Humboldt County Land Scam Prompts Homeless Deportation FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 10 Dec 1997 18:42:27 -0800 (PST)


FWD written by Robert Norse <norse@netcom.com>

**Humboldt County Land Scam Prompts Homeless Deportation**
Story by Robert Norse for North American Street Newspaper Association 9/30/97

Protest marches, legal filings, prayer meetings, and plans for
resistance marked the final week of preparations as residents and
supporters prepared for a threatened County-engineered sweep of the
homeless community on the South Spit Jetty south of Eureka. An August
19th settlement agreement between the County and the Jetty community
supposedly produced an agreement to end harassment of the campers. It
allowed the homeless community to stay on the federal property at the
end of the Jetty unmolested, ending periodic harassment through trespass
ticketing and County lawsuit. In return, the South Spitters agreed to
take care of the land and move to an alternate site when that became
available. The August settlement ended a 1994 Rpublic nuisanceS
lawsuit--only the latest in a long- string of County gambits to drive off
the homeless.

On September 2nd County Health Officer Ann Lindsay ordered the
road to the south Spit Jetty gated and guarded, set an eviction
deadline of October 2nd, and ordered all property not removed by that
date confiscated. Though no one was sick when she issued her order
Lindsay found a causus belli in 8 confirmed cases in April and May,
which she labeled Shagela dysentery (Lindsay ballooned the figure to
20).

Regular Spit doctor Wendy Ring rejected LindsayUs public health
RemergencyS declaration in a sworn 4-page declaration to Superior Court
Judge Buffington on September 25th. Citing unsafe health conditions
because of lack of sanitation and washing water, Lindsay found an
immediate emergency--even though these same conditions had been standard
for years, and ostentatiously ignored by the County in spite of pleas by
religious and health workers.

If such an epidemic existed, asked Ring, why did the County
refuse to provide funds to fill a water tank for hand-washing in May?
Why did County Health express no alarm at 8 cases of Shagala in Eureka in
February?

Nancy Dervin, a Christian Minister with Love in Action, who built
a 24X32U church on the Jetty and served the community for three years,
swore in a declaration to the Superior Court on September 25th that she
wrote a grant in 1996 to get water, garbage, and toilets for the Jetty,
but the County blocked it. RI was going to try again this yearS, she
continued, Rbut the Health Department advised me that they would once
again block it. [These services]...could have been provided for 2 1/2
years ($1700 a month) with the $55,000 the County has committed to remove
people from what little bit of security they now have.S The same
Humboldt Area Foundation that refused to fund a grant for toilets in 1995
is paying for social workers this year to dress up the homeless
deportation.

Dervin claims further that LindsayUs press release claiming that
St. Joseph'sU, Catholic Charities, and Salvation Army were given funding
to help soften the Jetty eviction were refuted by direct calls to those
agencies. Eureka Police chief Milsapp, she adds, told her RI wonUt let
them set up camps in this town.S

Dervin reports that she found Larry, who fled the Jetty earlier
and now sleeps in an abandoned building, in tears on September 23rd.
The former Jetty resident reported that police had threatened to take his
dog and told him nobody from the Jetty was welcome in Eureka. He was
given ten days to get out of town.

LindsayUs Rhealth emergencyS tale fit in well with County
Supervisor Stan DixonUs plan to redevelope Humboldt Harbor having the
State buy the five-mile strip of property from Pacific Lumber and the
Army Corps of Engineers to turn into a managed recreational area. The
one sticking point: the StateUs Coastal Conservancy would not purchase
the Pacific Lumber access road until all the homeless were off the
property. Rather than evict them straightaway and be forced to pay
costly relocation fees, Dixon engineered a bill via State Senator
Thompson to SB-39 authorizing the Coastal Conservancy to make a study
and buy the spit.

Lindsay asked and got $55,000 from the County Supervisors for
Rhomeless relocationS expenses, much of which was spent to staff a
roadblock gate with sheriffs and security guards and to euthanize or
adopt out the residentsU pets.

64-year old Jinny Jernigan, homeless advocate for over 10 years,
was one of four additional social workers paid by the County to walk the
Spit as protective cover for the homeless removal. On September 23rd,
she quit, disgusted with the CountyUs activities and swore out a
declaration indicting the County for incompetence at best: the social
workers had virtually no resources or information to give the Jetty
residents.

