Justplainbill's Weblog

December 10, 2014

Bill Whittle on the Real Race War, from Capt. John [nc]

Joseph R. John
To
jrj@combatveteransforcongress.org
Today at 4:14 AM

By clicking on the below listed link, you will be able to listen to Bill Whittle, as he reveals the truth about the “Real Race War” that has been going on for 6 years. The race riots that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri were instigated by progressive and communist demonstrators who were bussed into Ferguson from New York. The lawless street demonstrations were not spontaneous, they were premeditated, and initiated to inflict chaos, uncertainty, and danger. The Street demonstrations were right out of Saul Alinsky’s playbook; and are criminal activities designed to destroy everything in their paths, especially the “truth.”

The organizations and individuals who have been using opposition to the two Grand Jury decisions, to try to dismantle the nations legal cultural foundation and the authority of local police forces, are: the New Black Panther Party, the Weatherman Underground, SIEU, The Communist Party USA, the Black Guerilla Family, Amnesty International, the Congressional Black Caucus, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Valerie Jaret, disciples of Saul Alinsky employed in the Obama administration, and many of George Soros funded leftist & Marxist organizations (“This Stops Today” ,“The Unified Committee For Police Reform”, ”Black Lives Matter“, “Operation Ferguson”. “We Copwatch”, etc.).

One of the goals of the progressives and communists is to employ lawless street demonstrations, similar to those often seen in European civil strife, to overload the local police forces & courts, and to indefinitely continue prolonged racial conflict (the current street demonstrations began in August). The end goal is to drastically change the law and order systems of the Republic, make local police forces less effective, and change the perception of criminal destructive street demonstrations to make them an acceptable political act with no consequences to the demonstrators. The lawless street demonstrations are also providing cover and taking attention away from (1) the illegal release of 16 very dangerous terrorist from Gitmo (Obama has now designated those terrorists refugees), and (2) Obama’s violation of Federal Immigration Laws & the US Constitution when he authorized the issuance of social security numbers and work permits to 5 million illegal aliens.

Ferguson and the Real Race War

This racial divide has been perpetrated for 6 years by the progressives and organizations listed above, and is being coordinated by the Saul Alinsky disciples in the Obama administration. The progressives and communists are not trying to achieve justice by their criminal behavior, they are trying to dismantle the law and order culture of the nation. Although Obama has a unique historic opportunity to defuse the on-going racial strife, as Martin Luther King once did, he does not intend to do so, or he would have condemned the criminal street activities and named the organizations instigating racial strife during a major address to the nation from the Oval Office. It has been reprehensible that Obama has taken sides to further divide the country along racial lines—he and Holder are only criticizing the police and the courts, not the criminal activities in minority neighborhoods where police are called by residents to enter those neighborhoods to quell criminal acts.

Obama and Holder should explain to the minority communities, that their perception of black deaths at the hands of Police Officers are wrong. It is a fact that 99.3% of the 11,000 daily encounters American citizens have with Police Officers are non-fatal encounters—0.7% of all annual arrests by police officers escalate into the requirement to employ of deadly force, often because criminals are attacking Police Officers or physically resisting arrest. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, an average of 1.2 million crimes occur every year, and in the last decade there were 58,261 assaults on Law Enforcement Officers, and since 1791, there have been over 20,000 Law Officers killed in the line of duty. The FBI reported that there were 404 incidents of justifiable homicide by US Law Enforcement Officers last year, 123 of them were with black Americans, out of a population of 43 million blacks, while in the same year blacks killed over 4000 other blacks in their communities. Annually, 150 US Law Enforcement Officers are killed in the line of duty (more than justifiable homicides of blacks).

The focus of the demonstrations has been against two Grand Jury decisions which found two white Police Officer not guilty in the death of two black criminals. The conflicts occurred when two white Police Officers tried to arrest two known black criminals; both men physically resisted arrest in the street. Because both men failed to heed the lawful orders of the Police Officers and physically resisted repeated attempts to arrest them, what could have been a peaceful arrest and the release of both known criminals after they were booked at the police station, the attempted arrests escalated into deadly force encounters with Police Officers.

