E-R LTE / Harm Reduction

This letter refers to the article located at http://www.chicoer.com/social-affairs/20170811/harm-reduction-center-gathers-community-input 

The far-right E-R continues to hype Michael Madieros and that’s no surprise. 

One man’s opinion: 


Dear Editor, 

As Lloyd Pendleton so eloquently argued, you cannot solve the problem of homelessness without providing homes.  Pendleton’s “housing first” model prescribes individual housing units for the chronically homeless, because this works best.  Once housed, people can be assisted in managing disabilities. 

All of the above requires a federal solution and it’s certainly affordable: with 5% of one year’s military budget, we could build housing for every chronically homeless person in America. 

As much as we might like to think the Stairways “harm reduction” micro-program is some kind of answer, it isn’t.  Stairways Director Michael Madieros has a history of supporting criminalization laws, which ensnare the homeless in the criminal justice system. Madieros and his allies are drawing on right-wing methodology: spend next to nothing, except on police and criminalization, and claim we are on the high road. 

The possible harm in an over-exuberant description of harm reduction, is that it leads your readers to imagine wonderful things are being done for the poorest, disabled people. That is, in the absence of adequately funded, real solutions.  Consequently, your readers might just continue to make the mistake of voting for social program slashing, trickle-down politicians, thereby abetting failure. 

Ironically, those who complain loudest (commercial landlords) about the presence of the visible poor, are those who most vigorously support failing policies. The wealthiest among us get exponentially wealthier, while insisting on disowning failure. Voters should stop enabling them. 

Patrick Newman 

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Plaza, etc.

In Sunday’s E-R, Laura Urseny once again delivers a lengthy, one-sided version of the Teri DuBose, take-back-the-plaza lunches: http://www.chicoer.com/business/20170722/biz-bits-chico-businesswoman-getting-pushback-from-lunch-dates

My LTE response is copied below. Sadly, not enough people care about the public space and the implications of the legal and cultural battle going on there. This applies to criminalization of sleeping, restroom access, etc., as well. Chico citizens, across the political spectrum, fail to grasp the significance of these seemingly small issues–and this will haunt us in the future. Not to mention the painful, day-to-day alienation of people living in our public spaces.

Friends on the Street will be in the plaza every Sunday at 12:00 and we will try to be present for as many of the Wednesday and Friday “take-back” lunches as possible.

(There are also the ongoing issues of how to get restrooms open, criminalization reversed and exposing the presence/influence of homeless hater Robert Marbut–on retainer, at unknown cost, by the Jesus Center).


Dear Editor,

For a year-and-a-half, with the help of donors, Chico Friends on the Street has gone to the plaza, on a weekly basis, to distribute food and clothing.  More importantly, we’ve befriended those who live in the public space.

(Having done this “experiment,” it’s possible we may actually know something about homelessness in the plaza.  Might Laura Urseny join us for a few months, before writing another hit piece on “transients?”  Please contact us at [email protected]com )

Contrary to the picture painted–as Urseny describes the experiences of Teri DuBose–I’ve never been verbally abused, nor have any of the dozens of people I’ve worked with. The abuse I’ve witnessed has come from passing motorists, screaming at people struggling to survive. 99% of the time, people living on the streets respond to respect with respectfulness. And, when they don’t, it doesn’t take a genius to see they are wrestling with demons I’ve met only in nightmares.

If DuBose is genuinely interested in inclusion, she might reach-out to the homeless and make them feel more respected and more welcome. It’s not that difficult. They can tell whether they’re being embraced or judged. Lastly, Chief O’Brien is a public servant.  He is, in theory, sworn to protect and serve ALL citizens–not to fan the flames of demonization and hysteria.  I have to question how well O’Brien knows anyone DuBose finds “threatening.” Let’s meet in the plaza and talk with the “offenders.”  We might learn a lot.

Lastly, Chief O’Brien is a public servant.  He is, in theory, sworn to protect and serve ALL citizens–not to fan the flames of demonization and hysteria.  I have to question how well O’Brien knows anyone DuBose finds “threatening.” Let’s meet in the plaza and talk with the “offenders.”  We might learn a lot.

Patrick Newman

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Madieros is back…

I’m sad to see Michael Madieros (faux-homeless advocate) back in the news, after a more than year long hiatus. Because:  1) Madieros loudly supports criminalization as a “tool” for reaching the homeless. In fact, Madieros has been a tool of the Chico Police Department for years.  2) He fails to support realistic/humane proposals for downtown restroom access.  3) I’ve heard report after report of substandard conditions at Stairways (the housing program run by Madieros)–along with substandard/abusive management.  (This is well known to the social workers of Chico.)

