Home sweet sedan: Car camping in Santa Cruz County

Rabb Sabin rests his injured foot while sitting in his bed at the Pacific Coast Manor in Capitola on Friday. Sabin is among hundreds in Santa Cruz County who live in their vehicles. (Kevin Johnson -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Rabb Sabin rests his injured foot while sitting in his bed at the Pacific Coast Manor in Capitola on Friday. Sabin is among hundreds in Santa Cruz County who live in their vehicles. (Kevin Johnson — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

By Jessica A. York Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ — When it comes to living quarters, tiny houses sound cute. Tiny cars do not.

Rabb Sabin is one of what officials estimate to be more than 800 people living in their vehicles in Santa Cruz, and he wants to stand up and be recognized.

“Got any ideas of how to get us also counted? I’ve met a few hundred vehicle sleepers and they too want reasonable housing that doesn’t seem to exist (or is) available to us,” Sabin, 68, wrote in an email to the Sentinel after several recent articles on homelessness.

Like many of his homeless friends and acquaintances, Sabin, who has cheerily taken on the moniker of “Major Success” in honor of a health food business he used to own, is not obviously homeless. He drives to work each day, buys a hot beverage and settles in at his favorite coffee shop — “the office” — with a cell phone and laptop hooked into the business’ Wi-Fi.

Sabin shared how police knock on his window to wake him overnight and tell him he needs to move his car, because “camping” is against the law. Otherwise, he said, people cannot always tell that he is homeless. Sabin has arrangements to make use of a shower, knows the best places to park without arousing neighbor and law enforcement interest, and generally keeps to himself at night, he said.

“A homeless person that sleeps under a tree is much more identifiable,” Sabin said. “We’re not going around knocking on doors. The more people that know about you, you lose your anonymity. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

A place to rest

Sabin said he came to Santa Cruz County in 2006 from Southern California, after a business he was running folded. He lived in a home in the Corralitos mountains for three years before he ended up moving into his vehicle. For the past month, he has been staying at a nursing facility to recover after foot surgery.

“I get Social Security and disability, but it’s less than $1,000 a month. Try supporting yourself on that,” Sabin said.

Of the 2,895 unsheltered people counted across Santa Cruz County in a 2013 homeless census, the latest date such information is available, about 810 reported living in vehicles. Many cities in the county, however, restrict people from sleeping in what is effectively their home. Additionally, Santa Cruz city officials are in the process of converting several streets around its Homeless Services Center into permit parking only, 24 hours a day, at the request of Harvey West neighborhood property owners.

Homeless Services Center Executive Director Jannan Thomas said her organization did not protest the new parking restrictions, saying she felt police have done a good job listening to concerns. Center staff, volunteers, clients and visitors will need to find creative parking solutions and will have a limited number of temporary permits, she said.

“We are always trying to balance wanting to be a good neighbor in the Harvey West neighborhood and recognize when things like finding parking are difficult for our neighbors,” Thomas said. “At the same time, we want folks who are coming for services at HSC to be able to take advantage of those services.”

Not an advocate

Sabin, like many of his homeless friends and acquaintances, does not stay at the Homeless Services Center, whether for lack of available beds or for other personal reasons. In a recent interview, a bespectacled, beret-wearing Sabin introduced a reporter to one such friend, John.

“I’ve lived here for over 20 years. I have family here — it’s my home. I don’t want to leave,” John said, when asked if he had considered looking for housing and employment elsewhere.

John, 63, asked that his last name not be disclosed due to the fact that his partner in an upcoming business venture believes John’s association with homelessness will cost the two clients. He said he has lived on and off in his car for years, stressing that he does not want to be an advocate for “car camping.” John says he and Sabin are not unique.

“Children living with their parents and working — the only reason they’re living with their parents is because they can’t afford anything else,” Sabin said. “I don’t see that anyone has done any creative thinking to solve the problem.”

A bill introduced in February in the state Assembly seeks to stop counties, general law and charter cities alike from prohibiting, criminalizing or fining people for sleeping or resting in a lawfully parked vehicle. Assembly Bill 718 has passed out of committee and is due to head next to the Assembly floor for a vote.

The bill would not restrict local governments from establishing general parking restrictions, such as prohibiting overnight parking without a residential permit or setting time limits.

“Contrary to belief, many people who rest in vehicles have some type of employment. For them, the vehicle is transportation to work as well as shelter,” bill author Assemblyman Kansen Chu wrote in the bill’s introduction. “For a parent with children, it is transportation to a school or medical appointment. For all of these people, the vehicle is sometimes the last personal asset they own.”

Originally posted 05/26/15, 1:34 PM PDT at santacruzsentinel.com


Bells toll at Vallejo homeless memorial
By Jessica A. York/Times-Herald staff writer
Original post: 12/19/2013 12:59:22 AM PST
A homeless memorial ceremony in Vallejo Wednesday drew 60 people and the tolling of nine bells at First Baptist Church.

Standing beneath the basement’s colorful tinsel-festooned ceiling, one man, Deshawn Alexander, said his father had died, homeless, in February. Now Alexander, too, is homeless, he said.

“I think about my daddy every day,” Alexander said, wiping away tears. “Another one gone. Everybody got to go, everybody got to die.”

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The Charity Bug

Vallejo 10-year-old girl Lydia Morgan to hold fundraiser for children’s hospital


In plotting out the best way to raise money for sick kids, Lydia Morgan had several ideas.

