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Sofia, Bulgaria - November 4, 2014: Homeless man is sleeping on a bench in the center of Sofia. Years after joining the EU Bulgaria is still the poorest country in the union.City Council votes 3-2 not to offend the neighbors

Minnie Coyle, the late mayor of Monterey, was known for many things, but a single sentence published in the Monterey Peninsula Herald possibly best describes her legacy.

“Almost like Horatio at the Bridge,” the Herald declared, “Monterey Mayor Minnie D. Coyle symbolically stood at the city gates last night ready to protect the citizenry from the ‘flower children.’”

The issue, of course, was the city’s crossed-armed resistance to organizers of the Monterey Pop Festival.

Now enter our new Horatio and his small army — Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson and the council majority — to protect the citizens from six homeless women who are trying to make their way in this desperate world.

By a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the Monterey City Council denied a use permit that would have allowed six homeless women to sleep safely in their cars at the Methodist Church on Soledad Street.

Later in the evening, the council also rejected an ordinance that would give homeless people overnight shelter within the warm and sacred confines of local churches. This last ordinance was considered an “urgency” action, formally and morally, since the weather has been cold and inclement lately and there is significant fretting among those who possess a modicum of compassion that more homeless people might die without shelter.

The bodies of two homeless men were found across the street from Trader Joe’s last month, killed by their apparent inattentiveness and preparedness to prevailing weather conditions. By police accounts, they had earlier declined officers’ offer of help.

Before ruling in the Methodist Church case Tuesday night, the council heard from a long line of neighbors with legitimate complaints about the headaches caused by encampments of homeless people in and around their neighborhood. In particularly, vagrants, beggars and homeless haunt the gullies and backwoods near Del Monte Shopping Center and many of them make the nearby Union Bank property their toilet.

The neighbors described a long list of the bad behavior they must endure, and for that they deserve our pity.

But then they argued that allowing the Methodist Church to use six spaces in its parking lot so that homeless women in cars can sleep comfortably and safely will further degrade the neighborhood.

Each neighbor agreed that the Methodist Church program, called One Starfish, is righteous and beneficial and deserves our support. Many of the neighbors felt compelled to preface their public testimony with statements asserting that they are compassionate and giving people who would give the shirts off their backs to homeless people, as long as said homeless people are situated somewhere other than their general vicinity.

They pointed out that many other parking lots are better suited for such activity. Indeed, there exists a quiet and functional parking lot, away from the madding crowd, behind City Hall and Colton Hall that might be used. And they do have a valid point. A Capitol Idea, one might say.

And, ultimately, it’s one of many other sites the council might consider now that it rejected the Methodist Church parking lot.

Still, even after the council voted against the Methodist site as a safe parking place for harmless homeless women, the neighbors’ problems haven’t been solved. The council action Tuesday did not a thing to remedy the vagrancy problem in that neighborhood.

For the record, councilmen Alan Haffa and Timothy Barrett cast votes in support of One Starfish.

While the One Starfish issue was a localized rejection, the council’s action on church shelters was more of a citywide rebuff of compassionate treatment of folks who are down on their luck.

This was an outright rejection of the I-Help model of grace and humanity, egged on by homeowners who declared that offering those who are less fortunate than the rest of us a dry, warm place for the night only encourages them.

Almost 50 years ago, the Herald scribe who covered Mayor Minnie Coyle was not the only bemused observer of her brigade of finger-waggers. Also on the scene was Jann Wenner, founder and publisher of an upstart magazine called Rolling Stone.

Wenner’s account of the unfolding drama, published in 1968, feels appropriate today: “And so it began to happen in Monterey: a bizarre enactment of the entire American tragedy.”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Len Foster January 20, 2016, 10:24 am

    NIMBY is alive and well, but not just in the city of Monterey. I applaud the members of the local faith community, and others, who seek even incremental solutions to the serious issue of homelessness. However, it is an issue that demands a much broader approach. Why don’t we as a society start with the placement of strategically located “convenience” stations so that the homeless, and others, don’t have to perform essential biological functions in places like bank parking lots? Go to almost any European city and you will find such restroom facilities readily available. Beyond this, our elected officials must seek creative solutions to ensure safe shelters for those who find themselves without a home, while addressing the underlying causes of chronic homelessness: mental illness, addiction, discrimination, and illiteracy, among others. While safe shelter may not be a right, providing it to all should be an obligation of an enlightened society.

