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Paper OPEN DOOR ‘You treat the mentally challenged the way society should treat them,’ said Councilmember Gary Wysocky to

Occupy Santa Rosa organizers at an ‘urgency meeting’ last week.

Out in the Cold

How does a populist movement deal with the general population? BY LEILANI CLARK

I

n the days since the Santa Rosa City Council approved a permitting process allowing tents to stay up at City Hall for at least another two weeks, the mood around the Occupy Santa Rosa camp has been jubilant. But with that jubilation comes the growing reality of dealing with the homeless

and mentally ill who have been drawn to the encampment, some by the opportunity to participate in the movement, and others for free food, social opportunity and safety in numbers. This community has been “warmly welcomed” by the occupiers, says “Joyce,” a 61-yearold homeless woman who did not want her real name published.

Currently residing at a shelter for adults in Santa Rosa, Joyce does not camp at Occupy Santa Rosa but is in support of their goals. “There’s no way they can say ‘97%’ instead of ‘99%,’” says Joyce. “What I do know is that they are embraced by the occupation and that they are a wanted group.” At a recent general assembly meeting with about 50 people in attendance, Joyce presented her idea for an End Homelessness

Collective to a round of applause from the group. At the same time, it appears that the impassioned but fledgling movement has been ill-equipped to deal with the influx of people into the encampment with issues ranging from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia to drug and alcohol addiction.

‘These folks need social infras tructure that was wiped out by Reagan in the ’80s.’

“I recognize the problems,” says Lev Woolf, a graduate of SSU and part-time construction worker who has been camping on and off since the occupation began on Oct. 15, “but the practical point of creating solutions is that these folks need social infrastructure and social institutions that were wiped out by Reagan in the 80’s.” Woolf says that moving food offsite might be one way to alleviate some of the tensions between those who might need more focused, mental-health assistance and those actively organizing against structural economic inequities. In addition, the approved city camping permit process beginning this week may affect who ends up staying in the camp, Woolf says, adding that he would like to see a general ethic of “personal responsibility” become the norm. Carl Patrick, a 24-year-old Occupy organizer from Santa Rosa, fresh from a three-hour strategy meeting, says that it’s important to avoid a divide between “legitimate activists” and the “poor” that are drawn to the camp.

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2011 h o l i d a y a r t s

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2011 h o l i d a y a r t s