[Hpn] Right to Sleep Walkers-Sacramento Bee article

paula farrell paula_95814@yahoo.com
Tue, 23 Jul 2002 15:06:30 -0700 (PDT)


Diana Griego Erwin: Homeless advocates decry 'ban on
sleeping'

 By Diana Griego Erwin -- Bee Staff Writer
 Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Tuesday, July 9, 2002

 If you see it, you can't help but stare at the large,
description-defying vehicle that's been lumbering
around the Sacramento area for the past couple of
days.

 Or maybe it isn't a vehicle at all. Maybe it's a
combination
billboard-soapbox-political-action-committee on
wheels.

 In any case, the one-ton white Dodge truck topped
with a homemade shelter, rakes, bikes, a life
preserver, brooms, beach chairs, political graffiti,
wilted balloons, a basketball hoop, an upside-down
American flag and all manner of signs has been home
base for homeless individuals making a case that they
are the next wave of Americans pressing for civil
rights.

 Their message is simple: Municipal laws against
sleeping in public are hate crimes against the
homeless.

 "Everyone has to sleep," said spokesperson Nancy
McCradie.

 To call attention to their cause, which is backed by
a statewide homeless coalition, homeless advocates led
by McCradie and her boyfriend, Bob Hansen, started
"sleepwalking" from San Diego to the state capital on
May 20, "walking and rolling"
 (say that out loud) as time and circumstances
dictated.

 Along the way, they braved searing heat, wind, rain,
freeways, ticks, mechanical problems, thirst, hunger
and blisters, and picking up and losing like-minded
individuals along the way. But they say it's been
worth it, that the people they've met in California
cities and towns have been supportive of the idea that
all people need sleep.

 Drawn by the eclectic vehicle, purposely parked in
high-traffic areas in town after town, passers-by ask
questions, ultimately engaging in an intellectual
debate on homelessness in America. Sacramentan Paula
Lomazzi, who joined the protest in San Francisco,
dubbed the march "a revolution through education."

 "People can relate to what's happening to homeless
people when we put it in terms of sleep," said
McCradie, co-founder of Homes on Wheels, an advocacy
group in Santa Barbara.

 Tired of crowded, inadequate shelters, more and more
people without regular homes are turning to secondhand
cars, vans and campers, but many cities forbid street
parking from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., said McCradie, who
said she's lived in an RV for 20 years.

 Every time homeless people figure out a new place to
sleep or escape the elements -- in effect, innovating
to survive -- cities pass laws outlawing it, she said.
They get camping tickets they can't afford; the few
possessions they own are often seized by police if
yhey're caught sleeping where they aren't supposed to
be, namely, everywhere.

 Where can homeless people sleep? Parks, bridges,
riverbanks, doorways, sidewalks, fields, vacant
buildings, empty boxcars, bushes, church steps -- from
anti-camping laws to outright sleeping bans,
authorities have run homeless people out of all of
them at one time or any other.

 "If you try to find an alternative situation for
yourself, it becomes a crime," she said. "They've
criminalized sleeping."

 The group's journey culminates Wednesday at a 2 p.m.
rally at the state Capitol where they hope advocates,
friends, the working poor and homeless individuals
themselves will call on the state's political
leadership to end "sleeping bans" in California
cities. They said the protest will be unique and
"catch people's attention," declining to give out
details.

 They hit San Francisco on July 1, then limped into
Davis on Saturday, after a rough trip across the
flatlands where their truck broke down. As they rolled
next to one edge of the UC Davis campus, teens
attending a cheerleading camp whooped and hollered
like only pep squads can in response to hand-lettered
signs covering the truck.

 That got a smile out of McCradie and Hansen. They've
seen some crazy things on the road, but cheerleaders
... well, that was new. 

 But it did reinforce one thing.

 "This is a simple message, maybe because everyone's
been sleep-deprived at one time or another." Hansen
said. "People do get it." 

 About the Writer
 ---------------------------

 The Bee's Diana Griego Erwin can be reached at (916)
321-1057 or e-mail
 dgriego@sacbee.com .


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