Columbia, South Carolina homeless internment camp, discontinued after civil rights activists spoke out against it
Key West’s official philosophy, below
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Yesteday afternoon, I submitted this Grand Jury Clears All Officers in the Death of Charles Eimers / Vogel Brings In Expert Police Officer Defense Witness comment to the article in Key West the Newspaper – www.thebluepaper.com :
SLOAN BASHINSKY AUGUST 28, 2014 AT 4:55 PM
Again, based on my own general understanding from back when I practiced law and clerked for a US District Judge before that, and based on my conversation with Assistant State Attorney Mark Wilson maybe a week ago, as I described to KWPD officer Mike Wolf, reported earlier in these reader comments, it will take a federal or state judge to require the Grand Jury proceedings to be made public, say to the Horan Law Firm prosecuting the Eimers family’s civil rights lawsuit against the kWPD officers and the City of Key West; say, to the US Attorney General, the F.B.I., the US Attorney, etc.
The actual cause of death this terrible case remains: the cops profiled Eimers as being homeless; they roughed him up because they believed he was homeless, he died.
The Grand Jury was told the cops thought Eimers was homeless, and that factored into their view of how the cops treated Eimers, who was not homeless but the cops thought he was.
Sort of like, if cops think their lives are at risk, they can shoot and kill; even if their lives were not at risk, it was enough that they thought their lives were at risk.
This week’s issue of the blue paper begins with this article:
The Grand Jury’s Final Report is in. No indictment will be handed out in response to the fatal Thanksgiving Day arrest of Charles Eimers.
The report – no matter how beneficial it is for the officers who could have faced criminal charges – throws more fuel than water on that fire. Indeed a summary contained in the FDLE Investigative Report, made public yesterday afternoon, of an audio recording captured during and immediately after the arrest is simply stupefying.
Apparently Officer Gary Lee Lovette inadvertently left the recording mechanism on his Taser in the on position for several hours after putting the Taser back into its holster. What follows is FDLE’s summary of the audio recordings:
- Officer Lovette told an unknown person that “we tackled him and got into a fight.”
- Officer Lovette stated “Me, I dropped like a fucking bomb on his head.”
- When an unknown male asked, who “killed” Eimers, Officer Lovette responded “Gabe”
- When asked “how bad did y’all beat him up, though?” Officer Lovette replies “Mainly just me.”
- Regarding the next phase, Officer Lovette acknowledges that there will be an investigation.
- Officer Lovette summarizes the event in several ways in different conversations:
- As a “police involved death”
- As an “in custody murder”
- In response to an unknown remark, Officer Lovette states “That would be funny if we didn’t just kill someone.”
- In response to an unknown phone call Officer Lovette states “…yeah, well we killed him…”
- In response to an unknown person Officer Lovette states “He’s not breathing anymore.”
The recording is in line with the protests reportedly made by a New York police officer while witnessing the arrest, ‘this is legalized murder on the beach!’
It is interesting also that contrary to the police reports, several of the civilian witnesses interviewed by FDLE refer to excessive use of a Taser.
“A punch in the stomach,” says Treavor Eimers, about the Grand Jury’s decision to issue a “No True Bill” in the case involving the death of his father at the hands of Key West Police officers on Thanksgiving Day.
“My father was pursuing his dream of spending a warm winter in Key West volunteering and enjoying his retirement. He died before his first day was over.”
The “No True Bill” by the Grand Jury means that the jurors found no probable cause for the criminal prosecution of any of the officers involved in Eimers’ arrest.
Does the Grand Jury Report put the matter to rest? Hardly.
“First and foremost,” the Grand Jury concluded, “we commend those KWPD officers who did follow proper procedures during the incident… We find that KWPD officers on scene exercised the proper amount of force to apprehend and restrain Mr. Eimers.”
The Grand Jurors explain that their decision is based on the testimony of the only expert witness brought in by the State Attorney.
His name is Chuck Joyner. He is a professional defense witness for officers accused of excessive force. Joyner is famous for publicly defending a Houston police officer who shot and killed a wheelchair-bound double amputee. Joyner argued that because the one-armed, one-legged man was waving a ballpoint pen there was reasonable justification for the officer to shoot him square in the head.
It was Joyner’s job to convince the Monroe County Grand Jurors that they shouldn’t believe their lying eyes and ears. No expert witness was called to demonstrate how impossible it is to breathe while your shoulders are pinned down in the sand, as Eimers were. See our reenactment video here.