Derven denounces what she terms Rself-contradicting, false,
and/or exaggerated claimsS of alleged work done by county Social Workers
to justify the near-Martial Law conditions. South Spit resident Dennis
Maddox wrote bitterly of the County and media smearing the Jetty
residents as living in filth and disease, and then expecting landlords
to take them in elsewhere in the County. For those without SSI or TANF,
even those who receive a pittance from General Relief, this false promise
of safe housing Rcan only mean one of two things: jail or the cemetery.S

Resident Jesse Katz writes, RI was living in Eureka and I moved
out here to get away from he drugs and the police harassment of the
homeless. IUm clean out here. For the large part we were chased out
here, given no options. The Jetty is closer to a community than I ever
found in Eureka. Kill me or take me to jail. I donUt want either but
IUm not afraid.S

Writes seven-year resident Guy Keller, RIUm being held against my
will, because i donUt have ID. They will let me out, but they wonUt let
me back in.S Fourteen-year old Meredith Giles writes, RMy mom has
asthma, emphysema, and her kidneys are failing. I feel like IUm more
free here than anywhere else in the world. When all this started
happening, I felt like I was a prisoner, that I was more of a number than
a person. It didnUt feel like America, that I was trapped in some other
country.S

James Darpino, who lives at the Spit with his wife and two
children and one of the few operational vehicles, writes of the Rsimple
but beneficial way of lifeS with Rpeople tightly knitS. RThe unity here
has a bond so strong that nobody goes without food, without water, or
any of the basic necessities of life.S

Merv Jensen, reporter for Homeward, a Sacramento-based homeless
newspaper, went to Eureka in mid-September to speak with County Heath
officials and Jetty residents. He saw the CountyUs anti-homeless
campaign as an Rsome sort of a far-fetched land deal, an immoral,
unfeeling, and remorseless effort.S So struck was Jensen with the naked
injustice of the situation that he returned to the Jetty after filing his
story to stand with residents when and if the County moves against them.

Resident and long-time activist Susan Dunn heads a family that
lives in a large converted bus. She has spoken and organized against the
harassment of homeless people in Santa Barbara and elsewhere and has been
a major news source for Jetty residents putting out their story on the
Internet (http://www.geocities.com/capitolhill/lobby/7252, her e-mail:
a-citizen@geocities.com). Alarmed at the possibility of an armed
confrontation on the Spit if authorities move on the homes of the
homeless, she has proposed organizing a modern-day wagon train and has
called the Sheriff to seek a Rwalking demonstration with vehiclesS permit
to buy the people time to relocate.

RThere are lots of people with disabilities, thatUs why theyUre
here,S says Dunn. RThey canUt work anymore. There are people who have
injuries, they canUt walk far. Others are on crutches, probably for the
rest of their lives. They will not be able to walk to the free meal, and
the places they need to go. Social Services used to send these people to
the jetty because there is nowhere to go. On the jetty, the people are
much better off. The mentally ill are relatively safe...People on the
jetty have formed a real community...a church, and a playground.S

Lurch, who has been homeless in Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara,
says Rhomeless out here arenUt activists or protesters; weUre losing it
because of that.S Phil, disabled from a well-to-do family writes RThe
family out here on the Jetty is more important than my own family because
they need more.S Eleven-year-old Chris in 5th grade: RI feel like
something is going to happen, like three is going to be a big storm or
something.S

80% of the South Spit residents are disabled, mentally or
physically. There are about a dozen children. One-third of the
community is female. Most of them have non-operational vehicles. Dr.
Ring swears in her court declaration, Rmost...live in trailers which
provide shelter from the weather, cooking and food storage facilities,
and some security from theft and assault. Evicting people from shelter,
however poor, in the face of oncoming winter weather, without providing
an alternative will have detrimental effects on their health...and is not
in any way justified by the medical facts.S

Jernigan calls continuing County claims that they are housing
homeless with the money Rsimply lies.S A Health Department workerUs
claim to Street Spirit (9/23) that the County had helped relocate over
130 people: a claim Dervin and Turner said was knowingly false. Jetty
attorney Jan Turner knows of less than10 people that the County has even
tried to help get alternate housing as of late September--almost always
with no success. Nardia, a resident on the Jetty, writes that her
repeated attempts to get even a single application form from Social
Workers were met with silence and that her family members have not been
allowed past the armed and guarded gate.

