Letter: Deep Concern about Morrill’s Comments on Homelessness

Adam Morrill

By Helen Roland Cramer

I am writing to share my deep concern about the comments that Adam Morrill, a candidate for city council (District 4) has made regarding homelessness and those who experience homelessness.  His comments should trouble all of us. Despite our move to district elections, we remain one city and one community. I have spent well over decade working on issues related to homelessness, serving on the boards of Davis Opportunity Village, the Yolo County Homeless and Poverty. I am also a member of the Interfaith Housing Justice Group. Mr. Morrill’s approach to dealing with the homeless issue lacks an awareness of the scope of the problem as well as an understanding of the limits of the resources of local nonprofits.

In the Davis Chamber of Commerce forum, he was asked about his approach to addressing homelessness. Early in the forum he referred to unhoused individuals as “violent transients.” He said that he thought a better solution to addressing homelessness than “kind of moving people along who are continually problems, people who aren’t interested in services” is “deeding over the sidewalks to the landlords because then it results in a “trespassing issue rather than just a camping issue.”” This approach will lead to criminalizing unhoused people. But he didn’t stop there, he went on to say that the city shouldn’t be in the business of social services and that these efforts are duplicative of what the nonprofits have already been doing. The nonprofits cannot solve the issue—they simply do not have the resources.

My deeply held view is that all humans deserve to live with dignity, and that includes the right to be in stable housing and to receive appropriate services. And I believe local government—because of its role in housing policy, enforcing building codes, and protecting public health —has an important role in dealing with issue.  Mr. Morrill has a very restricted and troubling view of what it takes to build a community where everyone is safe.

I urge those who live in District 4 to vote for Gloria Partida.

Helen Roland Cramer is a Davis Resident

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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27 Comments

  1. Ron Glick

    “But he didn’t stop there, he went on to say that the city shouldn’t be in the business of social services and that these efforts are duplicative of what the nonprofits have already been doing.”

    This is a “Let them eat cake” attitude. My impression of Morrill is that he is a laissez-faire style conservative. When asked about making people upgrade away from natural gas he told me he was “Against all mandates.” Put these two positions together and its clear what his governing philosophy will be.

  2. Bill Marshall

    I’ll contact Helen, whom I deeply respect, separately… not on the VG…

    I (as I’ve posted previously) am a resident of district 4… I’ve met both Morrill and Partida, and have had great (and lengthy) conversations with both… (as I’ve posted previously) I disagree with some of their ‘positions’, but both are sincere, good people… still haven’t decided which way my vote will go… but either would serve well.  They have different experiences, different approaches, but I say again, both are sincere, both have strengths, based on their backgrounds/experiences, that would be assets to the CC…  so, my recommendation to “D4” folk, is VOTE! [any which way]

    [edited]

  3. Ron Oertel

    I’ve stopped believing people who claim to be posting what others have said.  There was a similar letter in the Enterprise (from one of the planning commissioners – Cheryl Essex) which completely and sermingly-purposefully distorted the candidates’ positions.

    But for sure, Partida is more supportive of peripheral development than Morrill.  And there’s three proposed/looming peripheral developments which would be in that district if they’re annexed to the city, including “100% Housing DISC”.  So if that’s your goal, you have your candidate.

    Partida has already proved that twice by her actions in regard to DISC, as well as her statements regarding Measure J, etc. (I can post a link to those statements, if you’d like.)

    Partida’s positions are not in alignment with the majority of voters in the district that she’s hoping to represent. The only question is whether or not voters will figure that out, when purposeful distortions are put forth.

  4. David Greenwald

    We covered the full statements, here’s Adam Morrill’s at the Chamber Forum:

    Question: Your approach on addressing homelessness.

    Adam Morrill: Well, in downtown specifically, I think there’s some better solutions to kind of moving people along who are continually problems. People who aren’t in interested in services. I would recommend deeding over the sidewalks to the landlords because then it results in a trespassing issue rather than just a camping issue. Totally different thing the police can ask them to move along. In the grand scheme of things though, the city shouldn’t be in the business of social services. The city does public works, public safety and parks. And we’re spending a lot of money hiring expensive management, the respite center. And these efforts are already duplicative of what the nonprofits have already been doing. Davis community meals was particularly irked by the opening of the respite center. We have the county that provides these services.  If I was on council, I bring these people together and speak with them. You guys are in the trenches. You’re the experts. We have some money that we can give. How can we help? Because a nonprofit is going to stretch that money way farther than the government can. Government is not efficient at spending money.

     

    1. Ron Oertel

      Thanks.