The Grand Jury seems to have been most impressed by the fact that the Medical Examiner found no sand in Eimers’ airways which seemed to invalidate witness accounts of asphyxiation. However, the Medical Examiner’s own notes reveal that after a week in the hospital, it would have been unlikely to find any sand in Mr. Eimers’ airways.
“1/2/14  Call in from SA Smith
Q1 – Any changes expected in lungs with asphyxiation. He was face down in sand but doesn’t seem very long on video.
A1 – With sand – in fresh case – might find some sand in upper airway but he was in hosp for a week so less likely.” – Notes of Dr. E. Hunt Scheuerman, [then] Monroe County Medical Examiner
A statement made by Dan Abrams, the Chief Legal Affairs anchor for ABC News, about the Ferguson Grand Jury proceedings in the Michael Brown shooting sheds light on the Grand Jury process:
“You don’t have to take it to the Grand Jury. But this allows the prosecutor with these sorts of warring narratives to say, ‘I didn’t make the decision. They did. The grand jurors did. The people did.’ But of course how vigorously the prosecutor presents the case is everything. There’s no defense attorney there. It’s just the prosecutor presenting a case to these grand jurors. If the DA wants an indictment, he’ll get an indictment. If the DA doesn’t want an indictment or has questions, that could be a very different thing.” – ABCnews.com 8/19/14
The Grand Jury report continues:
“We are extremely concerned about unprofessional conduct and statements that were made after the incident regarding the events of that morning. The internal affairs investigation should result in appropriate recommendations or sanctions for the officers involved regardless of their consequence or severity.”
“We also express serious concern about some aspects of the investigation conducted by the KWPD. First, insufficient efforts were made to promptly locate and interview civilian witnesses … Second, the KWPD clearly failed to timely communicate with LKMC about Mr. Eimers’ condition and whether or not the KWPD considered Mr. Eimers to be “in custody” while he was at the hospital.”
The Grand Jurors didn’t find indictable criminal actions, but they certainly sent the City and its police department on a soul searching mission:
“We further recommend that the KWPD offer additional mandatory training on the topics of stress management and sensitivity.” Is poor stress management and lack of sensitivity not a euphemism for violent and inappropriatly explosive behavior?
“The sensitivity training,” the Grand Jury Report continues, “should have a public and social awareness component.”
A lack of adequate training in the proper use of force is at the core of the civil rights lawsuit filed by the Eimers family against the City of Key West.
The Grand Jury and FDLE Reports with their stunning new revelations including admissions to “Murder” by Officer Lovette and findings of inadequate training maybe a sign of more challenges to come for the City of Key West in the civil rights lawsuit initiated by the Eimers family.
While the blue paper was hard at its blue news work, the homeless forum happened yesterday in Monroe County’s Harvey Government Center in Key West. At the bottom of this post, is the Citizen’s report on the forum – www.keysnews.com.
The four forum panelist’s main thrust was the criminalization of homelessness is the most expensive and least effective way to deal with homelessness. Criminalization of homeless people makes it even harder for them to get a job, and stop being homeless. The most effective way to end homelessness, 95 percent proven success, is to put them into housing, and they are managed by case workers. The panelists were splendid, moderator Rev. Randy Becker did an excellent job, the forum’s design was excellent.
Randy announced the 3-hour forum would run straight through without a break, anyone needing to get coffee, stand up and stretch and walk around, use the bathroom was in charge of when that happened. Randy said each panelist would present, then the other panelists could respond, if they wished. Then, written questions would be taken from the audience. Then, anyone in the audience who wanted to speak, could have 2 minutes.
I was told earlier by county IT personnel that the county was not recording the forum. A fellow with a camera set up on a tripod on the right front of the meeting room said he worked for Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, was filming the event, with audio, and Father Steve Braddock would have a copy of the video and perhaps a link for people to open and watch, who did not attend the event.
The meeting chamber was maybe 85 percent full, the audience was white. I saw no homeless people in the audience. After it was over, I, when they were free, gave each of the four panelist my goodmorningkeywest.com “business card”, with “Sloan Bashinsky, JD, LLM” written across the top. Three of the panelists are attorneys. You can read more about them in the Citizen article last below. I told them I would report the event at goodmmorningkeywest.com this morning, and it probably would be “different”. I told one of the panelists angels will make their appearance known in today’s post.
