Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sacramento homeless prominent in UN report about violations of basic human rights [Part II]

[First read Part I, if you haven't yet.]

Yesterday, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued notice of three reports on the right to water and sanitation relating to the US, Japan and Slovenia.

Regarding the United States, the notice says this:
United States of America

The UN independent expert visited the USA from 22 February to 4 March 2011, to assess issues of sanitation, safety, affordability and excluded groups, focusing on the right to non-discrimination and equality.

“I was especially shocked by what I saw in Sacramento, California, where the city decided to shut down or to restrict the opening hours of public restrooms, forcing homeless people to improvise other types of solutions to be able to exercise the right to sanitation. Open defecation, open urination have been criminalised. So what happens is that someone can be criminalised just because he/she does not have a place to do his physiological needs.”

Check the report on the USA: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/18session/A-HRC-18-33-Add4_en.pdf
Ms. de Albuquerque comments on her USA mission; watch the video: http://youtu.be/l3P893QyeRM
I am going to go through a timeline of what was happening in Sacramento a little before the time of Ms. de Albuquerque's visit here. I think it is illuminating. While it doesn't discredit the UN representative's shocked reaction, it does put things in context and show that  the county [Supervisor Phil Serna, especially], city and police were trying to do something, and exhibited some compassion.  Nonetheless, the need and circumstance should have been addressed as urgent and an appropriate response should have been marshaled -- but it was not.

Jan 20, 2011: Sacramento Press publishes "American River Parkway Advocate: Park is 'no jewel'"  The piece shows twelve pictures of the Parkway being despoiled along a two-mile stretch by homeless campers. Bob Slobe, the advocate, is quoted saying, "There’s roughly 200 tents out there, which means there are more than 200 people, and they have everything but toilets. They’ve cleared the ground and put down wood chips.” The article launched an effort to clean up the American River Parkway.

Jan 30, 2011: A Bee board editorial "Big Surprise: Blight returns to river," highlighted the problem [that is, the colossal mess on the Parkway] and suggested as the solution giving SafeGround what it wants, a legal place to camp. [Unresolved is the extent to which SafeGround is a direct part of the Parkway problem. They were among those camping in the area that was photographed.]

Tim Buckley, the fellow who took care of human  waste at the SafeGround American River Parkway camp. The fact that this role was necessary for homeless people to exist shocked the UN expert on water and sanitation. Picture appeared with a Bee Board editorial on February 18.
Early Feb, 2011: New county supervisor Phil Serna raises money to make it possible for half the SafeGround campers to stay at Salvation Army. This is offensive to many in the wider homeless community because, once again, the core SafeGround contingent -- rather than being leaders for all the county homeless -- seem to get special privileges and favors FOR THEMSELVES.

Mid Feb, 2011: With one exception, the 64 SafeGrounders turn down the 32 "Serna beds" at Sally's [Salvation Army] that were made available for them, citing the fact that others had been on a waiting list for beds at Sally's and had a pre-existent right to them.  Very noble.  Hooray, SafeGround. The beds end up going to others who were camping on the Parkway and not to the 160 on the waiting list. [It should be noted, as it never is by the Bee or SafeGround, that people on many waiting lists are not necessarily without beds somewhere else AND that some people just maintain themselves on waiting lists even though they have a housing situation. Why? Because staying on a waiting list, and moving ever up to near the top of it, is easy to do.]

Feb 15, 2011: The homeless on the river are given notice and rousted, though that only serves to move the homeless to other locations with no better water and sanitation access. The Bee publishes a story "The homeless shuffle goes on," titled online "Rangers roust Sacramento homeless -- yet again -- and admit it's not the answer."

Feb 18, 2011: The Bee Board proves it is disconnected to reality with its goofiest, most-surreal editorial of all, "Time to alter how we talk about 'homeless'," which says of the SafeGrounders, "How many of these illegal campers are of sound mind? Isn't a sign of mental illness someone who would turn down a warm bed to sleep on the ground, week after week, during winter rains and cold?"  [It's time for the Bee Board to stop dropping acid before writing editorials.]

Between Feb 22 and Mar 4:  Ms. de Albuquerque visits Sacramento and hears from or about SafeGrounder Tim Buckley's role as the human-pooper scooper guy and is especially shocked.

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