The Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District turned down requests to put the homeless issue on the agenda at last night’s meeting, claiming it lacked the authority to grant them a “living space.”
I.V. homeless advocates stationed themselves in tents in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park on January 27 and remained in the park for 10 days, despite a county ordinance prohibiting overnight camping. Homeless advocates said they hoped to show the community the positive spirit of the homeless and to demonstrate the need for permanent living space for I.V.’s homeless.
“I can’t even describe for you the experience we have all had living in the park,” homeless advocate and UCSB graduate Chris Omer said. “This is the most powerful thing I’ve ever done – the spirit we have all shown. I know it has been at least a couple years since we have had a sense of spirit or empowerment.”
The homeless spoke at the IVRPD meeting last night in order to inform the board of the positive effects of 10 camping days and to request an “emergency meeting” where the IVRPD would help the homeless find an area of living space and approach the county for help.
“It doesn’t seem like IVRPD is helping and we need some support,” said homeless advocate “Guitar Dave” Doyle. “Anisq’ Oyo’ is not the place we are trying to set up, but we had to do something.”
Doyle said he and other homeless advocates would ultimately like to set up a self-sufficient area by creating a non-profit organization, which would provide the funds to serve a community. He cited operations in Portland, Ore., and in Santa Cruz, Calif., where self-sufficient communities have been set up to resolve the homeless problem.
“We have support from within the homeless community, we have support from MarBorg Industries [to supply toilet facilities]; we just need the support of the IVRPD to lease us living space, like they do for the [I.V.] Teen Center,” he said.
After listing a variety of IVRPD expenses, including being a party to two lawsuits, the community center — which is barely in the planning process — and programming for the I.V. Teen Center, IVRPD board member Ariana Katovich said the IVRPD did not have the resources to tackle the issue.
“We get about $1 million for [all of our expenses]. If we had all of that money for nothing else but to create a living space, we still would need the greater county to respond to this,” she said. “We just don’t have the money or the time. We have to be realistic – we have too many other responsibilities.”
Advocate Rachelle Seliga said she hoped the board realized the severity of the situation.
“This is a matter of life and death for some people,” she said. “I just want you to keep that in mind and remember the personal side to this.”
IVRPD board member Dianne Conn said she did not want to put the issue on future agendas for discussion because it was unlikely the board would be able to help.
“I don’t see any reason to hit my head against the wall,” she said. “I don’t want to put this on the agenda. The longer you ask us, the longer it is going to take you to find a solution.”
The homeless advocates officially left the park yesterday, after Isla Vista Foot Patrol Lt. Russ Birchim said he would be forced to issue more citations and make arrests. At the meeting, the homeless advocates thanked the lieutenant for his attitude and general cooperation during their station in the park.
Birchim said he felt the homeless and police maintained a “peaceful coexistence” and said most of the citations issued were responses to complaints by the community.
“We came to an agreement that it was time to leave the park,” he said. “We gave them an opportunity to make their statement.”
Omer asked Lt. Birchim if any of complaints came from the IVRPD board and was told that General Manager Derek Johnson had complained to the Foot Patrol.
“I had a dialogue with Lt. Birchim and forwarded complaints that were made to me,” Johnson said. “I got two complaints and I just relayed them to [Lt. Birchim].”
Doyle said he doesn’t believe the IVRPD is willing to give them the support they need.
“I’m tired of asking you for anything because you’re not giving it,” he said.
“There is not any support from anyone on the board right now,” IVRPD board member Harley Augustino said.