All four panelists said during the forum that people are homeless because they want to be homeless is a myth: nobody who is homeless wants to be homeless, something traumatic happens, then they are homeless. So, because of that, and because of a dream about 1 a.m. telling me to go back to Colorado for today’s post, I will continue this report in this way.
Something that came up from time to time when I lived on the street in Key West, and afterward, including a comment this last week on www.bigpinekeycom ‘s Coconut Telegraph moan and praise page, was that I really wasn’t homeless, but was doing it as a research project for book, or as an under cover agent for a homeless activist organzation, or because I wanted to live that way. In fact, I did not like being homeless. It was traumatic. It was due to running out of money and, for reasons I still do not understand, I was spirit-blocked from earning a living wage, and still am.
My initial experience with, and getting to know homeless people was in Boulder, Colorado, where I lived from 1987-1995. Even back then, I was spirit-blocked from earning a living wage, but I had inherited money and was able to live comfortably; I did not live extravagantly.
There was a road in Boulder, which had been turned into a pedestrian mall and became called Pearl Street Mall. It was quite popular, and I spent a lot of time hanging out there. During the warmer months, street performers were there in the evenings. Town residents came with their children. The shops along the mall were doing very well. Even as a variety of homeless people hung out there.
One fellow was about 45, I would guess. Tony was from back east. He’d had a regular life, wife, children, job. Then, he’d left all of that behind and have moved west, became e a Buddhist, there was a large Buddhist community there, the Tibetan strain. And he was homeless. He lived there year round. Tony was his name.
Tony had cubbyholes out of the way against buildings where he slept nights. When winter was coming, somehow the warmer clothing and sleeping bag he needed showed up, and he didn’t freeze to death. Boulder winters were about six months. When the snow melted, Tony started shedding his belongngs, and by June was down to very little clothing. He was clean, personable and interesting.
There was Jim Freedom, maybe 35, that was not his birth name, who lived in a van and preached freedom, in the spiritual sense, every afternoon and night on Pearl Street Mall to anyone who would listen to him. He was eager to talk with anyone who wanted to talk with him, when he wasn’t preaching. I had many conversations with him.
There was Sam, maybe 50, who wore a sandwich board sign made out of a cardboard box top, depicting himself as Jesus with a crown of thorns. He said God had told him to wear that sign, he was Jesus. Sam sometimes preached, too. He dumpster-dived and panhandled change for food. I had many conversations with him, as well, and with him and Jim together. Sometimes in the evenings, we drew a pretty good crowd of passing bystanders, some of whom became regulars, in front of Boulder Bookstore.
When winter was coming on, Jim and Samuel Jesus, as I called him, headed elsewhere. Jim in his van. Samuel Jesus on foot, under his very large backpack. He traveled the US on foot and hitchhiking, going wherever the spirit led him; talking God to whoever was in front of him; panhandling and dumpster diving. He did not work for money; nor did Jim, who had a small income from securities he’d acquired in his prior mainstream life , with which he’d become disenchanted. His history I never learned, nor Samuel Jesus’.
There was Loki, who actually was David, but it was some time before he told me his birth name. He was from California, raised be a Mormon high priest. But in his early teens, he had become disenchanted with his destiny being mapped out for him by his Mormon parents. There also was friction with his father, and with his mother. So, when he was about sixteen, as I recall his story, Loki took off.
He had a long, full beard, and was blond, and, dang, if he didn’t look like the Jesus in lots of Christian paintings of Jesus. Loki the Bible cold. He was psychic. Had spirit powers, but didn’t use them, by choice. He told me he chose Loki as a name, in honor the Norse god by that name. A mischievous god. A trickster.
Loki was deep. He liked to simply lie on his backpack and sleep in the middle of of the park between several popular establishments. He had several companions about his age, who did the same. They were sort of like modern day Hippies. But they were not Rainbows. They were something else entirely. I’ll get to Rainbows shortly. Loki deserves more time here.
On one side of the mall median was a pizza restaurant. Loki loved pizza, and he and other street kids, and Samuel Jesus found a lot of thrown away uneaten pizza in the dumpster in front of the pizza restaurant. They also panhandled people going into and coming out of the pizza restaurant for a slice of pizza. Or for money to buy a slice.
