In a 3-2 decision Thursday night, the Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District voted to discharge the Homeless Task Force Ad-Hoc Committee from IVRPD supervision, but mandated two board members to attend the meetings.
The committee, which meets bimonthly, consists of board members, clergy, homeless advocates and members of the homeless community, and addresses the needs and issues of the homeless community.
At the Oct. 5 IVRPD meeting, board members Harley Augustino and Selena Gonzalez said the separation of the Homeless Task Force Committee from the board would enable the committee to act without board approval.
Gonzalez, IVRPD director and member of the Homeless Task Force Committee, said the issue of separation was also discussed and voted on at the Oct. 22 task force meeting.
“Four people thought the task force should not stay a part of the district, five people felt it should stay a part of the district and one abstained. I personally feel the task force would be more effective if we were not part of the IVRPD — us being part of the district is impairing what we are trying to do,” Gonzalez said.
The committee was originally created to address the issue of storage for the possessions of homeless individuals. IVRPD chair Ariana Katovich, who voted in favor of the separation, said it is now addressing larger issues – like winter shelter, shower facilities and legal campgrounds – and should not be under the district’s jurisdiction.
“I don’t think we should be putting in money or staff time, but be in full support,” she said. “If we wanted to make recommendations we would be more effective if [the committee was] not part of the district.”
Board member Augustino, who voted against the motion along with Pegeen Soutar, said the task force would have greater legitimacy and rapport with the community as part of the IVRPD.
“IVRPD needs to have a committee that is really going to be responsive and have dialogue with the homeless community. I think there needs to be a liaison between homeless task force and IVRPD,” Augustino said.
Board member Diane Conn, who voted in favor of the separation, said addressing the issues of the homeless community is not a direct concern of the IVRPD.
“I encouraged the committee because people were taking the initiative,” Conn said. “I think when people are ready to break off and take action they will. If it works, great, if it doesn’t, bummer.”
Advocates for and members of the homeless community expressed disapproval with the board’s decision. One man at the meeting began threatening board members.
Jenny Jett, an advocate for the homeless, said the homeless community is most interested in a legal campground and IVRPD actions are impeding that goal.
“There is a lot of talk and committees and committees. What the homeless people want is a legal campground. It’s what the homeless people have told me that is what they want,” Jett said. “What we need is help from the district to help us do this. Either you are with us or against us. Everyone knows in every town in the United States [that] parks and homeless people go hand in hand.”
Enid Osborn, Homeless Task Force Committee member and board secretary, said Jett was not providing an accurate statement of the goals of the Homeless Task Force or the homeless community.
“We have done surveys, we actually have a variety of things that we advocate – lockers, a winter shelter,” she said. “We have a lot of diversity among the homeless committee about what homeless people want, while Jenny says it should be the only goal of the committee.”