Ultimately, she co-opted the family’s planned garage sale as a fundraiser, waylaying plans to use the cash to pay for a vacation, and “Lydia’s Garage Sale,” set for Saturday morning, was born.

Lydia, 10, of Vallejo said she was perfectly happy to wait on a getaway if it meant raising money for the Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland. The garage sale, Lydia’s first fundraiser, is set to start at about 8 a.m.

“I knew we were going on a vacation, but I thought it would be better to give money to the Oakland children’s hospital,” said the sixth-grader, who attends private school in Napa. Read the full post »

U.S. Submarine Veterans renovate WWII torpedo

By Jessica A. York
Times-Herald staff writer

Just after noon Wednesday, a 20-foot-long silver- and rust-colored torpedo launched up and out of its 45-year home, a fish out of water in a grassy Vallejo war memorial park.


For this flight, however, the Mark 14 replica missile was not self-propelled, but rather securely swinging from a Vallejo Public Works crane as the estimated 3,000-pound World War II memorial was moved onto a flatbed truck.

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Steampunk: Imagination, style and creation pay a visit to Vallejo

Originally Posted:   07/22/2012 01:00:26 AM PDT

Katherine Becvar and Samuel Cognilio kiss before stepping into the Marriage Machine during their wedding at Obtainium Works in downtown Vallejo. (Chris Riley/Times Herald)

It is difficult to have a discussion about steampunk without first spending a solid amount of time attempting to explain the concept.

Part literature sub-genre, part fashion trend, part social movement, steampunk has been developing for decades and was coined in the late 1980s to describe recent literature. In recent years, steampunk has even begun poking its head up in Vallejo.

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Vallejo houses converted into marijuana grows pose new dangers

Originally published April 15, 2012

The call comes in — a Vallejo home is on fire.

Vallejo firefighters watch for warning signs of marijuana grows that pose new dangers for them and surrounding neighbors. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald photo illustration)

Firefighters rush to the scene, observe blacked-out windows and smoke pouring from the chimney. Inside, utter darkness, perhaps a bag of fertilizer by the door.

Two recent residential fires that turned out to be rented homes converted into marijuana-growing facilities have prompted the Vallejo Fire Department to assess what could be a new threat for firefighters and the city, department Battalion Chief Dave Urrutia said.

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Vallejo man’s eyeball plucked out in altercation with roommate

A scuffle between two roommates ended with one less eyeball.

Vallejo police arrested Tyrone Shelton at San Francisco General Hospital’s psychiatric ward on his 36th birthday Thursday afternoon, where he had been staying since his fight.

Shelton was arrested on suspicion of aggravated mayhem, a felony, for allegedly plucking out the eyeball of another man, 61 years old, police said.

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Benicia police miss shoe-selling human chicken

Published By Times Herald
Jessica A. York
Times-Herald staff writer

A late-night visit from a chicken-costumed man prompted a Benicia woman to call police Sunday.

The caller, a Larkin Street resident, reported that someone wearing a chicken suit was on her front porch, wanting to come in, and “was yelling he had shoes to sell” just before 10:30 p.m., police said.

The suspect in a chicken costume was gone by the time police arrived and could not be located, according to reports.

The equine “spirit”

Vallejoan helps area kids ride horses

Posted:   03/07/2012 01:01:23 AM PST

Bobby Driscoll, right, leads Tara and 2-year-old Tiara Quinones on "Poncho" Tuesday at therapeutic horse riding program Alotta HorsePlay along Jameson Canyon Road in unincorporated Solano County. Program founder Charlotte Dougherty, center, has designed the program for Vallejo children with special needs and considered "at risk." (Jessica A. York/Times-Herald)

When it comes to realizing her dream of helping children such as 2-year-old Tiara Quinones, native Vallejoan Charlotte Dougherty is looking to her horses to hurdle any barrier.

Dougherty has more than four decades’ experience riding horses, and has spent the last year building a small horse therapeutic riding program called Alotta HorsePlay. She’s aiming to keep its lesson costs at a minimum — even inviting bartering at times.

To help Vallejo kids like Tiara, Dougherty will soon launch a partner program, SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center of the San Francisco Bay Area. It is one of some 65 affiliates of the original Texas-based SpiritHorse program. The affiliation will allow Dougherty to more easily apply for outside grant funding, and could help her reach her goal of teaching 100 “at-risk” and disabled students a week, for no cost, by 2013. Already benefiting from Dougherty’s efforts is Tiara, who is happy just learning to balance on “Poncho’s” back while gripping the fingers of nearby loving hands.

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Con Funk Shun

TV show ‘Unsung’ focuses on Vallejo’s Con Funk Shun band

By Jessica A. York / Times-Herald

Con Funk Shun band members are ready to let their skeletons out of the closet for a national audience.

Karl Fuller, left, and Michael Cooper, of Con Funk Shun, a 70s R&B band with Vallejo roots, tape an interview on Sonoma Boulevard Monday for cable music documentary "Unsung." A passerby looks on with interest. (Jessica A. York/Times-Herald)

And they’re not even worried. Well, not that worried.

The funk and R&B band that originated with several Vallejo High School teenagers and their friends will be the focus of an upcoming episode of the cable station TV One’s “Unsung” music documentary show.

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