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December, 2003

Bolinas Meets On Weird, Objectionable Behavior
By Done Deane

   Anger and frustration over drinking-related behavior by Bolinas' homeless population bubbled into a meeting last month at the Bolinas Library. Impetus for the gathering came from the Community Center, People's Store and the Library but others attended as well reflecting an elevated level of concern about drunken and crazy behavior in the community center area of the downtown.
   "It's an issue of toleration, said Assistant Fire Chief Ralph Camiccia. "What do we tolerate? We've given a lot of space and toleration."
   Community Center President Ward Young pointed out a pattern of abuse and threats by street people but added  there were no services or housing for the people being discussed.
   Ilka Hartman suggested creating a shelter for homeless people with access to mental health and substance abuse services.
  Some residents won't come into the downtown because of behavior exhibited by drunk adults. School Principal Larry Enos noted complaints he had received from 7th and 8th grade girls over rude and suggestive remarks made to them.
   Claire Hart of the People's Store reacting to concern that sheriff's deputies could overreact in dealing with street people, said, "I have never seen police overreact. Deputies just talk to people. Just letting the party go on is not the solution."
   There was consensus that concern centered on drunken and obstreperous conduct and not on homelessness. Social Worker Angelo Sachelli, Sheriff's Lt. Robert Ginnodo, and Supervisor Steve Kinsey expressed the desire make county services more available to homeless people who need social services.
   Bolinas has a long, recent history of tolerating a wide spectrum of behavior in the town. The "hippie" and "New York" influx in the late 60s and 70s saw an expanded level of indulgence for weird behavior and strange lifestyles. Some saw this element of the community helping to stave off tourists and weekend visitors.
   The problem of homelessness and objectionable behavior on the street is not unique to Bolinas. It is more characteristically evident in larger cities. Middle class communities tend to step on it with law enforcement and zero toleration.
   The reality is, however, the range of objectionable behavior evident in the street for the homeless may not be all that different than what happens behind closed doors on the Little Mesa or Horseshoe Hill. It's just more visible. That visibility and its impact on others has many in Bolinas concerned and upset.
   At the conclusion of the meeting, there was agreement that a general town meeting should occur and that the Sheriff's Department would provide an elevated level of surveillance in the downtown. Enforcement of a No Street Drinking Ordinance on Wharf Road will be enforced by deputies.
 

 

 

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