In practical terms, there is virtually no housing available for
under $300; the Housing Authority has a long waiting list, does
background checks, and only slumlords will rent to people without rental
references. Trailer parks wonUt admit those trailers still mobile on the
Jetty because they are too old. The County has refused even to supply
gas money so people can seek housing on their own. Eureka bars overnight
sleeping in vehicles.

Humboldt County and the City of Eureka, nestled near the
northwestern most corner of the State, have 1000-1500 homeless. The
County ignored the recommendations of two County Grand Juries for the
creation of a permanent homeless shelter and refused to ratify an
affordable housing element which would allow for zoning for shelters and
campgrounds. This failure endangers future federal funding--which the
County is apparently willing to sacrifice in its disdain for the
homeless, according to Reverend Eric Duff, a concerned local.

First Baptist Church member Abby Newal reports that even
TliberalU Arcata, which recently elected the first Green Party majority
in the country on its City Council, wonUt let homeless sleep in cars and
limits guitar-playing to ten minutes at a time at the downtown Plaza
(where police were arresting Food Not Bombs for feeding the homeless two
years ago). Working with her Baptist church, Newall put up homeless
people in her garage as a temporary shelter for a year, but police shut
it down after one complaint from a neighbor.

Ruben Botillo is a writer on the Internet (sananda@hotmailcom).
Botillo heads the American Homeless Society and has organized two
protests supporting the South Spit Jetty community. He has written the
County Grand Jury, denouncing local expenditures on a huge new empty
jail, a brand new courthouse, and a TTaj MahalU library that is now
largely closed because the County canUt pay for staff. He sees a $20
million Humboldt Harbor dredging and gentrification project behind the
South Spit land grab. Botillo regularly flays county authorities for
their anti-homeless policies and this summer called for a boycott of
Humboldt County to protest wilful mistreatment and neglect of the poor.

Barely a week before the eviction deadline, Turner filed a
lawsuit demanding the courts enforce the August settlement agreement.
She filed 28 declarations documenting that persons providing necessary
medication, food, water, and transportation have been prevented from
entering the Spit, that those on the spit without picture ID have been
unable to leave, that the health RemergencyS used to justify wholesale
abrogation of constitutional rights is a pretext to facilitate state
purchase of the Spit. Turner further contends that the state agency
planning to purchase the property, the Coastal Conservancy, has refused
to do so until campers have been removed; the Coastal Conservancy paid
for the guard gate. The CountyUs unilateral decision to blockade the
homeless on federal property also cuts access to a state beach and a
county park.

String, another veteran on disability with a broken back asks,
RtheyUre closing down the military bases; why canUt the homeless go there
and try to make a living? Why donUt they let us go in some of those
ghost towns or abandoned homes and let us fix them up?S Merle Adams, an
American-Apache Vet who has lived on the Spit on and off for 10 years,
simply says, RI had a dream three times. It was the same dream, that I
got shot. I ainUt got no place to go. IUm willing to die for my land.S

To get to the South Spit Jetty by land coming north from the San
Francisco Bay Area take the Hookten Road turnoff from US 101 south of
Eureka., just after the Lolita exit.. The Jetty is 5-10 miles further.
Guards are required by court order to let in vehicles containing food,
medicine, or clothing donations for those on the Spit.

On September 26, Judge Buffington issued a temporary restraing
order, delaying eviction of the Jetty residents until after a hearing
9:30 AM October 10th Superior Court (855 5th St., Eureka). The armed
guard and the roadblock remain, but guards have been instructed they
canUt keep out people bringing in food and medicine or visiting
relatives. Guards are also limited in their searches and canUt keep
people from leaving.

Human rights activists urge supporters to contact media about the
Rhomeless cleansingS underway in Humboldt County and ask folks to come
out on the Spit and volunteer to help. Botillo can be reached at
707-444-2553 and suggests protests against the deportation and bogus
Rhealth emergencyS be phoned or faxed to the office of County Health
Officer Dr. Ann Lindsay at 707-822-7041 (phone) and/or 707-445-7299 (fax).

