Group seeks Felton safety, cleanliness
by Joe Shreve
Sep 09, 2013 | 3072 views | 17 17 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A picnic bench at the southern end of Felton Covered Bridge Park is where many people hang out for extended periods of time during daylight hours.
A picnic bench at the southern end of Felton Covered Bridge Park is where many people hang out for extended periods of time during daylight hours.
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The subject of homeless encampments and the presence of panhandlers is certainly not a new issue in Santa Cruz County.

But, recently the issue has become an oft-discussed one in Felton, as the town has seen an influx of homeless in the community’s public spaces in the last several years — particularly in the vicinities of the Covered Bridge Park and the downtown area.

Reports of aggressive panhandling, public drunkenness, drug use and sales have increased in downtown Felton, as have incidents of trash and human waste along the banks of the San Lorenzo River.

In one instance, someone urinated in the sandbox, causing the sandbox to be removed completely and permanently from the park because of the misuse.

In response, residents have begun to unite in efforts to address their safety and environmental concerns.

The subject of the homeless presence was a topic of debate at the Felton Town Plan meetings earlier this spring where many expressed the need for a coordinated effort between the community, local government and law enforcement agencies to get a handle on the situation.

From those meetings, one group in particular — now named Felton Reboot — arose as a community-based, action-oriented effort with goals to clean up litter in Felton’s public areas, report illegal activities, and create awareness on a larger scale of the need for proper facilities and care for the homeless.

“It’s a catalyst for a bigger conversation,” said Joni Martin, one of the two founders of Felton Reboot along with Kristi Fitzpatrick. “I don’t want people to perceive this as an anti-homeless effort.”

According to Fitzpatrick, the idea to begin the group came in the wake of the Town Plan meeting, where she observed much hand-wringing and finger-pointing on the online forums that arose after that meeting — but little action.

Now, several times a week, members of Felton Reboot can be found in and around the Covered Bridge Park area, picking up trash and recyclables — in some instances, strewn only yards away from appropriate receptacles.

“You could just be here all day,” Fitzpatrick said, wearing a pair of Kevlar gloves donated by Toyota of Santa Cruz as she pulled discarded toilet paper from the thorns of a stickerbush on Covered Bridge Road this week.

Those who join Felton Reboot are welcomed to the group’s private online forum — made private to ensure that those who are there are there to be serious about making a difference, and not to simply lay blame on the homeless.

“We don’t want to create an ‘us-versus-them’ (mentality),” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s not so much that we don’t want (homeless) here — you can’t just push them from one place to another.”

The group works closely with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, serving as something of a downtown neighborhood watch in reporting instances of illegal activities such as campsites and drug incidents.

“The goal is to protect our environment and keep our public places safe and welcoming,” Martin said.

Sgt. John Habermehl of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office said that in recent years, county residents’ tolerance of high numbers of homeless has become strained in the wake of several violent incidents in Santa Cruz.

“We’ve had some bad, bad situations (involving transients) that have occurred in the media in the last two years,” he said. “There are a lot of people who’ve said, ‘Enough is enough. I don’t want this going on in my community’ — people are becoming less and less tolerant of behavior.”

Habermehl, who commands the sheriff’s office substation in Felton, said that he applauded the Felton community’s efforts to seek a meaningful and positive solution to the homeless situation.

“I think the community as a whole recognizes that this isn’t a problem that can be solved by local law enforcement taking everybody to jail,” he said. “It takes community involvement.”

Habermehl also remarked on the community’s usage of social media as a means of community outreach.

“It allows people to join forces,” he said. “There are a significant number of folks in the community that are ready to enact some change.”

Habermehl said that he lends any and all support he can to the community’s efforts, and encouraged residents to report illegal activities.

5th District County Supervisor Bruce McPherson said that the homelessness issue in Santa Cruz County is exacerbated by the region’s well-known reputation nationwide amongst transients for a culture of permissiveness that leads to an influx from outside the area.

