Because it’s always wise to plan ahead and, while you’re at it, plan for the worst, I’ve always had the perverse habit of scouting places where I would live and sleep should my life go sidewise and I wind up homeless.
I don’t want to give all the locations away, because homelessness is still a possibility once I blaze through the little sack of money I’ve stashed for the rainy day that could be my retirement. It’s enough for about three months of Netflix.
But I should give a head’s up to my friends who are blessed to live in Belmont Shore: Your neighborhood is high on my list.
Sunny days, a warm sandy beach, eminently diveable Dumpsters, with enough remnants of a Bohemian vibe that I could pass for an artist, albeit a starving one.
But now that there’s group of residents in the Shore taking up the righteous cause of taking their neighborhood back, it gives me some cause to pause, which, I suppose, gives the group a small victory of sorts, although it’s very small because let’s not forget that I’m not homeless yet, and in any event, I wouldn’t be the sort of criminal element that the group has targeted in their Making the Shore Great Again efforts, having decided that criminals are so prevalent among the misfortunate living among them.
The group’s debut march early last Friday morning, which took the group down Second Street and back up on Ocean, was a bit of a mess with homeless-rights protestors yelling, drivers honking either in support or outrage and startled residents roused from sleep by the unaccustomed pre-dawn racket.
Nor did the group find much in the way of criminal-infested homeless people who took the night off after having been warned either by allies in their cause or the news media’s coverage of the unfortunate event.
The march’s organizer Barry Vince says the “patrols” will continue, although not as publicly as the first one. The members say they will take photos of the criminals and pass them on to police. How they know which ones are criminals is questionable; being homeless is not a crime.
It was a bad idea from the outset, anyway. Vince has repeatedly stated it was not a march against the homeless, nor was his group a gang of vigilantes.
But then, neither was it a coffee-and-doughnuts meet-your-homeless-neighbors gathering, and the group certainly ticked off a lot of the boxes that describe vigilantism.
Of all the issues facing Californians, from those in the 90803 where the median price of a home is closing in on a million dollars, to those in the less wealthy parts of town and throughout the state, homelessness is not only among the most troublesome, but it appears to be among the most problematic to grapple with. It’s true there are criminal elements among the homeless (just as there are among the 1 percenters), and there is a tremendous problem in the homeless community with drug addiction as well as, or in addition to, severe mental illness.
And the problem is met with a variety of counter-homeless movements, such as our Shore marchers or the NextDoor hordes, at least a few of which will respond to this column with, “If you love the homeless so much, let them live in your house,” which, given the size of my house, is the smallest and least likely of all possible solutions.
What’s particularly difficult to listen to are those people who say the homeless enjoy being homeless. No societal rules, you get free things from the government, you just sit outside enjoying yourself all year round until a do-gooder agency builds you a tiny house or Walmart lets you park your van in its lot overnight. It’s a glorious hobo’s life, complete with swiping apple pies cooling on window sills.
That’s a cruel fairy tale that lets believers dodge a complicated issue. What the Shore marchers should be doing is helping the homeless in their midst. Throw fundraisers for them; give them a cup of hot coffee on a cold morning; at least say a friendly hello to them when you see them on the street or on the sand rather than taking an intimidating mugshot of them to forward to the police.
As I’ve noted, it’s complicated and, as of now, there’s no answer that would seem to address the sprawl of the problem.
But good people continue to work on a solution for people living on the street, and when they find one, you can be sure it won’t begin with punishment and harassment, but, rather, with generosity and kindness, otherwise it will be no solution at all.
Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.
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