For further information contact the websites of Susan Dunn or
Rueben Botillo [see above] or log on to the California Homeless Civil
Rights Action Network homepage http://www.cruzio.com/~chhc/hcr.html

To volunteer support for the South Spit Jetty community, contact
Chuck and Katherine Frank: 916-629-2746.

Robert Norse works for HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship &
Freedom) and can be reached at 408-423-HUFF. Mailing address: 309
Cedar St. #14B, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. E-mail: norse@netcom.com Fax:
408-429-8529. Website under construction: http://got.net/~xavier/

Flyer by HUFF

Eureka's Homeless Refugees Fight To Redeem County's Promises
Story for November Street Spirit by Robert Norse 10/27/97

Legal struggle, colorful local protest, out-of-town pressure, and
some media sympathy combined to force concessions from County authorities
in the ongoing struggle to disperse the Humboldt County homeless from
their coastal refuge, where many of them have lived for as long as a
decade. The County successfully used a combination of relentless
disinformation and brute force to remove the last of the Jetty residents
from their 120 vehicles, jailing four of the homeless on October 21. But
an underdog publicity campaign, peaceful but persistent resistance, and
ongoing organizing has kept some of the homeless community fighting for
its rights--even as it faces new eviction deadlines from the temporary
hotels and campground grudgingly provided by the County.

The cynical charade was played out to its brutal conclusion as
the County swept in swiftly to seal its carefully-planned sabotage of a
binding August court settlement between campers and County agencies that
should have allowed Jetty residents months to relocate and secured
permanent housing for the 150-200 community members.

As reported last month, a "health" crisis was the power card used
to sabotage the terms of the crucial August settlement. That settlement
would have allowed campers to remain on the federal end of the property
until an itinerent campground or other permanent housing arrangements
were established.

Swift removal of the homeless remained the pressing concern of
the County and a key element of State Senator Thompson's bill
establishing a managed recreational area. The Coastal
Conservancy--chosen to run the area--would not purchase the property
unless and until the homeless were gone. Enter Health Officer Ann
Lindsay and her convenient "health" concerns.

Spring and summer cases of Shigella dysentery, both in Eureka and
on the South Spit were not serious enough for Lindsay to send in
portapotties, fresh water, and or sewage hookups to the Jetty, though
this is what they'd sought for years. But suddenly, in the wake of the
signed settlement, they were enough to override the legal agreement, set
up a guard gate, and terrorize the homeless community with an October 2nd
eviction deadline.

That deadline was put on hold when Judge Buffington issued a
court order requested by Redwood Legal Assistance attorney Jan
Turner--for several years the legal champion of the Jetty community and a
key author of the August settlement. Friends of the homeless hoped
Buffington would weigh the assessment of regular Spit doctor Wendy Ring,
who disputed Lindsay's findings of a crisis.

Attorney Sara Senger issued a press release in late September
titled "'Emergency' on Jetty a False Alarm" which noted that "for many
years, the County Department of Social SErvices has referred clients who
were homeless to the South Jetty, as the safest and best place for
homeless persons in Humboldt County." "Homeless who do not live on the
Jetty live in dangerous abandoned buildings, cardboard boxes ont he
streets of Eureka, under freeway overpasses, and even on highway
medians" The Salvation Army separated itself from the County's
deportation effort.

Initial optimistic assessments turned sour when Lindsay's workers
began distributing 48-hour eviction notices at the Jetty on October 15.
The next day Buffington dissolved his Injunction. The judge made a
shotgun of findings. He ruled that the August 19 settlement had not been
prepared in "final written judgment," He held that though on the one
hand he had "no opinion on the legality" of Lindsay's eviction order,
still the "public health may be endangered and the need to protect the
overall health of county residents must take precedence over any
contract". Lindsay's police powers and actions were undertaken
independently of County authority. Buffington wrote these words even
though no hearing was held in open court on the specifics of the
county-concocted health crisis.