“We just can’t be the continual drawing card,” he said. “People just don’t feel as safe in their communities and lot of this has to do with drug use and the manufacture of drugs.”

McPherson said that there are no easy fixes to the problem of homelessness, on the local or state level.

“This is going to be a long-term process,” he said. “The best solution hasn’t been established — it’s going to take community involvement.”

To contact Felton Reboot, email felton.reboot@gmail.com or contact McPherson’s office at 454-2200.

 

n To comment, email reporter Joe Shreve at joe@pressbanner.com, call 438-2500 or post a comment at www.pressbanner.com.

 

Comments
(17)
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Joe B
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December 18, 2013
All this hate is why your group died out and no longer exists on Facebook. Your efforts to clean up trash around Felton are commendable, but blaming the homeless for all the problems is deplorable. You earned your own demise.
Bill Ligus
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November 01, 2013
This message was posted for another article from October 24, but is relevant here too. The quotes are from the other article.

Kristi,

You said, “Do you know her street name was given to her by someone else on the street? Most likely not because this is a FACT she shared with me when I SPOKE WITH HER.

Linda said, “Angel is a nickname, not a street name. The nickname came from 'The Retirement' center when I worked in Virginia.”

You said, “The sand box was removed by Parks & Recreation according to Clyde, who actually works for that organization. Again, facts overrule your perception.”

C. N. said, “The Santa Cruz County Parks Department knows nothing about the removal of the sandbox in Covered Bridge Park.”

You said in the Bring Back Felton Facebook group, “A majority of those posed in this photo are alcoholics. How do I know? When you talk with them, they have the DT shakes.”

Linda said, “I do not drink, and Rob is not an alcoholic.”

Also, Jonny said, “You have never met me or have I ever spoke to you.”

Linda, Rob and Jonny are three of the people in the photo.

You said, “My group, Felton Reboot, is trying to keep the town clean. Meaning we clean camps that have been asked to move from the sheriff and have been given ample time to do so in accordance with specific penal codes.”

Michael said, “The group that came onto my property to remove litter was trespassing.”

Also, you and your group tried to forcibly evict a homeless woman from under the Graham Hill Road Bridge over the San Lorenzo River only two days after she had been warned that she had fourteen days to vacate. Not only is this not in accordance with penal codes, but it also involves theft of her personal belongings, vandalism of her campsite, and harassment.

Also, you posted the telephone number for Anthony's case worker on the Bring Back Felton Facebook group so that members of the group could telephone to harass the case worker about Anthony's behavior. This is a violation of HIPAA laws.

Also, what you said about Linda, Rob and Jonny is libel.

You said, “and by the way - this "gossip" that you say this information is... well, most of it comes from your Bring Back Felton postings.”

However, you have produced almost all of the gossip, at least here.

The oddest thing you said was, “There is no trash talk whatsoever. Only truth.”
Kristi FitzPatrick
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September 22, 2013


Felton folks -

Now that the River & Road Clean has occurred (big applause to all participants of this great event!), Felton Reboot is going to start regular team meetings to discuss hot spots where trash has accumulated.

If you would like to become part of the team and help bandy about solutions, send us an email at felton.reboot@gmail.com.

Together, we CAN and WILL make a difference.

Thank you,

Kristi
joniwords
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September 12, 2013
To "make c": Not a fundraising message for Felton Reboot. We don't do any fundraising because it doesn't cost anything for us to pick up trash, keep an eye on our community, and share information.

To Felton Parent: Yes, sadly somebody actually witnessed the urination into the sandbox.

Regarding our mission, we are a small group formed recently to address action items that came out of the town hall meetings held by Supervisor McPherson about ways to improve our community. There were several working groups formed at that town hall meeting. Our group came out of the working group that was formed to address issues related to public safety and impacts on our community related to homeless which were concerns that people had brought to the meeting.

So far the focus has been on (a) doing cleanups in many different parts of the town, but especially around the park and (b) reporting illegal activities seen around town to the sheriff as well as informing others in the community about whom to contact for what public safety related issues (it's actually kind of complex - different agencies for different issues). These are what the article describes as our cleanup and sort of neighborhood watch function.

