On March 15, five unhoused Pacificans filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to challenge Pacifica’s Oversize Vehicle Ordinance. A preliminary injunction requesting the city cease enforcement will be heard by Judge Vince Chhabria on May 27.
Merriam-Webster defines courage as the strength to persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. Pacifica’s five plaintiffs certainly meet the requirements. For those of us who have always been safely housed, we may not have the basis for comparison to comprehend what it is to be unhoused. Our Pacifica unhoused have shared stories of deprivation, fear, isolation, harassment, vandalism and threats. As their federal complaint unfolds, the plaintiffs face renewed risks in the weeks to come.
One means of manipulating emotions in a community is to use “dehumanization” techniques that deny human qualities deserving of dignity to degrade our unhoused. Dehumanization is insidious because it allows us to value someone less, and it can result in actions that are thoughtless or harmful.
Pacifica’s social media dehumanized our unhoused as the city considered a pilot safe-parking program. Although many Pacificans expressed support for a program to provide a pathway to stable housing, minority rhetoric dominated discussions. Our council chose to not move forward on options.
Presently, five Pacificans are courageously seeking clarification of their rights in federal court; and contrary to recent remarks in oral communications, their filed complaint is neither frivolous nor fabricated. The efforts of the plaintiffs could potentially impact Pacifica, the state, and the nation.
Federal, state and county legislators have identified homelessness as a key national issue. California has 25 percent of the country’s unhoused. There is great competition for affordable housing. For every low-income housing unit, there are six low-income workers. The pandemic and its economic downturn has increased homelessness.
Yet successful models that provide permanent housing exist, and Pacifica is poised to be part of the solution.
A safe parking program would allow respite and safety, include hygiene services and provide case management to identify and address barriers to permanent housing. Transitional housing, often in a multi-unit building, bridges the gap between homelessness and permanent housing, provides structure and support to stabilize health and mental health conditions, and teaches life skills to better guarantee success when moved to permanent housing.
Federal monies have been shared with San Mateo County and made purchases possible in Redwood City, Half Moon Bay and possibly San Mateo. Supervisor Don Horsley has expressed support in Pacifica if our council reaches out.
In the weeks and months to come, we can all take action to be part of the solution.
Notify City Council of your support of safe parking and transitional housing. Notify Horsley that you support these programs. Do not respond to dehumanization and call it out if you feel able to do so. Consider public comments to express support: a letter to the editor and/or oral communication at City Council.
Thank you for standing up with our unhoused.
Suzanne Moore is a Pacifica resident.