Madieros was mentored by mega-landlord Wayne Cook and Joe Montes–both right wingers.   Cook led the charge on kicking the Orchard Church off the plaza.  Montes is another believer in the authoritarian/fascist idea that we can fix poverty and dysfunction with tweaks by the criminal justice system.  Insane.

In his latest incarnation, Madieros has teamed-up with attorney Ron Reed to offer legal services to the homeless–three hours a week.  Sounds good, but I don’t trust these people at all.  Reed has gone to bat for Madieros on criminalization, in the past. If the long arm of the law can help, why not?  It’s a way of making the “velvet gavel,” “nudge from the judge” and all that bullshit seem credible and Christian (Reed again).  Madieros is on record, ad nauseum, as supporting this approach to “reforming” people. It’s a shitty, cheap, trickle-down, neo-liberal substitute for housing and decent social services.  All popular with the morally bankrupt masses.  Hence, Madieros is the kind of advocate the public wants to hear–someone who rubber stamps current policy.  He has a lot of traction in the local media.

Two letters referencing this new development:


Sent to the CN&R today:

“A lot of homeless people have warrants because they didn’t go to court for whatever reason…” says attorney Ron Reed.  True, but without laws criminalizing sleeping, leaving carts/bags unattended, etc., there would be no warrants.  (Also, our city is locking restrooms 10 hours each day, while arrests are made for urination and defecation.)

So, where are Reed and his partner Michael Madieros on the subject of criminalization?   Madieros is a strong supporter of criminalization.  And, when I took Madieros to task, in the pages of this paper, Reed called my objections “cow flop” and offered what appeared as a mealy-mouthed endorsement of criminalization–complete with references to God Almighty.

Those pushing the medieval notion that criminalization is useful in assisting people with brain injuries (40% of men on the streets), the mentally ill, addicts, people with PTSD, the financially broken, etc., cannot be credible advocates.  To suggests they are, is like saying arsonists make credible firefighters.

Reed aside, where is the legal community?  I recall no lawyer, other than Jennifer Haffner, as having the courage to confront the city on the dehumanizing and unconstitutional Offenses Against Public Property Ordinance.  This acquiescence should be cause for shame in every law office.


In today’s E-R:

It seems that good is barely out of bed while evil has already made three trips around the world.

Your recent coverage of the possible Peet’s coffee shop closure leaves readers with the impression that “vagrants” are to blame.  I’m in Peet’s many times every week and I’ve talked with staff about “vagrant” impacts for years.  I’ve also observed, first hand, how much impact the poor/disabled/homeless have on the business. It’s minimal, but the apparently very well heeled landlord, who owns much of downtown Chico, is bound by some commercial code to demonize the homeless at every opportunity.

Then we have an E-R editorial asking the city get some restrooms open.  Great idea, because the homeless are now locked-out for ten hours each day.  But, why does the E-R care?  Is it because so many people, living brutal lives, are further punished, humiliated, degraded and criminalized by having no place to legally urinate and defecate?  No. Instead, it’s the inconvenience Bank of America or Morgan Stanley might experience when some poor soul takes a dump on their stoop.

Lastly, we have news that Michael Madieros and Ron Reed are opening a legal clinic for the homeless–with lawyers available three hours a week.  But, Madieros is a vocal proponent of criminalization, the very engine of legal entanglement and misery for the homeless. Something doesn’t add-up.

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Restrooms & Teri DuBose and her take-back-the-plaza group

Below are two letters covering some recent developments in several realms.  Anyone interested in organizing around restroom/homeless issues, please contact us.  What’s happening is inhumane and then some.

To the E-R, 7/11:

It seems that good is barely out of bed while evil has already made three trips around the world.

Your recent coverage of the possible Peet’s coffee shop closure leaves readers with the impression that “vagrants” are to blame.  I’m in Peet’s many times every week and I’ve talked with staff about “vagrant” impacts for years.  I’ve also observed, first hand, how much impact the poor/disabled/homeless have on the business. It’s minimal, but the apparently very well heeled landlord, who owns much of downtown Chico, is bound by some commercial code to demonize the homeless at every opportunity. Then we have an E-R editorial asking the city get some restrooms open.  Great idea, because the homeless are now

Then we have an E-R editorial asking the city get some restrooms open.  Great idea, because the homeless are now locked-out for ten hours each day.  But, why does the E-R care?  Is it because so many people, living brutal lives, are further punished, humiliated, degraded and criminalized by having no place to legally urinate and defecate?  No. Instead, it’s the inconvenience Bank of America or Morgan Stanley might experience when some poor soul takes a dump on their stoop.