One black criminal in Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Brown, was high on drugs, had robbed a convenience store, then roughed up the proprietor of the convenience store, when a Police Officer was dispatched to deal with the robbery brown beat him in his car, then Brown tried to take the Police Officer’s gun, Brown refused to obey repeated lawful orders issued by the Police Officer, Brown then charged the officer a second time, and was shot to death. It was not a racial motivated event; 5 black witnesses stated Brown charged the Police Officer and did not raise both hands as if he were surrendering.

The other criminal, Eric Garner, had 31 previous arrests over a 30 year period. Garner was a very large man who towered over the 5 police officers who were called in by merchants on Staten Island, New York; they wanted the police to stop Garner from selling individual cigarettes outside their stores where the merchants only sold cigarettes by the pack. Garner refused to obey repeated lawful orders by the Police Officers to cease & desist so they could peacefully handcuff him, and Garner physically resisted repeated attempts by the 5 Police Officer’s to arrest him. The standoff escalated into a deadly force incident, when one officer tried to do a take down around Garner’s neck, so he could be finally handcuffed; Garner said he couldn’t breathe and died at the scene. If a Taser had been employed against a very large man, instead of employing a take-down hold, the results of the second arrest might have turned out differently. There has been no proof that the arrest was racially motivated, and Garner’s wife and daughter made public comments to that effect.

In a one way approach to both incidents, Obama and Holder have stated that the police have to be retrained. What they should be saying is that the youth in minority neighborhoods should be made aware that if a Police Officer states he intends to affect an arrest, the place to fight the charge is not in a physical confrontation in the street with the Police Officer, the place to fight what may be viewed as an unwarranted arrest is in the courts with the aid of an public defender. Obama and Holder should be calling for indoctrination of minority youth who lack male supervision in their single family homes. The youth should be informed that injuries and deaths occur between civilians and Police Officers, for the most part, not because Police Officers have a power problem, but because civilians are breaking the law.

Unfortunately, until there is not a balanced approach to the racial conflict, the conflict will not end. Unless Obama and Holder criticize the lawlessness and the high crime in minority neighborhoods, that nervous police officers are forced to enter, when they are called by residents because of shootings/robberies/drug deals/murders/domestic disputes, the racial strife and deadly attacks against whites and police officers will continue. It has been difficult to promote racial healing and harmony while Obama and Holder continue to promote racial division in their continuing attack on Police Officers and Grand Juries. The violent street demonstrations in Ferguson escalated into the firebombing of businesses, torching of automobiles, burning of American Flags, and have resulted into repeated beatings and the murder of innocent white men and women by black assailants.

On December 6th, a 26-year-old white Bosnian woman was dragged out of her car early in the morning by three black thugs brandishing a gun; they broke here windshield with a crow bar, threw her on the ground and kicked her in the same South St Louis neighborhood where, last week, a white Bosnian man, Semir Begic, was bludgeoned to death with hammers by four black assailants. The Bosnian man had stopped his car because it was being repeatedly hit with hammers; when he exited his vehicle to determine why they were damaging his car, he was beaten to death with those hammers by the four black assailants. Police are investigating the attacks as possible hate crimes, because the 26 year old female victim who was beaten on December 6th said the three black assailants beating her asked her if she was also a Bosnian during their attack. In the same vicinity of Ferguson, Seldon Dzananovic, a white man aged 24, was attacked while walking down the street by black teens wilding hammers; he was able to fight them off while running away from them. Also in Ferguson, an elderly white man on his way to his car, was beaten with the oxygen tank he needs to help him breathe, by a black mob, then his car was stolen, and he was run over with his car. .