      Posting what appears to be the “full” comments leaves a different impression than the one in the article.

      The one issue that I find unusual (at least) is “deeding over the sidewalks”.  (Actually, I’m not sure if property ownership technically extends to sidewalks at times, though the adjoining property owner may have some responsibility for them – regardless.  Not sure what the law is regarding that.)

      Personally, I’d be happy if cities stopped “deeding over entire streets” (and parking spaces) to restaurants.  (Speaking figuratively.)

      In any case, I’m all for ensuring that no one is allowed to camp on sidewalks.  Really?  Some people support this? Does Partida support camping on and blocking sidewalks?

      In general, the government doesn’t even let you camp indefinitely (or for “free”) in established campgrounds. (Though there’s plenty of unofficial camping areas which allow it.)

      Maybe we’ve been “vacationing” in all the wrong places? Traveling for miles, for no reason. Hell, just pitch a tent on a sidewalk in Partida’s district, I guess. 🙂

      Let’s just hope that she doesn’t receive any complaints from those dreaded NIMBYs, as a result.

      1. Don Shor

        Ron:

        Personally, I’d be happy if cities stopped “deeding over entire streets” (and parking spaces) to restaurants. (Speaking figuratively.)

        In any case, I’m all for ensuring that no one is allowed to camp on sidewalks. Really? Some people support this? Does Partida support camping on and blocking sidewalks?

        In general, the government doesn’t even let you camp indefinitely (or for “free”) in established campgrounds. (Though there’s plenty of unofficial camping areas which allow it.)

        The cities have limits on what they can enforce.

        A 12-year legal battle over Boise, Idaho, laws that criminalized sleeping and camping in public ended with a settlement Monday, locking in place a federal appellate court ruling that makes it unconstitutional for cities on the West Coast to arrest people for sleeping outside if there are no available shelter beds.
        Robert Martin et al. v. City of Boise was filed in 2009 after homeless residents in Boise were arrested for sleeping or camping in public, court records show. Boise laws will be changed to reflect the new legal context.

        In 2018, a panel of judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Boise’s laws punishing homeless residents for sleeping in public when there was no alternative shelter available violated the 8th Amendment’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment. A year later, the Supreme Court declined to take up the case.

        “The settlement leaves Martin as settled law in the Ninth Circuit, binding in all of the Ninth Circuit,” Tars said.

        1. Ron Oertel

          arrest people for sleeping outside if there are no available shelter beds.

          I’m aware of this, but didn’t see the exact wording before.

          “Sleeping outside” is not necessarily the same thing as camping on a sidewalk.

          It would be interesting to know how they determine if there are “available shelter beds”.  For example, do they have to be in the same city where someone is pitching a tent on a sidewalk?

          It seems that some cities are now allowing camping on sidewalks regardless of whether or not shelter beds are available.  (I suspect that they don’t even “check”.)

          For what it’s worth, I’m all for having sufficient, clean and safe shelter space within a region.  I’m also for keeping sidewalks free of camping. And if it was up to me, I’d have no qualms about enforcing this. (Would Gloria feel the same way?)

  5. Dave Hart

    David, thanks for the full comments.  He sounds worse than I thought.  He’s running for city council and hasn’t bothered to notice that the city of Sacramento has tried the deeding of city property trick and is embroiled in another lawsuit because of it.  The Cruelty Party in action.

  6. Jean-Jacques Surbeck

    My deeply held view is that all humans deserve to live with dignity, and that includes the right to be in stable housing and to receive appropriate services.”  Sure. Sounds good and indeed compassionate. But with rights comes personal responsibility. Many homeless people are quite capable of behaving responsibly, but they choose not to. We can respect that choice, but there is no reason to support it in any way or make the community pay for the consequences of their choices. The ones that are mentally ill and therefore can’t act responsibly are a problem for the community and need therefore to be taken to places where they can receive the treatment they need. The same goes for drug addicts. Infinite and unbridled compassion does little to address, let alone solve the problem. If anything, it perpetuates it.

    1. Don Shor

      The ones that are mentally ill and therefore can’t act responsibly are a problem for the community and need therefore to be taken to places where they can receive the treatment they need.

      As I understand it, under most circumstances this cannot be done involuntarily.

