Councilmember Shebreh Kalantari‐Johnson’s recent letter (GT, 4/13) praised the city’s group of new policies affecting unhoused people, referring to them as being a “deeply collaborative citywide effort.” The policies, though, remarkably did not include collaboration with the community that they directly affect, making her premise disingenuous, at best.
In a March meeting with Santa Cruz Cares, Kalantari‐Johnson said that she had not, in fact, talked with unhoused people about the OVO, nor at any point sought out overall unhoused community input on it. The other council members present, Renee Golder and Martine Watkins, also acknowledged that they had never consulted with people living in oversize vehicles about the proposed ordinance.
It would be hard to imagine any effort that so deeply impacts a group of people to be considered
collaborative—especially about issues so dear as housing, sleeping and fines that include having one’s home be taken away—without actually talking with them about it and soliciting their input at every point.
If a process affected housed members of the Upper Westside, for instance, to the point of them being fined and having their place to live and sleep be taken away, I can only imagine the amount of conversation, including marathon council and committee meetings, it would take to develop realistic and fair regulations. People who are unhoused subsidize those who own homes via the property tax deduction, but we wouldn’t only ask unhoused people to determine rules around housed people’s property.
Though on a smaller scale, this is not dissimilar to some of Ronald Reagan’s destructive policies, and we are living the results of those from so many years back. Like his policies, this has embedded racism, classism and queerphobia, and it continues the shift to overburden already marginalized and fragile populations to avoid having even a visual burden of seeing poverty that some housed people seem to find more offensive than actual poverty.
It’s painful to think of the effects of the OVO in particular on people’s lives, and its impact on what seems to be exceedingly low on the scale of priorities: The death count among unhoused Santa Cruz residents and the quality of life for those who are unhoused.
The city council and we who live here would be far better off if we were to orient more around the whole Santa Cruz community, not just the ones who have more power, by inviting and involving all major population groups to the discussions that affect us. That includes doing outreach to populations who have less voice and less access. We can see how much stronger our communities are when we include all of us.
When you are working on issues that involve a population, include them from the start, and include them wholeheartedly. Please look beyond those with loud voices who feel that the cultural rules as they stand are just.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the views of Good Times.To submit a letter to the editor of Good Times: Letters should be originals—not copies of letters sent to other publications. Please include your name and email address to help us verify your submission (email address will not be published). Please be brief. Letters may be edited for length, clarity and to correct factual inaccuracies known to us. Send letters to [email protected].