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Advocate warns against ‘unintended consequences’

Paul Brindel is a community advocate and service provider who argues that new downtown rules could harm the poor.
Advocate warns against ‘unintended consequences’

<www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2002/September/12/local/stories/12local.htm>

September 12, 2002
Sentinel staff report

Paul Brindel is a community advocate and service provider who argues that new downtown rules could harm the poor. He is part of the Community Action Board, which provides services and fights poverty. He directs the board’s shelter project. The board sent the City Council a report about panhandlers downtown. The group tried to convince a council majority to postpone its rules.

SENTINEL: Do you oppose all the new downtown rules?
BRINDEL: The board is looking at this closely. We are doing an analysis on how significant the effect could be (on the homeless), and it looks like it could be significant because of the sheer number of people who get their daily living by panhandling. There are people who, very respectfully and without aggressive behavior, ask for help. We (identified) 350 homeless people in Santa Cruz County ... who get some of their income from panhandling primary, daily living money. ... Annually in the city of Santa Cruz, up to 500 people may rely on panhandling as a primary source of income.
S: Some panhandlers say they are able-bodied and housed, so how should the city differentiate between panhandlers who are truly in need and those who are not?
B: Who the hell knows? When we interviewed people, we asked people what their income source was. My hunch is that there is a cross section of homeless folks who are very poor. This is not saying there aren’t other people out there panhandling. There may be. But 190 of however many people who are out there panhandling (within city limits) at any given time are homeless and desperately poor.
S: If those people are getting hit, how do you think the rules should be changed?
B: The problems have to do with behaviors not caused by people who are unobtrusively asking for help. They’re not the ones causing the problem. It wasn’t the act of asking for money or holding up a sign. What you hear are aggressive behaviors that are not really addressed at all by these ordinances. They are covered by other criminal ordinances that are out there, and it’s a matter of enforcement. I can’t say the council is going to get what they want out of these ordinances. We haven’t seen that yet.
S: Do you feel, as some activists claim, that the city is deliberately targeting the poor with new rules?
B: No. My sense is the city is trying to deal with behaviors that are totally inappropriate. When I heard from two young girls working downtown saying they don’t want to walk home anymore, that’s very serious. But they said it wasn’t homeless people. It was toughs. Thugs. But that’s not going to change things. I think it’s important we examine intended and unintended consequences. We need to do that over a period of time and revisit it. And I think that’s exactly what Councilwoman Emily Reilly wants to do: revisit this, monitor it and do an analysis. People who don’t have a stake need to be looking at this.
 
 


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