Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Criminalizing Homelessness is not a Solution.

Like many Orange County cities, Fullerton has had a long and shaky relationship with the local homeless population.  Things came to a head in 2011, when six Fullerton police officers beat a mentally ill homeless man named Kelly Thomas to death at the Fullerton transportation center.  This event, and the public outcry that followed, forced a once-indifferent city to deal more compassionately with our local homeless.  A Homeless Task Force was established, local churches and charity groups upped their efforts to aid those in need, and eventually a permanent year-round homeless shelter was proposed.  Instead of intimidating or ignoring homeless people, Fullerton residents and leaders seemed committed to helping them.

Unfortunately, the Fullerton City Council voted down the proposed homeless shelter.  Following that, the Fullerton police evicted the homeless camp near the Hunt Branch Library,   Most recently, Fullerton police officers have begun issuing "camping" citations to Fullerton's local homeless population, essentially criminalizing the condition of homelessness.  Despite all the talk of change, the city of Fullerton, through its actions, has not helped foster that change.

As it usually does, real change happens from the ground up, not the top down.  My friend Stephen Baxter, who organized the massive Kelly Thomas memorial art show, along with my friend Andy Anderson, who organized the first Kelly Thomas protests following his murder, have decided to continue their efforts toward justice and dignity for Fullerton's local homeless by protesting the recent camping citations tonight.  

First, they will be speaking at tonight's city council meeting, demanding that the city and the police do not issue camping citations (and dismiss those already issued) until a viable option (i.e. a homeless shelter) is provided.  Next they will hold a peaceful protest at "Kelly's Corner" at the Fullerton Transportation Center.  Finally, they will set up camp at the transportation center for the night.  The purpose of this is to hi-light the absurdity of criminalizing homelessness.  The public is encouraged to attend each of these events tonight.  

The city council meeting is at 6:30.  As a citizen, you are entitled to speak to the council for three minutes if you are so inclined.  Following that, the group will hold their peaceful demonstration at Kelly's Corner at 8:30.  At 11, Baxter, Andy and others will camp, and sleep there for the night.

If you are interested in attending any phase of this, please do.  You can visit the event Facebook page HERE.

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