    2. Richard_McCann

      Unfortunately you’re wrong about the ability of people to fully control their fates. Spend some time talking with these people at shelters as I have as a volunteer, and you don’t find people failing to take responsibility. You find people struck by random misfortune. We live where a giant lottery, not merit or hard work, dictates most of our well being. Isn’t it random chance that you were born in a well off country instead of Africa or the Indian subcontinent? No amount of work or attention would easily close that gap except with a large amount of outside assistance. This is the same situation faced by the vast majority of the homeless. It’s time to show compassion, not to withdraw the offered hand.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Unfortunately you’re wrong about the ability of people to fully control their fates. Spend some time talking with these people at shelters as I have as a volunteer, and you don’t find people failing to take responsibility. You find people struck by random misfortune. We live where a giant lottery, not merit or hard work, dictates most of our well being.

        Wow – what a belief system you have.

        You’d think that all of the immigrants trying to get into this country would make a giant U-Turn, if they knew this.

        Though it is true that mental illness is something that many people experience as a result of the “giant lottery”.

        Decisions to take drugs by anyone else?  Not so much. No one else is forcing those down anyone’s throat, up their nose, or into their veins.

    3. Robert Canning

      Jean-Jacques Surbeck said: “The ones that are mentally ill and therefore can’t act responsibly are a problem for the community and need therefore to be taken to places where they can receive the treatment they need. The same goes for drug addicts.”

      This is really a cruel thing to say. I don’t know how many people you may have encountered in your life or in Davis but it displays an amazing lack of empathy for those (and their family and friends) who suffer from mental illness. This is the attitude that put people away for decades and more. I guess I’m pretty naive about attitudes people have about the mentally ill. It’s very sad for me to see this sort of attitude here in Davis. I suggest that Mr. Surbeck attend a NAMI meeting or a meeting of the Yolo County Mental Health Board to see the reality.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        Robert Canning,

        I’m not sure what your issue is.  Surbeck is basically saying that instead of letting the mentally ill wander around and possibly be a danger to themselves and others while often being a nuisance; he’d rather see them gathered up for treatment.

        It’s widely accepted that one of the biggest contributors to homelessness and the mentally ill wandering the streets was President Reagan’s repeal of most of the Mental Health Services Act which closed many mental health institutions.  This ended up kicking many mentally ill people out on to the streets.  It’s considered to be one of the major blows to mental health services in American history.  Surbeck is essentially saying to round the homeless mentally ill up and treat them like we used to.  Where is the cruelty in that?

        1. Don Shor

          Surbeck is essentially saying to round the homeless mentally ill up and treat them like we used to. Where is the cruelty in that?

          1. You. Can’t. Do. That.
          2. Are you aware of how we used to “treat them”?

          It’s widely accepted that….

          It’s widely believed, yes. But it wasn’t Gov. Reagan acting on his own. Senator Nicholas Petrie, who was a very liberal Democrat, authored the legislation that Reagan signed. The intent was to return the patients to community clinics. Reagan signed the bill. The legislation was in response to serious abuses that were widely publicized at the time.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lanterman%E2%80%93Petris%E2%80%93Short_Act
          It’s created a very challenging situation for families of severely mentally ill people who refuse treatment. But what it replaced was a system of long-term, locked, involuntary psychiatric treatment.

        2. Keith Y Echols

          1. You. Can’t. Do. That.2. Are you aware of how we used to “treat them”?

          1.  Sure you can.  Change the law.

          2.  Yes.

          It’s widely believed, yes. But it wasn’t Gov. Reagan acting on his own. Senator Nicholas Petrie, who was a very liberal Democrat, authored the legislation that Reagan signed. The intent was to return the patients to community clinics. Reagan signed the bill. The legislation was in response to serious abuses that were widely publicized at the time.

          What difference does it make what political party did what.  I mentioned Reagan because the act was widely attributed to him.  It doesn’t change my point that rounding up the mentally ill is how it used to be and significantly contributed to the modern homeless problem.

          So your position is that because mental health institutions weren’t great at the time, that the mentally ill shouldn’t be put in them, managed and treated for their own good?  So no thought that maybe modern treatment facilities might be better?  Make the facilities and treatment better.  Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

          But what it replaced was a system of long-term, locked, involuntary psychiatric treatment.

          If someone can’t take care of themselves and is a (potential) problem for others; a forced/structured treatment is necessary.  Again, what’s the issue with moving them to a treatment facility vs. letting them wander around?

          I speak as someone that worked in mental health facilities in the early to mid 90’s.

  7. Richard_McCann

    Ron O

    What Helen refers to is not something that she heard separately or individually–it is what Morrill has said several times in public forums and been reported by different journalists. You can continue to believe only what conforms with your belief system but the facts about what he has said are quite clear.

    1. Ron Oertel

      What Helen refers to is not something that she heard separately or individually–it is what Morrill has said several times in public forums and been reported by different journalists.