    • Dan Turner January 20, 2016, 10:50 am

      I’ve been wanting to write something just like that for sometime now but I never quite got my big, comfortable, fat ass around to it. Thanks, Len.

  • Jean January 20, 2016, 11:07 am

    Will this have to go to the Supreme Court, so religious institutions can act in accord with their precepts? Ignorantia juris non excusat.
    Len Foster is right. The Council’s action does nothing for anyone.

  • Ron Weitzman January 20, 2016, 11:42 am

    Joe, you write so well! What we are witnessing in the council split is the difference between compassion for the homeless and empathy with the residents, both wonderfully human traits. In this choice, I go with compassion because, deservedly or not, the homeless are suffering more than the residents and, as evidenced by the vote, have the weaker voice. Because we live in a democracy, resdients actually made the choice. It ain’t easy to do good.

  • Michelle January 20, 2016, 12:38 pm

    “Homeless Man Saves Pair from Creek” was a top story for KSBW. A mother and son were in a car that went off the road into the creek. He was sleeping near the area and heard the woman scream, running to help.
    What a selfless, compassionate act for those he did not know.

  • Peggy Johnson January 20, 2016, 2:46 pm

    Thanks for the reminder. The homeless won’t go away if we just ignore them, unless they leave one town for another. I rarely see them in Marina anymore. I believe many of us would like to see something done, but feel powerless to attempt it alone. Property is so expensive here, it would require the combined efforts of a committed and organized group. Then there would be an ongoing need for a clean-up crew, because people known to be messy. Some members of the homeless might be capable of doing some of this work.

  • Elaine G January 20, 2016, 6:18 pm

    I specifically met with MPUSD Superintendent of Schools, Dr. PK Diffenbaugh in November about utilizing the Larkin School at the end of Monroe/Seeno for women sleeping in their cars OR better – opening it as a temporary shelter through the spring. He was all for it and I thought the City of Monterey allocated $28k for this program. Of course, not sure how the neighbors would react – I am mortified at NIMBY. Fer chrissakes how can we allow this to happen?

  • Karl Pallastrini January 20, 2016, 7:38 pm

    Dan Turner’s comment takes the cake. How many of us are guilty of his observations? Most of us for sure. Why are we so behind the curve in attending to the issue of the homeless? A pro-active response would solve this problem. We know there are homeless. Not just women, but men and even those with children. Ridiculous. I thought elected officials would represent all of their constituency; well endowed to the homeless. What has happened to compassion in our society? I think we all know the answer to that question.

  • James Toy January 20, 2016, 9:40 pm

    Could a case be made that prohibiting the Methodists from letting the homeless sleep on church property violates the “free exercise” of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment? After all, taking care of the poor is one of the core principles of Christianity, and the council just stopped the church from doing just that.

    • Richard Kreitman January 20, 2016, 11:10 pm

      I’m surprised that the city Council has jurisdiction over church property. And how can the city Council forbid a church from letting the homeless find shelter in their buildings? Perhaps someone in this conversation can shed some light on this?

  • James Miller January 21, 2016, 7:13 am

    Mayor Clyde Robertson and Councilmember Ed Smith have proven themselves to be unfit to be a part of the City of Monterey’s solution to the homeless crisis. Councilmember Smith’s comments about his being very upset that the Methodist church placed 1 porta-potty in its parking lot as well as his insistence that the deaths of the two homeless men recently was their own fault despite hearing that they were reluctant to being driven to Salinas to their warming shelter. They would have had to make their own way back to Monterey to their campsite with all their belongings. Had there been a Monterey weathering shelter, those men would be alive today. Smith also said that he did not believe the men died from exposure.
    The rejection of the emergency ordinance by the Monterey Council allows our community to prepare to commit acts of “civil disobedience” during future nights when it is predicted to be extremely cold ( below 45 degree and/or heavy rainfall ). !Starfish and I-Help along with a “secret” church location should define their inclement weather site and begin to stock it with essential bedding to have available to bring the homeless inside during those few nights in the Winter. This would involve having to suspend some of their rules and regulations for those nights
    only. This message can be circulated among the homeless
    Another act of ” civil disobedience ” would be to allow six women to park their cars in a ” secret ” church ( private ) parking lot and be part of a program to help them get into permanent housing.