The “first step” to create havoc in the streets by progressives, in a number of premeditated lawless steps, was to promote continued lawless and prolonged street demonstrations. The “second more dangerous step”, is to spread a number of lies to the demonstrators; that there is an epidemic of Police Officer brutality against blacks, that the flawed justice system in the nation doesn’t protect blacks, and that the US Justice system can’t be trusted or obeyed any longer. This “second step” has been well-orchestrated to destabilize law and order throughout the Republic, and the leaders of the demonstrations are calling for violence against Police Officers. The blatant lie now being promoted by Saul Alinsky progressives in the streets is that Police Officers are now hunting down and killing black men In response, the Black Guerrilla Family is now gunning for off duty police officers in New York; all off duty New York Police Officers have been cautioned to carry their weapons at all times, wear their bullet proof vests, and carry extra magazines for their weapons.

Since August, the Police Force in Ferguson and the Missouri State Police have found it virtually impossible to engage in civil discussions, or explain their crowd control methods to leaders in the minority community. They Police Chief has been refuting claims that Police Officers are trying to kill black men, but Holder continues in flame the situation and has threaten the police force in Ferguson. The progressive leaders led by Al Sharpton do not want to defuse the situation and refuse to tell their followers that the police will support and protect peaceful demonstrations. If there were racial harmony, there would be no need for the power bases of leaders like Farrakhan, Sharpton, Jackson, and other progressives, and there would be no need for their federal funding.

The progressives with the help of the Obama administration, have now moved the conflict to a “third step” in their process of destabilizing law and order in the Republic. The “third step” is to try to rein in local Police Power and effect national control over local police forces, so the nation will only be left with little more than many local police forces, controlled by a central federal police task force. The goal is to change the current tried and true civilian control of local police forces by local elected officials, to instead to be effectively controlled by the federal government. The Obama administration, has begun its campaign to try to eliminate the localized servant-to-the-people-type police departments that currently exist in communities throughout the nation, and will try to have strings attached to the issuance of military surplus equipment, to the funding for body cameras for individual Police Officers, and the federal funding for local police forces. The attempt by Holder to establish specific criteria for local police departments has already begun; Holder has already announced that he intends to prevent local police forces from profiling potential criminals & their activity, he has already announced that local police forces must be re-trained using new restrictive federal standards, and he plans to make it an infraction to detain & turn over illegal aliens to ICE. The strings attached to federal support would require local police forces to submit reports on how they are complying with new federal police standards, in order to continue receive federal funding, and to avoid the risk of being charged by the Justice Department with violating new federal policing standards. Congress must prevent the Obama administration’s proposed policies to take the control of local police forces from taking effect

The release of dangerous terrorist from Gitmo, who will go back to killing US military personnel, have been kept off the front pages of news, because the racial street demonstrations have been kept alive by the left of center liberal media establishment. The fact that Obama employed an unlawful Executive Order to violate Federal Immigration Laws, in order to issue work permits and social security numbers to 5 million illegal aliens is also being kept out of the news by the continuing news coverage of racial street demonstrations. Obama’s Immigration Executive Order will permit 5 million illegally aliens to use their new work permits and social security numbers to obtain drivers licenses. The new drivers licenses will help the illegal aliens perpetuate massive voter fraud, since they will be able to show their drivers licenses and social security numbers in order to illegally register to vote in 2016.

Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the House is still not using the power of the purse to put a stop to the Obama administration’s intent to destabilize law and order in the Republic, to try to make criminal behavior in the streets an acceptable political act, to oppose the violation of Federal Immigration Laws, and to oppose the release of dangerous terrorist from Gitmo? The American citizens who elected the new members of Congress watched today as the Speaker of the House approve a $1.2 trillion budget thru September 2015, that will not even slow down the occupant of the Oval Office from his repeated violations of the US Constitution and Federal Immigration Laws. The Republican leadership could have reined Obama in by only funding the government with a continuing resolution thru February 2015—not the inept current agreement entered into by the Speaker of the House with Senator Reid to fund the government thru September 2015 with a continuing resolution. Providing a continuing resolution thru September 2015 will definitely fund the issuance of Social Security numbers and work permits for 5 million illegal aliens. That is not what the American people just voted for, and they should let their Congressional representatives know it.