Lastly, we have news that Michael Madieros and Ron Reed are opening a legal clinic for the homeless–with lawyers available three hours a week.  But, Madieros is a vocal proponent of criminalization, the very engine of legal entanglement and misery for the homeless. Something doesn’t add-up.


To the CN&R, 7/11:

I appreciate the CN&R’s coverage of civil rights issues affecting the homeless in the public space–specifically Chico City Plaza.  I have no doubt a battle is underway, as many in our city government and commercial sector seek to “take” the public space from “vagrants.” (Where they are supposed to go is never explained.

While I was quoted as saying I was “surprised” that Teri DuBose and her take-back-the-plaza group provided “bottled water and Otter Pops” to the homeless, it was never my impression that the take-back group intentionally provided anything to the homeless.  They don’t.  Affirming homeless people in the public space is clearly not their mission.

On the other hand, Chico Friends on the Street has delivered many tons of food, clothing, blankets, tarps and toiletries to the street, during the last year-and-a-half.  Our involvement has made us ever more aware of the profound lack of support for the visible poor.

In that regard, the homeless are now shut-out of public restrooms for ten hours of every day, while public urination and defecation are crimes. People need restroom access 24/7; this is a non-negotiable human right.  Anyone interested in engaging our city council on this issue, please contact: [email protected].

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CN&R LTE/Battle

Dear Editor,

I appreciate your coverage of civil rights issues affecting the homeless in the public space–specifically Chico City Plaza.  I have no doubt that a battle is underway and that many in our city government and commercial sector seek to “take” the public space from “vagrants.” (This is exactly the kind of direction recent visitor and nationally known homeless demonizer Robert Marbut would advise.)

At the July 5th Chico City Council meeting, I asked the council to immediately resign and rather than “stand down” from completing my public comment, I opted for removal by the Deputy Chief.

I advised the council to resign, as they are in breach of their oath of office, requiring adherence to the U.S Constitution.  Our council supports laws criminalizing the possession of necessities by the homeless (violating the 4th Amendment), laws criminalizing sleeping (violating the 8th Amendment) and–inflicting more “cruel and unusual punishment”–the council is now failing to provide restroom service, during eight hours of every day. This, while public urination and defecation remain misdemeanors and the homeless are subjected to ongoing arrest and jail time.

If you would like to help organize resistance to these policies, please contact: [email protected]

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Patrick Newman Addresses the Chico City Council, July 5, 2017

The following is an abbreviated version of a “public comment” I attempted to read at the Chico City Council Meeting on July 5.  Being “off topic” and refusing to sit down, I was escorted from the council chambers. The video of the event is recorded below. 

“Rather than proceed with further business, I hereby advise the Chico City Council to resign forthwith.  This council is in breach of the U.S. Constitution, which you are sworn to uphold.

Among the many ways you, the Chico City Council, have criminalized the life sustaining actions of the homeless, you have criminalized the possession of clothing, blankets, tarps, food and medicines with draconian “storage” laws. This is a breach of the Fourth Amendment, prohibiting unreasonable seizure. You have further criminalized sleeping, which the U.S Justice Department has called a breach of the Eighth Amendment, prohibiting “cruel and unusual punishment.”  And, in another breach of the Eighth Amendment, you have made the act of eliminating bodily waste a crime, while cruelly denying public restroom access. As you know, there are no 24 hour public restrooms in the City of Chico.

You have made public restroom access unavailable for eight hours of each day and you have made public urination and defecation a crime, for which a person may be arrested and held in Butte County Jail.  This is the very definition of “criminalization.”  A person must urinate and defecate in order to survive.  And, since they will inevitably need to urinate or defecate during the eight hours in which you have removed restrooms from service, they must engage in criminal activity in order to survive.

Also, you have, through gross incompetence, created a “sanitation emergency,” in which urine and feces will unavoidably be deposited in and around the public space. You are thereby endangering the health of the public you are sworn to protect, when remediation is clearly available.

Again, in view of the above cited incompetence and ongoing violations of the Fourth and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, I advise you to resign forthwith.”

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