Skeptics suggested the need to win an upcoming election and gain
one more year of office to secure a pension may have been influential in
Buffington's decision. Attorney Sara Sender (?), a close observer of
Humboldt County's Machiavellian legal maneuverings, suggested that the
County played its legal hand very skillfully. Months before the
settlement was finalized, County officials openly joked about using "the
health card" to torpedo the looming legal settlement. The County had
extensively researched the powers of the County Health Officer for months
before signing the settlement, apparently preparing for an end run around
it. Further, Lindsay and her bosses were careful not to use the word
"emergency" in statements about the Jetty that set up a guard guard, ID
cards, and security personnel. That wording, says Sender, would have
required public action by the County Board of Supervisors and public
hearings.

The fear and panic spread by eviction threats from Lindsay,
Department of Social Services Chief John Frank and other County
authorities did have disastrous consequences. Illegal and arbitrary
searches by security guards manning the locked gate were reported by the
Eureka Times-Standard (10/5). In early October, after the County had
failed to respond to an earlier domestic dispute, a family fight led to a
vehicular fire from an overturned gas stove that severely burned two
children and their monther and killed elderly Philip Heiland. County
apologists and local media blamed the campers and suggested this was more
evidence "justifying" the rush to deport the campers.

When contacted by Street Spirit on October 16, Lindsay had no
specifics as to what amount of money was available for housing, how many
people had been helped, or how long any kind of help effort would
continue. She made no commitment to carrying out the terms of the
settlement, but criticized Jetty residents for not having children in
school and inadequate sanitation facilities. (Lindsay herself had refused
to send out portapotties, potable water, and/or sewage lines; schools had
turned away several children, saying that the Jetty community would be
shortly evicted making enrollment pointless)
Lindsay also declined to halt the evictions at least until such time as
the Board of Supervisors guaranteed adequate funding for a healthier
alternative than the Jetty area.

On October 17, a coterie of County officials posed for the press
in announcing a $170,000 award from the Waste Management Board to "return
the south spit...to its natural state" in a rush demolition/bulldoing
effort that would remove all sign of the 10-year old homeless
encampment. Sharing the limelight were Health Department Director Jeff
Arnold, Supervisor Stan Dixon (who prompted the Thompson bill),
Environmental Services Director Dennis Kalson, and--inevitably--Ann
Lindsay--all instrumentally in the disinformation campaign to oust the
homeless. Father Eric Duff estimated that only a few thousand (of the
$55,000+ appropriated for "homeless relocation expenses) had made its
way directly to the homeless.

Duff noted that attempts to involve civil liberties advocates,
environmentalists, earth first headwaters activists, and other liberals
in support efforts for the South Spitters were almost entirely
unavailing. He had originally called the Hope Coalition and the Green
Party (whose have a majority on the Arcada City Council an hour to the
North) to set up a vigil in early September to circumvent the Coastal
Conservancy/County blockade/guard gate. None of the liberals responded.

A Green Party member, who insisted on remaining anonymous, said
he didn't favor "forced relocation", but acknowledged that neither he nor
any other Green he knew of had taken any action to protest or stop it.
He suggested that trust be placed in "the integrity and concern" of
County Health Officials like Lindsay and suggested that "encouraging
homelessness" (through providing facilities for the South Spit Jetty
community) was not a viable ooption..

A Green Party member, who asked to remain anonymous, argued for
half an hour on the phone, that County health officials were really
acting in the best intersts of the campers, that the health crisis was
real, and that oppositional accounts were not to believed. When
criticized for Green Party inactivity on the issue, he referred Street
Spirit to his boss County Environmental Health Chief Dennis Kalson.

Official zero hour for the homeless campers was Sunday, October
19 at 5 PM. Campers reported that tow only spent 3 hours actually
hauling out disabled vehicles that day (or was it Tuesday?). Duff
estimates that 20-40 campers defied Lindsay's deadline and stayed on the
spit. Camper Jesse Katz said had he left when at the deadline,
"scavengers" from Eureka, who arrived in boats afterwards, would have
carried out their "clean-up shopping" expeditions, looting the makeshift
vehicular homes he and others were pressured to abandon under threat of
arrest.

24 hours after the deadline, Amy Martin,a resident of seven
months reported she had no plans to move, saying people don't understand
what homeless people face trying to join the mainstream: hostile
landlords, even banks that don't want their money. "When you say you're
from the jetty, it's like a wall goes up. It's reallys ad. I( now of at
least five people who are now living in abandoned houses in Eureka."