  • bill leone January 21, 2016, 8:51 am

    We need to praise Councilmen Haffa & Barrett for voting against the spineless, heartless members of the Monterey City Council & its mayor. By doing so, the council voted against a program they favored over two years ago, thereby taking us one step closer to criminalizing poverty. We need to make sure these two council members are re-elected, & replace just one of the mayor’s co-conspirators, if not the mayor himself. Otherwise, homeless Internment Camps may be next.
    I am thoroughly ashamed of Monterey. When other towns & cities in the country are making bipartisan efforts to end homelessness (Santa Cruz, Portland, Salt Lake City, New York….), Monterey is moving in a retrograde direction; these municipalities have found that providing shelter & social services to the homeless & hungry actually Saves money: it costs over $175,000.00 in emergency medical & law enforcement services for every homeless person per
    year, & only $60.000.00 annually to provide shelter & social services for that same person. Moreover, when someone is rehabilitated, which is often the case, that individual becomes a tax-paying citizen & productive member of the community.
    Yes, James it could be argued that denying the homeless & hungry shelter & food is denying
    the expression of religious freedom; read Mathew 25. I’m sure you can find similar passages
    in the Old Testament as well as other religious texts.
    My wish is that we will see a day when banks provide toilets & parking spaces for homeless women to park their cars, in order to safely sleep overnight, without being harassed by the police. When we, like Santa Cruz, have a goal of eliminating homelessness & hunger by 2020. And when Seaside takes the City Pledge to contribute a $1.00 for every resident to help the homeless & the hungry….as other Peninsula cities have done, & as they promised to do over two years ago.

  • bill leone January 21, 2016, 9:01 am

    Here’s just one of many resources to back up my claim:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/04/17/the-surprisingly-simple-way-utah-solved-chronic-homelessness-and-saved-millions/

    My figures differ, since I was using a Canadian study, but the basic idea is the same:
    we can save tax dollars by ending homelessness & hunger.
    Special Note: Utah is not known for its Progressive Political outlook & policies.

  • Bob Oliver January 21, 2016, 9:34 am

    JOE LIVERNOIS: Monterey’s reenactment of “the entire American tragedy”
    – “TRANSLATED” by Bob Oliver:

    In all the comments mentioned, one key acronym helps sum up the overall issue – “NIMBY.” Not In My Back Yard. Not in My Back Yard! Not in My Back Yard!! “Not in…(you get the idea!!!)

    In the era of Mayor Minnie Coyle, she was known as “MINNIE’S HOLE”– relating to the tunnel in front of Fisherman’s Wharf, and the crudeness of the “puppet masters”… The WEALTHY SHAKERS AND MAKERS of the then, local times in Monterey, used Minnie as the scapegoat for the urban development, eminent domain, take over, “THEFT” OF private properties at the far end of Alvarado and Calle Principal, where the two streets combined in a “Y” in front of Fisherman’s Wharf!

    It wasn’t Minnie – it was the Wealthy. They give so much in charity — aka “tax write offs”– that they are simply “allowed to steal” and pay for their sins in tax deductions and charity, thus white washing their appearance as the actual puppet masters pulling the strings of the likes of “MINNIE,” their minion – our Mayor.

    Now for the paragraph that sums up my drama.

    We live in an unhealthy community. Two thirds of the property is owned by about 2% of the people living here. We may be “residents,” but over two thirds of us are “renters.” We have no voice in the courts — where our security deposits are stolen from us — and we have no real voice at City Hall, where “all decisions are made ahead of time, behind locked and closed doors.” As for our vote — “Forget it.” More another time…

    Oh, and by the way as the greedy get greedier, there will be more of us becoming homeless. We are the voice for the homeless and some of us will become them. In the mean time there will be additional minion voices of the rich speaking for the rich and the anonymity and unanimity of the rich. “NIMBY.”

    Bob Oliver is part of a 6th generation Monterey family who settles here in 1890ish and started Oliver’s Art and Curio Shop ON TOP of what has become known (and forgotten) as Minnie’s Hole.
    Bob aspired to be a writter for the Herald so one day he to could be unemployable like the likes of
    Joe Livernois and and Royal – but my spelling was too poor. – “… I failed, also, I was too politically outspoken.”