One day, a bunch of Christians on some kind of misson or tour came by, and Loki asked them for spare change, so he could get a slice of pizza. The leader of the Christians braced, told his followers to walk around, don’t give the beggar anything. Loki asked the leader if he knew of such and such passage in the Gospels? Loki said the book and page and paragraph numbers, not the passage itself. The leader was stopped in his tracks. He told someone to go inside and get Loki a slice of pizza, but don’t give him any money. The passage was where Jesus told his disciples he was hungry and they had fed him not. But Loki never said the words, only the book and page and paragraph numbers.
Loki and I had deep conversations about many things. My wife and I tried to let him living in the basement of our home for a while, but he was too restless, had to get up several times in the night and go outside and smoke a cigarette. He liked beer, and drank it when he could beg it. He had done LSD. Peyote. As far as I know, didn’t do it when I knew him.
I was having ongoing spirit experiences, and that’s part of what interested me about Loki. I told him I never did drugs. My experiences just came. By the time I met him in the summer of 1994, I was living in two different worlds at the same time, all the time. Loki recognized that, and he respected it. As did his young friends.
However, Jim Freedom did not relate to my experiences, because he was not having spirit experiences; and Samuel Jesus did not relate, because my experiences did not seem to him to have anything to do with the Bible, which he was always opening and reading and studying. My experiences had everything to do with Jesus, but not in the way any Christian I met in Boulder could take in.
The way I came to meet Loki in the summer of 1994, came about in this way.
My wife and her son went to Europe and England for five weeks. Most of the trip was so she could study under an English child therapist of some renown, whom I had met when she came to the states, and we had become good friends. She knew I was having spirit experiences. My wife knew I was having spirit experiences. Her son knew. Some of her friends knew. Some of my wife’s and my Boulder friends were Buddhists.
While my wife and her son were overseas, the notion came to me to buy a white plastic paint bucket, and write with majik marker on it: “Take what you need, give what you can.” That was borrowed from Robert Heinlein’s iconic novel, Stranger in a Strange Land.
The “hero” in that book, born to human settlers on Mars, returned to earth when the Martians had enough of humans and made them all leave. The Martians had trained and done things to the hero, which enabled them to use him like a TV camera, to watch him and Earthlings after he came back to this planet. The Martians were wondering if they would have to do Earth, what they’d once done to the planet between them and Jupiter, after that planet’s inhabitants had become a threat to the Martians. The Martians collectively beamed thought waves to that planet and blew it up. The Asteroid Belt was the result.
Anyway, the hero started a church when he got back to Earth, and it was a very different kind of church, because his followers believed he was Jesus returned, or the next best thing to it. When he passed the collection plate, a bucket, as I recall, it was full of money, and he told the congregation, “Take what you need, give what you can.” Eventually, he caused so much trouble, simply by being who he was, that he was assassinated, which he had predicted.
Not long before, he had told his closest friends that maybe humans would develop fast enough to outwit, or defeat the Martians, before they finally got around to blowing up Earth. He said the Martians would take their time making that decision. Perhaps they would wait too long. Perhaps not.
Well, what happend was the noton and the white paint bucket.
I went to my bank and got $50 in one dollar bills and put it into the bucket, and hung the handle of the bucket over the handle bars of my bicycle, and pedaled into town, to Pearl Street Mall, and parked my bike, we didn’t need bicycle locks in those days, and set the bucket on the brick retaining wall around a raised garden on the mall, and sat down by the bucket and waited to see what was going to happen.
Oh, I also pulled the red satin devil horns out of the bucket, which my wife had made for me the year before, as I recall, and installed them on top of my head, and sat there and waited.
Lots of people walking by did double takes, smiled, or frowned, and kept on walking. Others pretended not to see me and kept on walking. One fellow did not pretend. He stopped, glared at me. I just stat there, maybe like Br’er Fox’s tar baby, although that analogy only just now comes tome.
The glaring fellow slowly walked by me, aound the raised garden. I sensed he was beind me on the other side. Then, I sensed he had stepped up onto the garden and was coming up on me from behind. I was very still.
K-bam!!! He kicked the bucket off the brick wall, up into the air, over the brick pavement. The bucket inverted, all the dollar bills fell out onto the pavement. I heard from from the spirit world: “Don’t move.” So, I didn’t move.
The fellow uttered something derogatory about me and what I was doing, stepped down off the raised garden and righteously stomped off, having done God’s good workagainst the devil. “Don’t move,” I heard again.
It was hard not to move, all that mony lying on the bricks. But I did not move. And, lo, suddenly several people flocked to the bucket and righted it and put all the money in it and walked over and smiled and handed me the bucket and gave me thumbs ups.
Before long, the street people were there, taking a few bucks each, for a slice of pizza. Dropping a cigarette in the bucket, cigarette rolling papers, a bobby pin, a ribbon, some of them were young women. One dropped a condom in the bucket. It was all they had to give.
Then, the foot cop whose beat was the mall came by, smiled wanly, asked what I was up to? I said, well, the churches won’t help the street people, so the devil had to do it. He smiled again, said, well, that probably wasn’t illegal, and turned and walked back to where he’d come from.
The bucket emptied quickly, and that was how I met Loki and his young street friends.
I was back there very day with another $50. A local radio station interviewed me on site.
I had a passel of new, interesting friends.
These young street kids were having their own spirit experiences, by using psychotropics. They were astounded to hear my spirit stories, without drug assistance. No way, Not possible! Yes, possible. I take nothing. Never took anything. Au natuale. Wow! Far out, man!
Rainbows were in Boudler by then. They were a different tribe, though. Not so easy to relate, too. But far different from the rainbows who call on Key West today. The rainbows in Boulder were polite. Respectful. They gathered crowds with their drumming. It was very different back then. Almost paradisical. Almost.
The beat cop hated street people. He was causing a lot of problems. I finally started a correspondence with the Boulder Chief Of Police, and told him that officer was on the wrong assignment, for him. Put him on an assignment where he could be a good cop. Before something terrible happened.
The Chief had a sergeant write back to me. I wrote back to the Chief, saying I had written to him, not to his sergeant. That officer needed a different beat to work. Don’t dally. Meanwhile, keep your eyes on the University of Colorado’s head football coach, he’s about to have a life-changing experience.
My son-in-law married to my oldest daughter, was the assistant head baseball coach at the University of Missouri. He had told me that its all over the NCAA that the Colorado coaches daughter was sleeping with most of his football players. I said, that was the rumor in Boulder, too. The Colorado coach was a founder and national leader of “Promise Keepers”. Christian men who vowed to be good husbands and fathers. They’d had a huge revival in the Colorado Buffaloes football stadium.
The daily newspaper in Boulder had a new journalist, who had come there from Sports Illustrated. He was covering sports for the Boulder newspaper. I had letters to the editor published in that newspaper from time to time. I wrote to the sports journalist and told him what my son-in-law had told me. I encouraged him to look into it and report what he discovered.
About two weeks later, Sports Illustrated broke the story – front page. The sports journalist had sent it to his friends at Sports Illustrated. I had not expected that. I submitted a letter to the editor, saying I felt responsible for the national exposure; I had told the local journalist what I had heard and never expected him to send it to Sports Illustrated. The letter was published.
Not long after, the journalist went to work for a Denver newspaper.
The head football coach resigned, to spend more time with his family. He’d won two national championships and had a lifetime coaching contract with Colorado.
The beat cop who hated homeless people was moved to a different beat in the city. A new cop took the Pearl Street beat, who got along great with street people.
Backing up in time, another notion came to me while my wife and stepson were overseas. She was continually fretting about what woud happen to her and her son, if she and I didn’t stick together. I was fully supporting our family. What she made in her mental health pratice, she was a licensed cliincial social worker, and a Sandplay therapist still in training, she was spending on her practice and Sandplay and related training. Google Sandplay therapy and Dora Kalff to learn about Sandplay therapy.
The notion was, when my wife and stepson returned, I would tell her, if we did not stick together, then she would decide what she got and what I got out of my assets. That notion was about three weeks into her and her son’s five-weeks overseas. I sat with the notion. I told God to tell me if the notion was for real. It felt right, but was it for real? I would go with it, when she came back, unless I was told not to go with it.
I heard nothing. I took that as ago. I went with it when she came back. We had ourselves a big cry together. She asked if I really meant it? I said, yes, I really meant it. We cried more.
Time passed. From time to time she asked again if I really meant it? I got tired of being asked. I said so. I had given my word. I would stick with it.
In August the next year, 1995, she said she wanted a separation. Although I had seen it coming, I was hammered physically, emotionally mentally and in my soul. I told her to make the property division. She said she didn’t want to do it. I told her make it anyway. She struggled. We talked. She struggled. We cried. She struggled.