A third thing I would personally like to work on but that has not been officially adopted as a group action item is helping our community as a whole (at county level for sure) to come up with better solutions/funding for solutions for those people who are at a point where sleeping in public places or without permission on private property seems to be their only or best option. But that's a huge mission that many people have dedicated huge amounts of time, thought and energy to, and I'm in the process of educating myself about what's currently being considered at a county level and by various groups in the area, including homeless advocacy groups. It's an education process for sure.

Felton parent
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September 13, 2013
Many thanks to joniwords and Senorita Sierra for your informative responses!
Michael H
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November 29, 2013
Although Felton Reboot has very good intentions and is being very proactive, some of their activities and illegal harassment of homeless people have made a lot of enemies. See the comments after the article about the Experience of the Homeless in Felton. This has seriously damaged the trust of the homeless people. Really, why should homeless people want to cooperate with a community that is so mean to them and will not accept them as part of the community. What Joni said about "helping our community, etc. . . " is very important. But, Kristi's behavior that she is so proud of makes more problems for us all.
Felton parent
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September 12, 2013
Although I support the concept of (what I know so far about) Reboot Felton, I have to agree with Mark C that this is shoddy journalism.

"In one instance, someone urinated in the sandbox, causing the sandbox to be removed completely and permanently from the park because of the misuse."

In all seriousness, can someone please explain this statement? How could it be ascertained that the wet substance in the sandbox was indeed "#1" (obviously, "#2" would be easy to identify)? Or did someone actually witness a person peeing in the sandbox?

I also agree that it would have been useful to include comments from Felton Presbyterian. At any rate, what is Reboot Felton doing besides picking up trash? I am NOT denigrating their efforts in any way--I commend them--but from the article, their overall mission and action plan is not clear.

Senorita Sierra
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September 12, 2013


Felton Parent - it is unfortunate that a woman, who was setting up for a child's birthday party, witnessed a very inebriated gentleman (this was mid-morning) unbutton his trousers and proceed to urinate in the sandbox. This has been documented in the open FaceBook group named Bring Back Felton (Look into it as it is a good site with lots of information.). Now whether or not this gentleman was homeless or from the Rose Acres mental health home in Felton is not certain. Although I do believe the article says "Someone urinated in the sandbox", not calling out any specific group.

There have also been incidents of young children yanking off their diapers and urinating in the same sand box. What it all boils down to is that people from all walks of life are peeing in a place where children play. While I have two young children who loved that sandbox, I am reluctant to allow my babies to play in a mixture of sand plus pee. Not to mention that the sand was not being maintained as it should be (refreshed, raked, etc.).

Last comment on the sand box is that the entire structure was termite ridden and dilapidated. It would have had to go eventually. The sand is still there, however. So I'm not sure what to make of all the fuss over the fact (yes, fact) that there is urine in with the sand. That, to me, is nasty.

As for the remainder of the article - my knowledge of Reboot is that there is no money involved. These are people of Felton who want to make the town a clean and safe place to live, work and play. All on their own time with equipment they've procured with their own money. Right now, their primary concern is to ensure a lot of the trash that is being left about is not entering into the various water ways and ending up in our beloved Monterey Bay. I've not allowed my kids to play in the rivers here because of what I have seen floating in there. It is quite disgusting.

While I am certain Reboot is a fairly new group on the block, know that what I have seen them do thus far has been helpful in maintaining that Felton remain a welcoming, warm and friendly place to be. Even the beautiful heritage deck outside of the Chinese restaurant has been improving. Has that been Reboot? I do not know, but I do know that I feel a little more comfortable enjoying a piping hot cup of tea without witnessing various segments of the population dry-humping, smoking, drinking or even shooting up. Again, I'm not saying the homeless are part of this as I've seen teenagers, the mentally ill, rowdy tourists, etc. Each person has a stake in creating an unruly atmosphere in the town of late.