    Bob Oliver boboliver9@gmail.com 831 383-2676

  • bill leone January 21, 2016, 10:38 am

    Bob, your testament is a foil against one Monterey City Council Member (one who voted Against providing toilets & parking spaces for homeless women to sleep in their cars overnight) she insists on calling our homeless population “Travelers.” Your spelling is okay, but you will never overcome The Barricade of “White Privilege & White Fragility.”

    Also, I encourage all those Partisan readers, who take the trouble to plod through our endless comments, to plod through the over 200 comments in the article I referenced above. They provide an inescapable argument in favor of housing the homeless & feeding the hungry; something Jesus
    suggested 2016 years ago (on Mount Carmel).

  • Luis Osorio January 21, 2016, 12:23 pm

    The City of Monterey will have to endure at least another year under a Mayor who ran and got elected unopposed, representing powers of yesteryears who feel their privileges assaulted. The fallacious karma that “neighbors are the experts” is I full force at the expense of the rest. God help the homeless…..

  • Susan Schiavone January 21, 2016, 4:29 pm

    It is saddening to hear that a City Council could make such a short sighted and mean decision. All of what Bill Leone says is true as all above. Providing services and places for the homeless population is both economically sane and a moral imperative. Dehumanizing and blaming those suffering the most under a runaway system of vulture capitalism and self interest strikes me as fascist. Will they be rounded up and bussed somewhere? Offering shelter and overnight stays will actually decrease the problems of sleeping in the parks. Those who don’t cut it in the 21st century buzz saw economy, who have either descended into mental illness with no safety net, or are victims of economics, are the perfect pick for scapegoating. The State of Utah has reduced homelessness by 91% within a few years by offering homes for the homeless. The City Council should be ashamed. It is disheartening to hear that those who have so much have so little compassion and so much fear.

  • Christopher Putnam January 21, 2016, 6:57 pm

    Thanks for the tip, Monterey — you won’t have to trouble yourselves, my carcass will be found up yonder, Oregon ways.

  • Jamie Woods January 22, 2016, 9:04 am

    Thanks Joe, nicely written.
    I do wonder if any government body has jurisdiction over the inside of a church.
    Didn’t the Sanctuary Movement deny admission to minions of the law, when they sheltered immigrants in danger of deportation?
    Or maybe I’m getting my memory of compassionate actions muddled.

    As an aside:
    Perhaps the homeless should arm themselves heavily, claim that public parks are public lands, and set up camp. It seems to work in Oregon.

  • Nancy Peden January 22, 2016, 11:56 am

    Makes me furious and ill. I am about to be made homeless after being a perfect tenant for 12 for asking for handicap habitiability. Rather than help me get out and into safe housing, they are continually harrassing me. My disability is worsening. Now I understand why so many homeless have PTSD. So if possible I may get into a homeless shelter; otherwise its the streets. Even though I have some money Febuary is impossible for motels. I am scared shitless and to leave the precious house and all the art and antiques may truly undo me. This action is nothing but pure cruelty.

  • bill leone January 22, 2016, 4:55 pm

    Nancy, you need to call 831-384-3388 or 831-238-8386 & ask for help with finding shelter.
    Also, on the 256th of January there is a Mobile Outreach Service Team at the Universalist Church
    in Monterey (490 Aguajito Road), for women only. You can also get help from Catholic Charities
    & California Center for Independent Living (you can find them on the Internet). You can start he
    process for Food Stamps, if you need them, as well as contacting the Food Pantries around the
    Peninsula, if necessary. Aside from your landlord & the 3 members of the Monterey City Council
    (mentioned above), there actually are people in Monterey who care about their fellow human beings. If you need help moving your stuff, I have a truck & would be willing to give you a hand.
    831-521-1055.

  • bill leone January 22, 2016, 4:56 pm

    Correction: That’s the 26th of January

  • Peggy Johnson January 23, 2016, 10:11 am

    Failure to do something constructive about the homeless situation and imagining it will go away if ignored is unacceptable. Throughout history there has been homelessness; there is now and will be in the future. It won’t go away. In 21st Century America we could be more understanding and humane. “It’s not my problem” is a common but poor excuse.

  • bill leone January 23, 2016, 5:53 pm

    Yes, Peggy, the poor & will always be with us (a Biblical reference); however, here is how we can
    eliminate homelessness & hunger in the wealthiest country in Human History:

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/02/housing-first-solution-to-homelessness-utah