Joseph R. John, USNA ‘62

Capt USN(Ret)

Chairman, Combat Veterans For Congress PAC

2307 Fenton Parkway, Suite 107-184

San Diego, CA 92108

Fax: (619) 220-0109

http://www.CombatVeteransForCongress.org

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
-Isaiah 6:8

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October 31, 2014

ABA article: Municipalities vs Homeless in Venice CA [nc]

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Cities get mired in civil rights disputes…

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Cities get mired in civil rights disputes in trying to deal with growing homeless populations

Posted Nov 01, 2014 05:00 am CDT

By Lorelei Laird
house on venice beach

Photo of Mark Ryavec by Kyle Monk.
Mark Ryavec lives in a beautifully restored duplex in Venice Beach, the artsy beachfront neighborhood of Los Angeles.

He’s about half a mile from the shore and even closer to Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a trendy artery filled with pricey restaurants and boutiques. Depending on which real estate website you consult, his improvements and recent gentrification in the area have pushed the property’s value to roughly three or four times what he paid for it in 1989.

Across the street, one of his sometime neighbors lives in a van. Drinking coffee in his front yard, Ryavec watches a young man slip out. Shortly afterward, the man comes back with a car that jump-starts the van. This is necessary because it’s a street sweeping day and the space ceases to be legal at noon. This, Ryavec says, means the van-dweller will take up a parking spot that a resident could be using—in a parking-poor neighborhood that gets 16 million visitors a year.

But this is just the beginning of Ryavec’s problems with homelessness in Venice Beach. A much smellier problem is that people living in vehicles have limited access to bathrooms. As a result, he says, vehicle-dwellers routinely relieve themselves behind million-dollar homes.

“There’s a street down there, and they’ll have two or three [vehicle-dwellers], and it’s like their alley is the one that’s consistently used as a toilet,” he says. Homeowners “used to call the police all the time … and now they can’t do that. Unless they snap a photo of them in the process —[and] who wants to stake that kind of thing out?”

Homeless Camper in parking lot, Venice Beach

A homeless camper in a Venice Beach, California, parking lot. Photo by Jennifer Kelton.

Ryavec’s neighbors can no longer call the police without proof of public elimination because of Desertrain v. City of Los Angeles. On June 19, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco struck down a Los Angeles city ordinance forbidding using a vehicle “as living quarters either overnight, day by day or otherwise.” The unanimous three-judge panel ruled that the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague, overturning a district court’s summary judgment ruling.

“Section 85.02 is broad enough to cover any driver in Los Angeles who eats food or transports personal belongings in his or her vehicle,” wrote Judge Harry Pregerson. “Yet it appears to be applied only to the homeless. The vagueness doctrine is designed specifically to prevent this type of selective enforcement.”

This displeases Ryavec, president of a group called the Venice Stakeholders Association that is pushing for more city intervention in Venice’s homeless problem. It’s had some success; citations for vehicle-dwellers grew substantially after increased neighborhood complaints.

But the courts have complicated things. Desertrain is the third in a line of 9th Circuit cases striking down LA’s homelessness laws. In 2012, the court ruled in Lavan v. City of Los Angeles that seizing and destroying the personal possessions of homeless people, left on sidewalks so their owners could go inside to do things like shower, violates the Fourth and 14th amendments. The city now must hold seized possessions for 90 days before destroying them.

And in 2006, the 9th Circuit ruled in Jones v. City of Los Angeles that it’s cruel and unusual to punish people for sitting, sleeping or lying on public roads at night. The resulting settlement required the city to permit sleeping on sidewalks from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. until an additional 1,250 units of supportive housing were built.

Carol Sobel on Venice Beach

Carol Sobel questions whether community leaders have the political will to advance long-term solutions to homelessness. Photo by Kyle Monk.

In all three cases, the plaintiffs’ attorneys included civil rights lawyer Carol Sobel, whose Santa Monica office is just over the Venice border and a few blocks from Venice’s “Skid Rose,” a stretch of Rose Avenue with a notorious homeless encampment.

“It is unlawful, it is immoral to put people in jail when there’s not enough shelter, in a city where everybody’s writing about the lack of housing,” says Sobel, a former ACLU Foundation attorney.

But for residents like Ryavec, the cases represent another lost tool for solving the problems homeless people bring to the neighborhood. In addition to parking and sanitation concerns, he notes that residents sometimes have a well-founded fear of violence, thanks to some high-profile crimes. These include a 2009 rape and murder by a transient with a past stint in a mental hospital and an incident last year when a transient drove a car onto the pedestrian-only beach boardwalk, killing an Italian honeymooner and injuring 16 others.

“What’s happened is the court keeps whittling away at the police’s powers to do anything when there is a problematic situation, to the point that the residents can’t do anything when you really have somebody scary,” Ryavec says.

man enjoying his coffee

Mark Ryavec is not enthused about recent court decisions that he believes have whittled “away at the police’s powers to do anything when there is a problematic situation.” Photo by Kyle Monk.

Though LA’s three trips to the 9th Circuit stand out, similar laws have been at issue across the United States.

And they’re on the rise. In a July study examining 187 U.S. cities, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, based in Washington, D.C., found a 119 percent increase since 2011 in city bans on sleeping in vehicles. The NLCHP also found a 25 percent increase in citywide laws against begging, a 60 percent increase in citywide camping bans and a 35 percent increase in citywide loitering or vagrancy laws. This doesn’t count laws that apply only to a specific district.

Similarly, Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless says 53 cities had enacted or considered restrictions on feeding the homeless between January of 2013 and this past June. Over the last decade, Albuquerque, Dallas, Las Vegas, Orlando and Philadelphia have all been sued over feeding restrictions. (Los Angeles proposed such a law this year, but ultimately took no action.)

Jeremy Rosen, director of advocacy for the law center, believes more laws are being passed because more poverty is becoming visible.

“Why you’re seeing a whole lot more of them is because it’s actually occurring in a whole lot more places,” says Rosen of D.C., who is also a member of the ABA’s Commission on Homelessness and Poverty. “So the cities are seeing more of this than they ever saw before. They don’t like it and so they’re passing these laws rather than coming up with a productive way to deal with it.”

When sued, cities generally defend these laws by citing concerns that food, trash and human waste litter the streets; that a homeless presence will scare customers away from commercial areas; and that helping homeless people in place prevents them from seeking out social services that could be more beneficial. Before the 9th Circuit, Los Angeles argued that the Desertrain plaintiffs were unsafe in vehicles crowded with belongings, pets and garbage.

But Rosen is not so sure. He says taking a “criminal justice approach” suggests that the city’s concerns about public health are pretextual.

“Cities that use the criminal justice system are saying ‘If you stick around here, you’re going to go to jail,’ ” he says. “And that’s not a productive approach for people living outdoors.”

It’s not productive because criminalization tends to perpetuate homelessness rather than solve it, the NLCHP report says. People without homes have limited options for where they can perform basic life activities like eating and sleeping. Businesses don’t always let them in—a Venice homeless man wrote an essay for the Free Venice Beachhead blog this year about being asked to leave a Starbucks. And according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are more homeless people than available shelter beds in the U.S. As a result, homeless people may not be able to avoid breaking laws that make it a crime to sleep, eat or urinate outdoors.

Desertrain has roots in a push from Venetians like Ryavec for greater police intervention. Venice has long been known as a beach community for free spirits—and it’s always had a homeless population.

Rosendahl

Bill Rosendahl foresees continued tension in Venice unless permanent housing options are developed. Photo by Kyle Monk.

“Venice is a magnet,” says former LA city councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represented the area before he retired in 2013. “Those who have issues—psychiatric issues, homeless issues—they’re just like any other person, attracted to the beach.”

Venice became even more of a magnet after the LAPD got the neighborhood’s 1990s gang problem under control. This brought in wealthier residents, as did the “Silicon Beach” group of tech companies clustered in LA’s beach communities. (Among others, Google’s LA offices are in Venice, not far from Skid Rose.)

Some perceive these newer residents as less tolerant of the homeless than longtime Venetians. Rosendahl strongly disputes this but says that “Venice has been more accommodating in the past.”

At the same time, the Los Angeles Times reported in February that younger and more aggressive people have moved into the homeless population, changing its character. Ten-year resident Jack Hoffman, a neighborhood activist like Ryavec, also believes methamphetamine has changed the homeless population. Some of these new people have not proved to be good neighbors. For example, an RV dumped its septic tank along Rose Avenue in 2010, requiring the city to send a hazardous materials cleanup crew.

homeless on the pier in Venice Beach

Photo by Jennifer Kelton.

The resulting community complaints brought more city pressure to bear on the area’s homeless. The city stepped up police presence and enforcement with an LAPD Venice Homelessness Task Force, instituted a beach curfew between midnight and 5 a.m., approved a ban on oversize vehicles in neighborhoods that asked for them, and originally supported the Venice Stakeholders Association’s fight with the California Coastal Commission for overnight parking restrictions. (The city dropped its support not long before former city attorney Carmen Trutanich left office in July 2013 after an unsuccessful re-election bid.) And LA started enforcing its 1983 ordinance forbidding living in vehicles, resulting in the citations challenged in Desertrain.

Venice residents are sharply divided on homeless issues, with some feeling threatened by the situation and others arguing that driving the homeless out changes something unique and important about Venice culture. Online debate can quickly get heated, with personal attacks on people like Ryavec and Sobel and the homeless themselves.

It spills over into the real world. In 2012, the city put a shipping container on the beach to store homeless people’s property while they slept at winter shelters. The container became a subject of fierce community debate. Eventually, someone sneaked extra padlocks onto it in the middle of the night. This required the city to cut them off, creating delays for homeless people trying to collect their things.

In January, Councilmember Mike Bonin told a Venice Neighborhood Council meeting that the container was required by the Lavan decision. He called for “a more civil discourse,” noting that his office had gotten numerous complaints about the container based on misinformation.

Though nothing is proven, some of the area’s homeless believe the debate also leads to violence. In May, someone broke all the windows in an inhabited camper shell near Penmar Park, according to the Venice Update and Free Venice Beachhead blogs. The next night, the blogs said, someone firebombed the camper shell as its owner, Ernest Roman, lay in bed. Roman escaped, but the fire destroyed his home and almost everything he owned. In July, the Los Angeles Fire Department confirmed that a vehicle fire at that time and location was being investigated as arson.

homeless in an alley in Venice Beach

Photo by Jennifer Kelton.

UNPAID TICKETS LEAD TO CRIMINAL RECORDS

At a weekly dinner for the poor given by the First Baptist Church of Venice, vehicle-dweller Charles Moore said there are homeless people with 10, 15 or even 20 parking tickets. He said he watched a police officer pass up a chance to arrest such a person—but then issue yet another ticket, which Moore thought was an odd way to handle alleged lawbreaking.

Moore said he’d gotten four tickets himself since arriving in Venice about a month before. One was a parking ticket—which he said he’d paid because it was legitimate—and three other tickets for $197 each, which he planned to contest. One was for blocking the sidewalk; Moore said he was helping another man fix a bicycle at the time. Another was for jaywalking.

Other vehicle-dwellers at the dinner said they were given warnings during the crackdown on living in vehicles, but no tickets for living in a car. One said he was told he had to move if neighbors complained, but it wasn’t illegal to sleep in the car. (This was contradicted to some extent by testimony from the Desertrain plaintiffs, one of whom started sleeping on the sidewalk after police warned him not to sleep in his car.)