      Helen posted “snippets”, and then put forth her opinion regarding those snippets.  David subsequently (apparently) posted the entire statement from Adam, which includes this as the first two sentences:

      Well, in downtown specifically, I think there’s some better solutions to kind of moving people along who are continually problems. People who aren’t in interested in services.

       

      Richard:  “You can continue to believe only what conforms with your belief system but the facts about what he has said are quite clear.”

      And you fail to even read (my comments, or anyone else’s). How about if you start with that?

      This entire “non-issue” is just “cover noise”, to disguise the vast differences regarding these two candidates in regard to divisive peripheral development proposals. Three of which would be in the winning candidate’s district, if they’re approved. (Including “100% Housing DISC”.)

      However, the article from planning commissioner Cheryl Essex was much more misleading than this one.  (Already discussed on a different blog.) Now we know one reason, at least – that divisive, damaging proposals keep getting placed on the ballot in the first place. No wonder she supports Gloria.

      Ultimately, neither one of these candidates is going to “solve” homelessness on their own.

  8. Richard_McCann

    Personally, I’d be happy if cities stopped “deeding over entire streets” (and parking spaces) to restaurants.  (Speaking figuratively.)

    [edited]
    In Davis we are enjoying the street closure on G Street. Made that street much livelier and would like to see it extended elsewhere. Winters has successfully closed part of Main Street to the same end.

    1. Ron Oertel

      From what I’ve heard (even on this blog), there are plenty of people (including other business owners) who don’t support privatization of streets, parking spaces, and sidewalks for restaurants.

      Not to mention those simply trying to “get through” on a public street, or the businesses and residents on surrounding streets which then bear the brunt of traffic.

      By the way, I recently visited Winters, and was practically forced into the street by a restaurant that had spread out onto the sidewalk. The street was still open to traffic.

      If you want to run a business, do so on your OWN property. Is that too much to ask these days?

      And yes, I mistakenly tried to get through on that closed street in Davis, as well. Forgot that it had been “privatized”. So you know what I did? I drove up ANOTHER street, instead. Congratulations, I guess.

      It looked like hell, by the way. This is also true in San Francisco – ramshackle structures in parking spaces. Can’t say I’d be “sorry” if a Hummer took them out.

      I almost prefer homeless people blocking sidewalks, compared to that. Of course, they’re also occupying those ramshackle structures, as well (e.g., in San Francisco). So, maybe the Hummer isn’t such a good idea.

  9. Jean-Jacques Surbeck

    Additional info: I just watched “Beyond Homeless – Finding Hope”, an excellent documentary that just came out. Anyone interested in solving the problem should make a point of watching it to the end (for free): https://www.beyondhomeless.org/documentary/. The focus is – predictably – on San Francisco, but many aspects of the problem are the same nationwide. What makes this film particularly interesting is its focus on a) finding out the main causes of the problem, and b) examining what other cities have done, in particular San Antonio, with far more success than San Francisco. Does all of this apply to Davis? Maybe, in proportion. Just the same, there is a lot of good food for thought here.

  10. Colin Walsh

    As a graphics professional with over 20 years of experience and after consulting with multiple professional photographers we agree that this photo has been adjusted to alter the skin tone of the subject.

  11. Bill Marshall

    A thought to consider…

    If someone is in the process of slashing their wrists, should there be mandatory intervention, treatment?  Practical, moral, ethical, legal question…

    Mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness… deserving of intervention, or ‘enabling’?  The first would be ‘compulsory’, the latter ‘voluntary’…

    Tough questions, to which I do not claim to know the answers to… but recommend the questions as “food for thought”…

    Pretty sure how I’d lean, if it was a family member, or close friend…

    It is at least as complicated as “rocket science”…

      1. Bill Marshall

        And how much can be done in 48 hours, which is detention/observation, not “problem-solving”?

        Actually thought it could go to 72 hrs, but still no “problem-solving”

        1. Keith Y Echols

          It’s not meant to be a fix.  It’s meant to be a band-aid.  Most 5150 situations tend to be temporary.  The person has mental health problems but something in their environment pushes them over the edge and into the harm to themselves or others territory.  Often once restrained they can be talked down and/or medicated enough to be manageable.   Does this solve the long term mental health problems for these people?  No.  Once they’re no longer a danger to themselves or others they’re let out again.  The question is weather forcing them into some sort of treatment institution against their will would be best for them and society in general?  I dunno…a 3 strikes/5150 and you’re out (forced into treatment/managed care) rule?  Maybe there’s already a law out there like this (it’s been almost 30 years since I paid attention to this stuff).

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