Charity Workers Face Prison Terms

Coalition on Homelessness, SF (coh@sfo.com)
Fri, 17 Dec 1999 05:41:22 -0800


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Hey folks-

Well, I'm sorry to report that Tom Ammiano lost the SF mayoral race. 
There is still hope, however, that the FBI probe will turn up 
something that Willie Brown can be indicted for, or manage to 
document any of the many rumors of voting fraud that are in the air 
around here.  Or the scariest rumor - that Brown's in line for an 
appointment in Gore's cabinet should the Vice-President's election 
bid be successful.  That would put Tom in the Mayor's office, but it 
would also make His Arrogance - Mayor Willie Brown - a problem not 
only for SF, but for the rest of the country as well.

Meanwhile, the "cold war" against homeless people inches ever closer 
to open warfare in cities across the U.S.  And as more U.S cities 
adopt "zero tolerance" policies toward homelessness through "quality 
of life" programs to criminalize homeless people, we should assume 
that criminalization efforts will soon extend to service providers 
and advocates as well.

Sounds far-fetched?  Then read this article.

Peace,
chance martin
COH-SF

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Charity Workers Face Prison Terms

.c The Associated Press

  By CAROLINE BYRNE

CAMBRIDGE, England (AP) - Charity workers fear police have a new target for
Britain's zero-tolerance drug policy: social workers who try to help
substance abusers.

Two executives of a Cambridge charity could be sentenced Friday to up to 14
years in prison after being convicted of failing to stop heroin dealing
outside the homeless shelter they operate.

Wintercomfort director, Ruth Wyner, and project manager John Brock were
convicted last month after a six-week trial of failing to take every
reasonable step to stop the drug sales - including giving the police names of
suspected dealers even if that violated client confidentiality.

The case has alarmed community workers, who argue their business is to help
the homeless, an estimated half of whom are drug users.

``No one should have to go to work in the morning and worry about getting
arrested,'' said John Fitz Morris of the National Homeless Alliance, which
represents 1,000 community workers.

``This is like blaming the fire department for being at the scene of the
fire,'' said Dennis Hayes, outreach project leader for Wintercomfort's
Overstream House shelter. ``There is a drug epidemic and we're being blamed
for it.''

During a four-month undercover operation, police gathered 300 hours of
videotape showing eight drug dealers carrying out dozens of deals outside the
shelter's front door, including two cases where staff walked by while a deal
was under way.

Hayes said that when Wyner took over as director in 1995, she adopted a new
drug policy that included stationing staff outside toilets where syringes had
been found and banning any suspected drug dealers from using shelter
facilities.

Wyner, who has worked with the homeless for 20 years, said she was shocked by
the conviction.

``I felt I was doing work for the benefit of the city, and now I'm threatened
with incarceration,'' she said.

Det. Sgt. Chris Eaton, who helped direct the police surveillance operation,
did not respond to requests for an interview. But he defended the operation
to the Cambridge Evening News.

``I think the guilty verdicts suggest we were right to take this action, and
I believe other centers in the country will take note of what has happened,''
he said.

The sentencing comes the same week the British government announced a
nationwide campaign aimed at reducing the number of homeless by two-thirds by
2002.

``The point of the government's strategy is to get people off the streets and
into hostels and day centers,'' said Fitz Morris, of the National Homeless
Alliance. ``But those people are using drugs.

``If our services are run so rigorously that the people with problems don't
use them because they fear they'll be turned in, then we're just throwing the
baby out with the bath water.

AP-NY-12-16-99 1555EST

  Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.  The information  contained in the AP
news report may not be published,  broadcast, rewritten or otherwise
distributed without  prior written authority of The Associated Press.












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