We both belived my father would die soon, he was very sick. We knew what I would inherit if he died. I would be taken care of. I told her to make the property division. She struggled. What would be fair? She struggled. I suggested 10 percent was a tithe. She settled close to there. I got $100,000, she got the rest, 90 percent. She took what she felt she needed for her and her son, who was about 11, as I recall
I moved away from Boulder. The divorce proceeding was in Boulder. My wife was struggling. She started getting worked over by the angels, about how she’d split my estate. She had her own estate, a farm she’d inherited with her brother from their mother. I had paid the estate lawyer. the probate costs. She was getting worked over by the angels.
She didn’t want the divorce agreement to show what she was getting out of my estate, which was at her election. She knew the judge might not go along with that. But she did not tell me that was her reason.
The angels worked her over. She finally argeed to disclose in the divorce agreement how the division of my estate came about. I understood what the angels were doing. I overrode them. I had given my word. I had to stick with that. I told her to have her lawyer send me the agreement the lawyer wanted to use. The agreement came. I signed it and sent it back.
She waited months to file the agreement with the judge, who approve it and signed the divorce decree on April 1, 1996. I undestood that not an April Fool’s joke. It was something else entirely. But that’s another story.
This story is about how I became a street person in mid-2000. A bum. A vagrant. A piece of shit. Because I had kept my word. And because I was spirit-blocked from making a living wage. And because my father made a seemingly miraculous recovery, for which I was grateful. Grateful for him, and grateful because I did not like depending on him to die, for me to have money on which to live.
He passed over in late August 2005. I received the inheritance Valentine’s Day 2006. I knew that was no accident, either. That’s how I stopped being homeless, a vagrant, a bum, a piece of shit by many people in Key West’s standard.
I did not say during my 2 minutes of citizen comments yesterday, that I was a lawyer. I had said, looking around the room, it seemed I was the only local homeless expert present, because had lived on the street in Key West, and on Maui. I had stayed at KOTS, Key West’s overnight homeless shelter, and I had been in FKOC’s residence turn around program, and had stayed in a homeless shelter in Kansas City, and in Birmingham, had slept nights outside in Key West in just about any place imaginable.
Mayor Cates had gone first. He said Keys cannot house homeless people ahead of thousands of working people who cannot afford the housing they now have; those people need to be helped first.
I went after Craig, and said he was right. The new homeless people needs to be gotten back inside before they become street people, and the people about to become new homeless people need to be helped so they don’t become new homeless people, then street people. I said the only to help them is to provide affordable rental housing, $600 month, $800, $900. Rents are much higher than that, except for public housing, which we need a lot more of.
I said when I lived on the street, 90 percent of street people were addicts. It’s a waste of time and money to give addicts housing, when they are using. Key West needs a drunk tank, to stash its homeless addicts until they sober up and can be let out. The city is killing the sheriff and the hospital, by sending its homeless addicts there.
I told the panelist who is not a lawyer, who works for a federal prevention and cure for homeless agency, that I would like to know how much, if any federal funding, there is for housing homeless people in Key West. I said she should tell her boss, Mr. Obama, to stop making war and spending so much money on his military; that would free up a lot of money for funding affordable housing, and for health care. Randy Becker told me I was out of time. I stopped, without saying, American wars were creating more homeless veterans.
During his 2 minutes, County Commissioner David Rice, a psychologist, who ran guidance clinics in the Keys for many years, tried to work with and help may homeless people, said there are two people in the Keys he looks to on homeless issues, they are in the room, Sloan Bashinsky and Father Stephen Braddock (who heads up FKOC).
The City of Key West and Mornroe County have yet to seek Steve’s or my advice on homeless issues. The two governments have steadfastly listened to politicians, charities who had a money stake in it, or an ego stake in it, people outside the Keys, but they never sought Steve’s and my input.
Steve, I imagine, spearheaded yesterday’s homeless forum. It was exquisite. Four people with real credentials, finally, having nothing do with Key West or the Keys, told Key West and the Keys, presented an entirely different point of view from criminalizing homeless people.
The four panelists said every city in Florida believes it is a great place to live, and that’s why it has a homeless problem. Every city has homeless problems, the panelists said.
They said shelters are not a solution. Homeless people having homes are a solution.
Alas, Key West is all built out; it has no land on which to build such housing; it has not the money to build such housing; and it has thousands of low-earnings citizens, who are not yet homeless, who cannot afford where they now live.