Duff, apprehensive about the prospects or an armed confrontation
(since some residents had declared they would defend their makeshift
homes and legal rights with force if necessary) successfully found a
mediator, but Lindsay refused to mediate.

Sheriff Dennis Lewis initially insisted he would not evict
homeless campers without a clear court order (which was never
forthcoming). But after an anonymous threat that a bomb had been placed
in one of the towed vans, Lewis's men moved in with shotguns and ATVs on
Wednesday, October 22nd (?). Ironically, the four arrested were not
militant protesters, but 3 men and a woman who hadn't had time to claim
all their property and to get their vehicles working.

"They told me I had 20 seconds to get out or go to jail," said
Wendell Strouse, who had lived on the spit for five years. Strouse
explained he was still there trying to repair his pickup truck. When he
was ordered to leave, the Eureka Times-Press account continues, he just
had time to grab his and a neighbor's dogs, and jumpinto a car which had
nolicense plate, and drive off the sandy peninsula. Attorney Turner was
barred from the jetty during the arrests.

At presstime (10/26) Daryl Nazelrod, Jr. was still being held on
warrants and Marsha Brantley had a courtdate for "failing to obey a
health officer's order."

Attorney Sender wondered why health and evironmental concerns
were being focused on the south spit when a decomissioned nuclear power
plant and a massive chlorine dump from fifty years of rapacious logging
scarred the north jetty.

Two days after the arrests on Friday October 24th, the new
Humboldt refugees and their supporters held a demonstration at the
Humboldt County courthouse to dramatize and keep alive the injustice
perpetrated at the Jetty.
Spit doctor Wendy Ring issued a press statement with four concerns:
First Lindsay waited until after the Shigella outbreak to bring in
toilets and potable water that would have prevented it. Second that the
county signed and then violated the August 19 agreement to provide
alternate shelter prior to deporting the residents. Third that the
promised open-ended motel vouchers, for short-term lodging, were only
good for a week. Fourth, the promised 3 month camping period on the
North Jetty had been reduced to 16 days with a cost of $10/day per
campsite, which the county refuses to pay.

Jesse Katz, reached at the Ranchmotel, said "My rent is only paid
until the 26th. I was lied to about my pets, vehicle, and possessions
being taken care of.
"The only respite we had was when we had our lawyer go to get an
Injunction. Only ten people that I know of actually got housing."

Emphasizing the bogus brou-haha around toilets and "fecal
contamination", Ring and the refugees announced a Restroom Sit-In, baldly
termed a Shit-In by more outspoken South Spitters. Demonstrators lined
up outside the County Courthouse restrooms and outdoor portapotties, with
rolls of toilet paper in hand, and invited passersby to join them. Many
did. The demonstration continued for four hours, involving dozens of
people. "Since the board of Supervisors, the County Health Officer, and
Judge Buffington are so concerned about where we go to the bathroom, we
are sure they will not mind our using their restrooms while we wait for
them to come up with an alternative,"
concluded the demonstraters written handout.

In the wake of the protest, a week's "free" motel rooms and 15
days "free" camping at Samoa Boat Ramp County Park on the north spit of
Humboldt Harbor had expanded to facilities until at least the end of the
month. Recent arrival and internet reporter Susan Dunn reported those
remaining at the hotels and the North Jetty were a fraction of the
original community. "Most were just given $20 vouchers and sent on their
way."

Still Dunn expressed her belief that solidarity and protest had
improved a bad situation. "Even here (in the Ranchhotel), we were not
allowed to receive Jetty residents from other hotels until we
protested."

There was still discrimination to be overcome. Marsha Brantley
reported that nighttime visiting--even of other residents in the
Ranchhotel--was forbidden and that former Jetty residents not only had to
undergo daily "inspections" by motel personnel, but were required to
clean up their rooms themselves. Through all the stress and tension,
the November 1st eviction deadline looms for the South Spit Refugees at
the hotels and in the North Jetty. Outside, draped on Susan Dunn's bus,
which serves as a makeshift ark for the Jetty residents' animals, hangs a
huge cloth banner: "So now where do you want us to go?"

END FORWARD  written by Robert Norse <norse@netcom.com>