Sherman R. Frederick
Sausalito Marin Scope
The words “dignity” and “compassion” were thrown around early and often at a special meeting of the Sausalito City Council on what to do about the impromptu homeless encampment that has sprung up at Dunphy Park.
The camp started with one camper in December and has grown to 12 tents and more than 9 people.
At the Feb. 5 meeting which lasted three-plus hours and hosted about 150 people watching, the Council voted 4-1 to “treat all homeless with dignity” and to designate Marinship Park as a sanctioned, safe place in which the homeless may sleep overnight.
Those voting in favor of the motion were Mayor Jill James Hoffman, Vice Mayor Janelle Kellman, Councilmember Susan Cleveland-Knowles, and Councilmember Ian Sobieski. Councilmember Melissa Blaustein voted against the motion.
Blaustein wanted more time before making the move to find programs for the homeless at Dunphy Park. But other council members said the plight of the homeless in Marin County isn’t going to substantially change any time soon.
Councilman Ian Sobieski said the Council’s resolutions “strike a balance. It is not joyful, but it is compassionate. I’ve lived in countries that have no compassion.”
“At the end of the day,” Sobieski told his fellow commissioners, “we are here to find a place for people to sleep overnight. Will it be anywhere in the city, or one place with basic services?
Essentially, the Council’s move makes Marinship Park the only legal place in the city for people to spend the night. It has bathrooms and running water and allows social workers to focus on one place for which to provide amenities and services to the unhoused. People must decamp — tents, chairs, grills, etc. — at sunrise and place them in a city-provided storage facility, which the Council told the staff to provide.
People living at Dunphy Park were having none of it.
Robbie Powelson, a homeless advocate at several impromptu encampments in Marin, said moving tents is unsafe “because breath condenses on the fabric which can spread the virus.”
He also lashed out at Sausalito for being a racist town that treats the homeless “awfully.”
“The world is watching,” he said.
A tearful Sherri Lynn Colo, a displaced anchor-out now living at Dunphy Park, told the council that “I’m going to cry. I’m 64 years old, I’m disabled, I’m a citizen of this country and I’m being treated like dirt.”
A woman who identified herself as Sunny, had a completely different take. She said “I’m proud to be an anchor-out. I’m having the time of my life. People should be able to live outdoors if that’s what pleases them. Camping should not be a crime. It’s a wonderful experience.”