The panelist who was the lead attorney in the Pottinger case, told the entire history of that case, and how the City of Miami ended up losing all say so in how its homeless problem was managed. A US District Court now manages Miami’s homeless problems. The same US District Court has jurisdiction of Key West.
State Attorney Catherine Vogel said, she was in Miami when the Pottinger case was decided. She said, back in 2004, when she was an Assistant State Attorney down here in the Keys, she told the city and the county about the Pottinger case, and that henceforth the State Attorney’s Office would not prosecute cases against homeless people such as the Pottinger case prohibited. Cooking food, eating, sleeping, washing, using the bathroom, etc. outside – necessary life sustaining activities.
In 2002, or 2003, I emailed Catherine’s boss, State Attorney Mark Kohl, and told him of the Pottinger decision, and what it prohibited, and that Key West was using prosecution by his Office to threaten and intimidate homeless people, in violation of Pottinger, and he should look into that and protect his office from what the city was doing.
Lastly on yesterday’s homeless forum, the lady lawyer on the panel, who works for a Florida homeless advocacy organization, who sues Florida cities for criminalizing homeless people, said feeding homeless people does not enable them to be homeless; it enables them to live.
When my good friend Michael Tolbert told me the other day that the soup kitchen should be closed during the summer, that would get rid of homeless people, I said that sounded Nazi. He said when he was homeless, he always had a job, he bought his own food. I said, if there had been no soup kitchen in Key West, he never would have met me, because I would have died. He said, I would have gotten by. I said I would have died and he never would have met me.
As for Loki, from Boulder, he called me in late 1999, from out of the blue. He had gone back to California, made semi-peace with his parents, but had not gone back into their Mormon plan for him. He was living in Arizona, had IT job, was smoking lots of a marijuana, had a girlfriend and lots of friends, and was happy,
By July 2000, I was living on the street on Maui. After a few months of that, and then living in a tent on someone’s land in exchange for restoring their old vegetable garden and mowing their large yard on a riding mower, I was told when waking one morning, to go to the Keys. I awoke, said I had no money.
Three days later I was on an airplane headed to Los Angeles, to see and old friend, who knew all too well the angels running me, because they were on his case, too. Even though he was Jewish. There names are Jesus, Michael and Melchizedek. My friend put me a Greyhound bus to Key West.
Passing through Tallahassee (state capitol), I was told in a dream that was going to get into politics. I awoke, terrified. I hated politics.
The rest is history. And I still hate politics.
Oh, twice while I was a Key West bum, Samuel Jesus came through Key West and hit me up for money. I said I was in the same shape he was in. Just before leaving Boulder in September 1995, I saw Samuel Jesus on Pearl Street Mall. I didn’t go over and speak to him. I wondered if I was going to end up homeless, too?
I never panhandled. I did use food stamps. But for them, I would have starved to death, too.
Friday, August 29, 2014
Panel: Jailing homeless a nonsolution
Mayor agrees but says ‘working people’ come first for housing
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
David Peery, an attorney from Miami, spent a few hours Thursday sharing his views on the “criminalization” of the homeless with Key West officials and activists.
Then he shared his personal experience.
“I am homeless,” Peery said, from his seat on a panel of experts who argued the cost of arresting, jailing, prosecuting and punishing those who live on the streets does nothing to cure the problem and even makes it more harder for them to turn their lives around.
“I was laid off,” said Peery, speaking at the Harvey Government Center before nearly 100 who included Police Chief Donie Lee, State Attorney Catherine Vogel, City Attorney Shawn Smith and County Commissioner Heather Carruthers. “After a year and a few months, unemployment ran out. I had very few, actually no, alternatives.”
Providing housing first is the only solution that works and ultimately cuts costs, such as the $2 million that Sheriff Rick Ramsay’s department spends on jailing the homeless, who make up one-third of the Florida Keys’ inmates on any given day, the panelists said.
Peery, who became a plaintiff in the landmark Pottinger v. Miami case that set the standard for defining civil rights for the homeless, said the homeless are a lot like the people seated before him.
“It’s more of an adjective,” he said.
In place since 1998, the Pottinger decree approved by a federal judge outlined restrictions on arresting and jailing the homeless for merely living outdoors — whether they were cooking, sleeping, drinking or doing other “life sustaining” activities.
The Keys crowd assembled Thursday appeared agreeable with the panel’s take that spending millions over the years on locking up the homeless on minor, nonviolent infractions isn’t productive, but Key West’s mayor said he can’t support the “housing first” idea.
