second vessel will follow "no matter what".
Our pre-trip training has included lessons on how to behave if things don't go to plan.
The departure date is a secret for our own safety. All we know so far is that the journey is meant to take 20 hours.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Solving Homelessness Year To Year

No more 'Band-Aid' approaches, Heart of Florida United Way vows

Heart of Florida United Way is radically changing the way it does business: going after "root causes" of hunger, homelessness, crime and family violence instead of "putting a Band-Aid" on the problems, leaders say.
(Full Article)

Dividing to conquer?!?

County launches new housing program

Published: Monday, August 4, 2008 4:22 AM EDT
TOWANDA — The Bradford County commissioners are launching a program to provide housing for homeless people who are mentally ill, and have also adopted bylaws related to the disbursement of room tax money in the county.
(Full Article)

Hurricane victims...Economic victims

Katrina evacuees falling into homelessness

BATON ROUGE, La., Aug. 4 (UPI) -- The closing of a Louisiana trailer park for Hurricane Katrina victims is highlighting fears that some evacuees are falling into homelessness, observers say.
(Full Article)

City backs housing for homeless

Of The Gazette Staff

From its inception two years ago, the Mayor's Committee on Homelessness has been acting on the premise that finding a solution to chronic homelessness is the key to ending homelessness in general.
(Full Article)

Monday, August 4, 2008

ALERT: Patti in Arcata; shut down through intimidating CITY Govn't. tactics


Last week, Patti, who was publicly sharing/serving food at least 4 days a week (she also runs around making sure folks have food), was visited by a so-called health inspector and threatened. This guy was the same one (I believe) who came to the People Project encampment and, not finding any health risks/hazards, reported back to the City in LIES. Patti's food is nutritious and consciously prepared and distributed. Patti treats people with respect and caring, and her efforts lift people's spirits and take care of concrete needs- needs that are otherwise almost completely neglected, or 'satisfied' through dehumanizing means. Patti has been actively sharing food publicly for 3 years. Patti is a military vet. She is devastated by the threats she received last week, but moreover because the people who depend on her for meals, can no longer.

Patti has supplies, food donations, and willingness to be behind the scenes to get food to folks who want to prepare it and share with people who are hungry. There are often something like 50 or more people who come to eat meals prepared by Patti (and she used to, on occasion, bring food and participate in People Project meetings). After Patti was threatened (on Wednesday or Thursday of last week), she did NOT go to her usual spot, but rather drove by from the highway, seeing all of the people expecting her to be there, and the COPS.

***We've already fought this battle in Arcata and ALL OVER THE U.S! Food not Bombs volunteers used to get arrested on the Arcata Plaza on a regular basis in the 90's. San Francisco went through the "Soup Wars". Food Not Bombs everywhere have fought the absurd and cruel repression against people sharing food without a permit (like a big picnic), and WE HAVE ALWAYS WON!! As long as we are not selling food or blocking passage on public property, it's all good- or should be.

Please get loud and public about this intimidation of Patti and the loss of a valuable resource for so many that is necessary for survival- FOOD shared in a DIGNIFIED way. I ask that you as an individual, and/or you, as part of a group in which you participate, write a statement in support of public feeding and condemning the intimidation and repression that has been brought upon Patti. Consequently, many people are not getting their basic needs met. With the City's involvement, oppression, and shutting down of the Arcata Endeavor, with the loss of our indoor meeting spot for PEOPLE PROJECT in Arcata (where we always had dinner), with the absence of Food Not Bombs currently in Arcata, and most of the dumpsters LOCKED- little to no free food is accessible to people who need it. There is no shortage of food in Arcata- stores have tons of 'excess', Patti has many regular donors, the dumpsters anD garbage cans are full of perfectly acceptable surplus food from restaurants - yet the people who need it are LOCKED OUT more and more by the FASCIST City of Arcata (including its pet businesses).

Please SPEAK OUT about this- hang signs through the town, send the city mailed, emailed, faxed statements; get on the radio. The next City Council meeting in Arcata is on the 20th of August (wonder why this week's is cancelled?), which is a good opportunity to speak to the COMMUNITY. But the 20th is far away. Make noise about this. Get in contact with Patti. Bring food to the people. Get together with your 'groups' and create a statement- spread it far and wide. Offer your yard on which to serve food... the possibilities are there- but please do something ASAP.

This is Patti's website: