Sleep on It

Two weeks ago, Santa Cruz City Council authorized local law enforcement to issue “stay-away orders” to people caught repeatedly violating municipal codes, such as drug use and illegal camping. Rabbi Philip Posner says the change targets many local homeless individuals, leaving them unable to find alternative means of shelter.

“For them to pass such an ordinance and then to not provide any healthy alternative in parks is just totally unethical and unacceptable,” says Rabbi Posner, who happens to be the father of City Councilmember Micah Posner—the one who cast the lone dissenting vote against the new stay-away rules.

Rabbi Posner has been circulating a “Camp of Last Resort” petition, which suggests a trial period during which downtown parks would remain open as sleeping areas for anyone who needs one.

No tents, no cookware, no daytime bunking, and no substance use—it’s a bare minimum approach, as the name suggests. But with nowhere else to go, Posner says, at least it can provide a space to sleep.

To avoid illegal behavior, the proposal outlines mandatory supervision by a police officer and social worker, as well as a possible sign-out sheet to keep track of people.

As of last Friday, Posner says the petition had around 600 signatures, and next week supporters will host a community meeting at the Louden Nelson Community Center in hopes of opening the conversation to locals and business owners.

Posner says he’s fully aware that many Santa Cruzans might react strongly to having folks occupy parks near their homes at night, but he also wants people to think about human dignity. “Parks are for people and ‘people’ includes homeless people,” he says.

So, where does Councilmember Posner stand on all this?

“My dad has a knack for getting to the heart of a problem,” he tells GT via email. “In this case, his proposal is an attempt to get at the heart of our communal dilemma: where do we expect homeless people to sleep? This is a critical conversation.”

INFO: Community Meeting 7 p.m., Feb. 4, Louden Nelson Community Center, 301 Center St., Santa Cruz. 420-6177.

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