“It’s a waste of money,” said Mayor Craig Cates of jailing the homeless. “The idea of housing for the homeless is almost impossible down here. We’ve got 2,000 people working who can’t find housing. To move the homeless ahead of those people would just be unfair.”
The Pottinger decree was revised earlier this year at the request of the city of Miami, where leaders reported that the availability of services for the homeless have grown since 1998. But it remains good law and a warning to cities not to jail the homeless without first making sure a shelter is available, many contend.
Pottinger’s litigation inspired the city of Key West to build an overnight homeless shelter on Stock Island in 2004. Today, the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS) still offers emergency shelter coupled with case management services.
KOTS costs the city about $440,000 a year to run, or $8 per person per night.
“Doing nothing costs money,” said attorney Kirsten Clanton, of the Southern Legal Counsel based in Gainesville. “Jailing costs the most. We are also making it more difficult for people to escape homelessness. When you get convicted of a crime, you spend a tremendous amount on court costs. Some communities bill you for every night you spend in jail.”
Thursday’s panel also included Amy Sawyer, from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, and Benjamin Waxman, a Miami criminal defense attorney who handled Pottinger.
The Rev. Randy Becker of Key West served as moderator.
Sponsored by the Monroe County Continuum of Care, the lead agency of the Florida Keys for homeless grants and services, and a host of other nonprofits, Thursday’s forum addressed questions specific to Key West.
Won’t offering housing for the homeless attract even more to the island?
No, the panelists said. Homeless men and women will seek the sun and sand of Florida’s cities no matter the level of services offered.
Then the familiar question of Key West residents fatigued by years of witnessing public urination, boozing, fighting and trespassing:
What about those who don’t want help and only want to live off the system?
That prompted Peery to elaborate on his experience living outdoors.
“People don’t become homeless because it’s wonderful and they can live a life of royalty,” he said. “Life on the streets is traumatic, emotionally traumatic and physically traumatic. You ever wonder why you see homeless people sleeping during the day? Because you cannot sleep at night. You sleep with one eye open.”
Clanton added that feeding the homeless is “enabling.”
“It enables people to live,” she said.
You can’t hold onto belongings because they get stolen and you have nowhere to store them, Peery said. And people judge you, hassle you and even prey upon you. You are hungry, thirsty and never seem to get a real night’s sleep, making you jittery and edgy and perceived by the public as criminal, he said.
Another query the panel dismissed as myth rather than fact: If we cut off the services Key West gives to the needy, the homeless will stop arriving, right?
Wrong, panelists said.
“You’ll simply increase the misery,” Peery said. “What it will lead to is homeless people going through trash, getting more diseased or spoiled food. It’ll lead to sickness.”
County Commissioner David Rice, a psychologist by trade, said government always seems to have money for policies that fail.
“We build community resources and we obligate financing,” Rice said. “Then when it fails to meet a problem we leave the money in that program and we either don’t fund more promising alternatives or we underfund them. We don’t take money out of the jail and say, ‘Here’s $400,000 for something that proves to be effective.’ ”
Other locals spoke in favor of offering housing for the island’s most vulnerable as a step toward the solution.
Mark Sullivan rose to the podium to tell the crowd it’s a myth that homeless men and women don’t want to better their lives.
Having a place to sleep regularly seems to help a homeless person get their feet on the ground enough to work on other problems, whether it’s addiction or mental illness, he said.
“I’m living proof of it, and I’m on the front lines every day,” said Sullivan, the manager at Anchors Aweigh, a nonprofit that offers meeting space for various 12-step programs seven days a week. “When they have a chance to change, they take advantage of it.”
Organizers and attendees alike praised Thursday’s forum as a productive conversation started by the panelists.
“They have opened the eyes and ears to a lot of people in this room,” said Scott Pridgen, executive director of AIDS Help and the chairman of the Continuum of Care. “Empathy. Everyone in this room and outside of this room deserves a home and a place to live.”
One local who has been homeless in the Keys said he doesn’t mind if the financial picture forces people to change their minds about homeless services rather than an outpouring of compassion.
“I’d be so happy to see a 24-hour shelter with case management to get people help in getting away from homelessness,” said Peter Dswonyk, a resident manager at the local Volunteers of America. “Homelessness is a problem that affects the whole community. It will take the whole community working together if we’re going to make any progress at making things right.”