Another man parked on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu for three months before returning to Venice. He said everyone in vehicles is “breathing a lot easier” after the Desertrain decision.

Moore claimed he was living in his car by choice and could pay the tickets. But for homeless people with very low incomes, the NLCHP report says, criminalization creates more barriers to ending homelessness. Arrests and citations generate fines they can’t pay, creating bench warrants later. A criminal record can mean being turned down for jobs and for public housing subsidies, which are crucial for housing very-low-income people. Going to jail can mean losing public benefits, a job or an opportunity. And losing belongings to arrest or confiscation can mean losing basic tools like identification, cellphones and medication.

Laws like these often violate the civil rights of the homeless, or sometimes (as in cases involving church groups giving out food) their advocates. Just as the ban on living in a vehicle was found unconstitutionally vague in Desertrain, vagrancy and loitering laws have also been struck down as vague, especially when defendants can point to uneven or arbitrary enforcement. Laws prohibiting public performance of basic life activities like sleeping can be struck down under the Eighth Amendment, if homeless people have nowhere else to perform those activities. That was the ruling in LA’s Jones case.

Laws permitting seizures of homeless people’s property can be struck down under the 14th Amendment’s due process clause and the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable seizures. These formed the basis of the 9th Circuit’s Lavan decision. The First Amendment right to freedom of speech prohibits blanket bans on panhandling. That was the holding of both the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th and the Cincinnati-based 6th circuits last year in Clatterbuck v. City of Charlottesville and Speet v. Schuette.

And organizations that feed the homeless have invoked their own First Amendment rights to freedom of religion or political speech. Over the past decade, federal district courts have often struck these laws down on religious freedom grounds, although the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit upheld Orlando’s restrictions in 2011 as a reasonable time, place or manner restriction on political speech.

These humanitarian and civil rights concerns are why the ABA House of Delegates passed Resolution 117 at the 2013 annual meeting, urging governments to “promote the human right to adequate housing for all through increased funding, development and implementation of affordable housing strategies and to prevent infringement of that right.” It was sponsored by nine ABA groups, including the ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty. The commission itself advocates for laws and policies to lift people out of homelessness, and it provides resources for advocates for the poorest Americans.

“The criminalization of homelessness is perhaps the least effective way to end homelessness and is a tremendous distraction from the real solutions to homelessness, which are housing and income for people in poverty,” says Antonia Fasanelli, immediate-past chair of the commission and executive director of the Homeless Persons Representation Project in Baltimore.

homeless asleep on the sidewalk, Venice Beach

Photo by Jennifer Kelton.

Perhaps most important for municipalities with limited budgets, letting homeless people cycle through jails and hospitals is actually more expensive to taxpayers than providing housing, research shows.

That’s because homelessness tends to lead to increased reliance on emergency medical services, as well as more dealings with the criminal justice system (as both victims and perpetrators).

A few localities have tried “housing first” models and documented considerable savings. One of the first such programs was the Albuquerque Heading Home initiative, which was launched in January 2011. The goal was to house some of the city’s toughest cases: chronically homeless people who had documented behavioral health and substance abuse problems. Those people are usually the most vulnerable within the homeless population—and use the most police and medical services. Combining a mixture of public and private funding, the program moved those individuals into housing and provided social workers to address their underlying problems.

After a year in the program, a University of New Mexico study found, clients were costing the public 31 percent less than they had the previous year—an average of $12,831.68 less per person. Those savings largely came from less use of emergency rooms, hospitals, jails and jail-based treatment programs. Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said in June that the city saved $3.2 million over the three years of the program.

So why don’t more cities try it? Rosen suggests that the greater immediate cost of supportive housing might blind people to the long-term costs of overusing the criminal justice system.

