The approximately one dozen homeless residents who pitched tents in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park on Sunday are still there – and they say they’re not moving.
Although a Santa Barbara County ordinance prohibits sleeping in public places between sunset and 6 a.m., only one camper has been cited all week for violation of the law. The group and their supporters say their protest is designed to call attention to the need for a permanent campground in I.V. and rally community support.
Protesters and police say their interactions have been amiable.
“We issued one ticket a couple of days ago,” I.V. Foot Patrol Lt. Russ Birchim said. “We made a tactical decision to leave them alone; let them make their statement. We decided we didn’t want to pour gas on the fire.
“We have been checking in. We appreciate that they haven’t been drinking or fighting – we’ve had no problems … They seem pretty organized; they had a meeting and decided after [last night] they would leave. They have to clean up for a wedding Saturday.”
Chris Omer, who has been staying at Anisq’ Oyo’ this week, said the group plans to remain at the centrally located park as long as they can.
“No, we’re not leaving [today],” he said. “It’s been interesting – the lieutenant actually stopped by and talked to us, which was a nice, friendly community gesture. They’ve been respectful … There’s been a lot of community support. People have brought by blankets and food, which we totally appreciate. People are sympathetic.”
Omer said the group met last night to outline demands for the County Board of Supervisors and I.V. Recreation and Parks District, and to create a strategy for establishing a campground.
“Right now basically where we’re at is this first step. [The idea is] not only to give people a place to camp out, but to give the community some idea [of the homeless situation],” he said. “Now we’ve gotta start working the system, start putting pressure on the people in power – put pressure on the IVRPD and the county to work together. If [the campground] is in a park, the IVRPD has to be involved, but a lot of zoning and other bureaucracy has to go through the county. Once we get a petition together, we’ll call on campus groups to help.”
Omer said the approximately 50 homeless residents of I.V. should not have to go to the downtown or North County shelters for a safe place to sleep.
“[People say] there’s a shelter downtown, but this is people’s home – there’s no reason to leave,” Omer said. “It’s a different scene downtown. [There is] a reaction that [I.V.] isn’t their home, but that’s not fair.”
Protest supporter Mauro Sanchez said he would like to see a modern version of Tipi Village, a small tent settlement on the 6700 block of Sueno Rd. that existed during the 1970s. Carmen Lodise, author of “A Citizen’s History of Isla Vista,” attributed the large number of tipi dwellers to “the huge rent increases, which began in 1976 when enrollment at UCSB began to skyrocket.”
Sanchez, who lived in I.V. for over 20 years until recently, said a settlement like Tipi Village would be ideal.
“Thirty years ago, we had Tipi Village. Since it closed, the rent has gone up and up … we need to get back to Tipi Village,” he said. “I support these people because whatever comes to them is a concern to me. People tell me not to help because they’re alcoholics, they’re lazy. I don’t come to crucify anybody. If they are alcoholics, then we should have [local] programs. We should give them places to shower so they can get a job.”
Omer said spirits have been high all week among the campers.
“There’s been a sense of empowerment, to be able to set up a place to come back to. Everyone is sharing, cleaning up the park and cooking,” he said.