Homeless to help economic recovery

Santa Barbara News Press

Local News

[includes four file photos, not shown here, captioned:]

Michael Cooper
Downtown Organization

Frank Banales

Joe Williams III

David Crockett Williams

Saturday, May 8, 1993

Homeless to help economic recovery

By Lori Steinhauer
News-Press Staff Writer

Homeless activists and business leaders vowed Friday to wash away their past differences and work toward economic recovery for Santa Barbara and all its residents.

"In general, people agreed to work on the idea," said homeless activist David Crockett Williams.

"We need to have a new type of relationship," said another homeless activist, Joe Williams III.

Twelve people sat around a table and hashed out possible ways to organize an economic recovery center operated mainly by the homeless.

Ideas varied as to how the goals should be achieved.

The group agreed to unify in seeking help at the City-County Homelss Task Force meeting Thursday in the county Board of Supervisors meeting room. The task force is a coalition of government and non-profit providers of services for the homeless.

Crockett said he would prefer an economic recovery center be operated strictly with private funds so it can be run like a business, and not be tied to governmental strings. But he is open to seeing what the government will offer if others want to pursue public funding.

He has started the concept into motion by renting a 10-foot by 10-foot office on Upper State Street for $143 monthly. With a phone and a computer and plans to purchase cellular phones, he is starting up a bicycle courier service for Santa Barbara businesses and has a couple of couriers handing out flyers.

Crockett hopes the operation can expand to a full-service economic recovery center for people with and without a home. Now a businessman who runs a chemical safety training business, Crockett knows about life on the streets, having been homeless for a time.

Bob Phinney, past Downtown Organization chairman, said the group could ask downtown businesses if they are willing to help fund such a center.

Michael Cooper, chairman of the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization said business leaders and homeless activists should lobby together for help from local and state government.

The meeting was initiated by Santa Barbara businessman Frank Banales and Councilman Gilbert Garcia. The two agreed to meet with Williams and others after Williams on March 20 and 21 led a march on State Street protesting some business leaders' treatment of the homeless. At Williams' request, Banales and Garcia agreed to serve as liaisons between the homeless activists and the business leaders.

Williams has complained that some business leaders have stereotyped homeless people as panhandling bums and encouraged stepped up police enforcement of laws designed to harass the homeless, such as the public sleeping ban.

"It is so costly to prosecute people for the act of sleeping," said Nancy McGrady, a longtime Santa Barbara homeless rights activist.