The issue of homelessness in Marin boils down to this: Are the homeless a protected class of citizens exempt from human norms and community rules?
It’s not about how to “fix” homelessnesses. This is also not a moment for warring ideological tribes to demonstrate how so much more they care about the downtrodden. In this post-Martin v. Boise moment, we live with a federal court decision so vague it has spawned the bold idea that unless a city can offer the homeless an acceptable alternative for housing, they may then camp anywhere they please.
This is a serious argument homeless advocates make.
Sausalito tested that assertion when a group of people started camping in Dunphy Park in January. It grew, and in fine Sausalito tradition, became a strange brew of party goers, free spirits and some legit homeless. They dragged Port-a-Potties to the beach, erected a galley and a receiving dock for donations. They gave the encampment a name and developed a basic code of behavior. This was not your father’s underpass encampment. This was more of a poke-in-the-eye statement to the “rich people on the hlll.” One woman told the Council that everyone should be allowed to camp at Dunphy because it was cool and fun. Look it up. It’s part of the city record.
Of course, Sausalito’s moms and dads were having none of it. They said “we care” about the plight of the homeless, but not at that beach. It ordered all homeless camping to move to the more out-of-sight location at Marinship Park. The homeless lobby sued and lost. Federal Judge Edward M. Chen blessed the concept and the city bulldozed the Dunphy Park encampment. Today, if you want to camp overnight in Sausalito, you must be in Marinship Park encampment, which is fenced in for their own safety, the city says. There’s about 30-40 people at Marinship and the city says this is what compassion looks like. Homeless advocates say it is an oppressive internment camp. Call it what you want, the point is that this is lawful and sanctioned by the federal court.
Novato’s next up. It tested the “anywhere goes” camping doctrine by banning daytime camping in the city and restricting camping day or night in sensitive areas — fire risk areas, watersheds, public buildings etc. The Marin homeless advocates hate Novato’s idea, again contending that if Novato has no place for them to go, then they can sleep anywhere they please. If it involves peeing and pooping in the creek, then oh well.
The Homeless Union sued. A federal court issued a temporary restraining order last week. The next round of rulings will be key in clarifying Martin v. Boise. If it goes Novato’s way, every city in the country will follow suit. If it goes the way of homeless advocates, stand by for some very weird consequences. For example, can homeless campers then set up in Muir Woods? Why not? Imagine dragging some Porta-a-Potties and grills there?
How about in Pioneer Park, which features the graves of Novato pioneers? Fancy a suburb of Lee Gerner Park encampment amid the gravestones? Or, how about letting large encampments nestle next to Marin’s drinking water source? Maybe we could market it by saying: “Marin, You Can Taste Our Compassion.”
All I’m sayin’ is, buckle up, readers. This is going to get interesting.
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ONE MORE THING
— Today I called my mom “birth giver.” She replied, “Yes, Financial Drain.”
— How Social Media Works: You say “I prefer Mangoes to Oranges.” Then some random person says: “You hate oranges! Why didn’t you mention bananas? Educate yourself. I’m literally shaking!”
— I saw a bumper sticker that said “I’m a veterinarian, I drive like an animal.” Suddenly, I realized how many proctologists there are out on the road.
— Finally, truth in retail.
And with that, let’s call it a day. Thanks for your time this week. If you’re not reading a Marinscope newspaper, you’re missing something essential to life here. See page 3A to subscribe. Also, live by the hippie credo: Be kind; question authority.
(Sherman Frederick is the editor and publisher of Marinscope Community Newspapers. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 415-408-1073.)