SRPD to conduct mass eviction at downtown tent city


James Wyatt

With garbage bins full of personal belongings, several activists helped the homeless recover their things. One woman displays her hand-made sign and protests the removal of their camp.

Brandon McCapes and José Gonzalez

As the Santa Rosa Police Department prepares for a mass eviction of the long-standing homeless encampments beneath the Highway 101 overpass along Fifth, Sixth and Ninth streets, protesting activists, including Santa Rosa Junior College students, have also taken up residency at the the tent city.

Several activist groups including Homeless Action, the Police Brutality Coalition and North Bay Organizing held signs up to passing cars as the tent city’s occupants prepared their belongings ahead of the police’s arrival.

An SRJC student, who only identified herself by the surname Cox, was among the loose coalition of different activist groups present to raise awareness, assist the homeless and protest the City of Santa Rosa’s policies on homelessness.

“There were 20 beds in shelter and they’re all full,” Cox said. “Where are the rest of these people going to go? It’s winter and it’s going to start raining.”

“The fires did not discriminate; the fires displaced homeless people and Fountaingrove. But our recovery will discriminate. It’s a tiered recovery, if you were displaced and homeless before we don’t care about you, all the services were for fire victims, not to anyone that needs them and that’s wrong.”

Cox urged students to attend the City Council meeting today at 2:30 p.m. at 100 Santa Rosa Ave.

Scott Wagner, 58, of Homeless Action said there was a loose coalition of different activist groups present to raise awareness, assist the homeless and protest the City of Santa Rosa’s policies on homelessness.

Wagner, who is one of six trained legal observers present for the eviction, said the homeless shelters’ model isn’t effective in rehabilitating the homeless. Most of the overpass’s residents are not headed to shelters, but to Sonoma County land.

“The city is cynical, unfortunately,” Wagner said. “They’re turning their heads, hoping they go to the county so they don’t have to do anything about them.”

Wagner blamed the not-in-my-backyard mentality of adjacent neighborhoods for the eviction order.

Kathleen Finigan, 75, of Community Action acknowledged that the residents of nearby areas cannot be blamed for wanting the encampments removed.

“Ive met some people in the neighborhoods recently who were approached aggressively by homeless people,” Finigan said. “There also is public defecation and urination, and it’s understandable that they don’t like that.”

Finigan said the police should stop criminalizing homelessness and instead provide access to public toilets, hand-washing stations, shower trucks and garbage disposal.

Another activist who refused to give her name said many of the encampment’s residents are domestic-violence victims and elderly.

“Civilizations don’t have homeless grandmothers,” she said.

The SRPD issued a public statement that the encampment will be cleared anytime after 6 a.m. today.