Hope this helps, but if not, go onto the Bring Back Felton FaceBook site or contact the Reboot people via the email that was on the bottom of the article. Both are fairly useful.

Good day to you,

Sierra
mswx3
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September 13, 2013
Yes, I witnessed the man urinating in the sand box. It was around 10:00 am, the man could barely stand he was so inebriated. When I spoke to that county worker that morning she stated that it was already set to be removed.

Michael H
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November 29, 2013
mswx3,

So was he inebriated or homeless?
maek c
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September 12, 2013
This story sounds like a fundraising advertisement for Reboot Felton. Of course we want to do something about the homeless. Demonizing them in stories like this is not good for the situation. This reporter makes the homeless of Felton sound like an outlaw biker gang.The mountain resource center is in Felton and a lot of people trying to get their lives together are using this great resource but they don't live there.The actual number of people that live in the woods in Felton is quite small. The homeless of Felton will always be there. If you want some ideas on how to deal with the homeless in Felton talk to the people that deal with them directly,ie.Felton Presbyterian or mountain resource center or ask the homeless of Felton themselves.
W.S. Buckleman
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September 12, 2013
The Felton Bridge Park is very disconnected from Felton proper, which is an area that really has no welcoming center, and is usually visited by those in the know who often end up being the homeless. In a push to exclude the homeless, who are the last to leave public spaces, they make Felton inhospitable. Few parents like their kids to use port-a-potties, with no place to wash up, which is all that park has available and I have yet to see a reasonable public restroom in the all of Felton. I think fear of the homeless, as an excuse to not include anything that would make Felton seem like town, is what makes Felton not a town more then homeless themselves.
anon green
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September 10, 2013
I used to live on circle drive which is one street over from covered bridge road. I had to move my family away from that neighborhood because of all the drug use and constant partying in the park. Much of the problems stem from the drug house which is right next to the covered bridge. Those people were constantly smoking pot on their front porch and , based on the fact that there were five or six people sitting on the front porch all talking at lighting speed at the same time, probably doing meth. There are thousands of cigarette butts in the street right in front of the bridge - not a pretty site in front of a historical monument. Their activities spill over into the park. I think the first thing that should be done is to tear down the slum bungalows along covered bridge that have been damages by flooding who knows how many times. They are so decrepit the rent for far less than the other houses in the neighborhood and attract scum. Keep those people away from our public monuments.
mark c
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September 10, 2013
Pissing in the sandbox could have been done by any idiot. Its unfair to include that story in a story of homeless people.There are a lot of kids and dirtbags that have housing who live in Felton that trash that town.Apparently if you do or sell drugs in Felton your homeless too.That is complete bull#@%&. This shoddy piece of journalism is based conjecture not facts.I have lived in the woods in Felton on and off for years and its the same crew of homeless.I notice this story doesn't have any background info about Felton homeless from the Presbyterian church. they are the only ones that deal directly with the homeless in Felton.It doesn't seem like this reporter did much investigating this subject. Like a cheap joke or a cheap shot. I believe this is a cheap story. It is shameful to pick on people,like the homeless in Felton, that can't fight back.
Liza Marini
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September 11, 2013
Your anger is noted. However to suggest that the biggest problems in Felton aren't caused by the transient population boggles the mind.

Michael H
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November 29, 2013
Liza Marina

Mark C merely stated that all the problems in Felton should not be blamed on homeless people. He did not mention transient people. However, I doubt that all the problems could be blamed on transients people either.
Brent Adams
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September 09, 2013
We've been very frustrated too by the economic and societal conditions that create homelessness locally and nationally. For a country that prides itself on its freedoms and its prosperity it is clear that we may have forgotten some elements of liberty such as the basic Human Right of a safe place to sleep. There literally is no where to sleep for certain people. The conditions of homeless exacerbate the problems of homelessness. We've been working hard on a low cost yet highly effective solution.

Santa Cruz Sanctuary Camp. Please enter those words into Youtube to see our Video Presentation. We feel your pain. Lets do something that will really help.


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