“It requires a willingness and ability to make that upfront investment,” he says. “There’s a desire to find an immediate solution that doesn’t cost money, and so people turn to ‘Well, just arrest everyone.’ Of course, that does actually cost money.”

There have already been some efforts toward housing-first programs in Los Angeles County, although none directly sponsored by the city. One was Los Angeles County’s Project 50, which from 2007 to 2012 sought to permanently house 50 chronically homeless, vulnerable people on downtown LA’s notorious Skid Row. In the end, a county report says, the project housed 67 people and saved more money than its cost to taxpayers.

Also underway is the Home for Good initiative, a collaboration between the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, which seeks to end chronic and veteran homelessness by 2016. Program Associate Emily Bradley says it works closely with several area governments, including that of Los Angeles, and had housed 14,249 people through April.

The city itself has taken a softer approach. In 2010, when homelessness became a serious issue in Venice, then-councilman Rosendahl started Vehicles to Homes, a program that he later said moved about 100 people into stationary homes.

Rosendahl also wanted to establish a parking lot where vehicle-dwellers could park for the night legally and have access to social services, modeled after programs in Santa Barbara, California, and Eugene, Oregon. But Sobel says Rosendahl was stymied by community opposition to all three of the potential sites. (Rosendahl says a site near LAX is still under consideration.)

“This is the problem with homelessness in LA generally,” says Sobel. “There is not the political will to address the solutions; there is only the political will to put people in jail. And that doesn’t address anything.”

A similar problem arose when advocates for the homeless made plans to establish permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans at the VA campus in West Los Angeles. The land is expressly designated for veterans’ care, but it’s also near the expensive neighborhoods of Brentwood and Westwood, and some of those residents didn’t want the project nearby.

Advocates say those complaints caused government agencies to slow the project. Though the permanent supportive housing was announced in 2007, renovations on the three abandoned buildings chosen didn’t start until 2010. And the original federal funding allocated was enough for renovating only one of the buildings, Rosendahl says, with nothing left over for staffing. Rosendahl believes the city can’t solve its homelessness problems without greater funding and support from other levels of government. “Venice will continue to have tensions until we get permanent housing,” he says. “And we’re talking about tens of millions of dollars, and actually talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.”

homeless veteran in a wheelchair with an American Flag on Venice Beach, California

A homeless veteran displays his patriotism along the shores of Venice Beach. Photo by Jennifer Kelton.

At least some funding might be coming.

In July, Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged to join the Obama administration’s Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, which advocates a housing-first approach. Garcetti was reportedly in talks to secure related federal funding.

There are also signs that the city is changing its day-to-day approach to homelessness. City officials said in July that the LAPD would reduce arrests on downtown’s Skid Row for petty offenses. And the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, an entity that coordinates homeless services for most of the county, has begun offering social services on Skid Row in combination with major street-cleaning efforts.

As for vehicle-dwellers, City Attorney Mike Feuer said in June that he wouldn’t appeal Desertrain. Instead, he said he would work with other city officials to write a new law that balances homeless civil rights with neighborhood quality-of-life issues.

But Sobel isn’t optimistic about those changes. As of August, she says, the 1,250 units of supportive housing ordered by the settlement in Jones were nearly built. In fact, she says the city even allocated general-fund money for that purpose in 2013. That means the city will soon no longer be enjoined from enforcing its law against sitting, sleeping or lying on sidewalks at night.

The city “went out of its way to speed it up … so that, as one of the council people said when they came out of closed session, they can return to enforcement,” Sobel says. It’s “not over, and they know they’re going to get sued again.”

This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “Unwanted Guests: Trying to manage a growing homeless population, Los Angeles and other cities get mired in civil rights disputes.”
Clarification

“Unwanted Guests,” November, should have described Mark Ryavec’s duplex as being built about 1905. The Los Angeles County assessor’s office lists that date and 1947. Ryavec says the house was built in 1907 and a two-bedroom structure in back was built in 1949.

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