On June 29th, Beach Cities Interfaith Services (BCIS) Executive Director Karen Maurer received a letter from the city of Huntington Beach giving them until August 14th to terminate all client services and August 22nd to vacate the Surf City-owned premises. The nonprofit has been around for over 30 years, established to offer help to homeless and low income families in Orange County. But the city claims that its presence near Central Park draws too many homeless that cause problems, and thus must leave.
Without any prior notices or reason for the closure, the organization took action. Maurer met HB Mayor Barbara Delgleize in closed session yesterday, while about 100 supporters showed their support by bringing out signs and standing ground outside of City Hall. They wore red to symbolize their hope that the city stop their actions and chanted "BCIS."
Among the protestors was former mayor Ralph Bauer. "This is a city that claims to be 'A City of Compassion,'" he said, "but their current behavior is an example of the hypocrisy that is currently happening in Huntington Beach." He wrote an open letter to Delgleize and the rest of the City Council urging them to "Rescind the action which removed BCIS from Central Park; treat citizens with courtesy and inclusiveness and ask the staff to do so as well; develop a plan to deal with homelessness in Huntington Beach, including financing and tell the staff to stop making policy and carry out the Council's wishes."
Bauer walked around the protest on his cane, with his wife by his side and told the masses, "The city has chosen to harass and drive them [the homeless] out of town. They [the city] has chosen to criminalize, demonize the homeless and violate their human rights as well as their civil rights."
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This isn't the first time BCIS has had issues with Huntington Beach officials. In 2013 BCIS was evicted from their former location at the Main Street Library; they moved to their current residence on Gothard Street by Central Park in August 2014.
"We need to remind our leaders that they have to behave properly and that they cannot take quick actions like this without thought," said Rabbi Stephen Einstein, the retired founding rabbi at Congregation B'nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley.
Maurer and BCIS board president Patti Nun met with Delgleize, HB Police Chief Robert Handy, City Manager Fred Wilson and Kellee Fritzal, deputy director of business development. Maurer told the Weekly that they have scheduled a meeting with the Economic Development Commission (EDC) in 90 days and the Mayor and City Manager have extended the eviction notice for 6 months. "The Mayor suggested a potential partnership with The Illumination Foundation," Maurer says. "The bottom line is the City feels the rise in crime in Central Park is due to our location"
BCIS asks that people wanting to help call Huntington Beach City Council members and let them know you support the organization. DO IT DO IT DO IT!!!