Homeless encampment on Palos Verdes Street in San Pedro. Photo by Adam Adame
No Solutions in Sight, Only Rumors
By Ivan Adame, Contributing Writer
Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council hosted a full house Aug. 25 at the Elks Lodge’s bungalow.
The purpose of the meeting was to hear the public’s opinions regarding homelessness in San Pedro. For more than 90 minutes, about 25 members of the public from all over San Pedro spoke civilly about a variety of concerns, including public safety concerns, the public perception of homelessness and the behavior of advocates on both sides on social media.
Several speakers brought printouts of exchanges on Facebook in order to call out specific people.
But the most commonly brought up issue that evening were concerns that the proliferation of homeless people in San Pedro was due to them being transported by local charities.
“If they want help, get back on that bus and go to Long Beach or go back to where you came from,” said one speaker. “We’re willing to take care of our own, but shouldn’t have to take the burden of neighboring communities.”
“If you move them from San Pedro to somewhere else, that’s because their problem is not solved,” said another speaker. “If we move them, then it will be the next town and the next town and the next until someone can brainstorm what to do with them. But they are human beings. [They] could be anyone here, you know, tomorrow. I would implore people to think of that first, [then to find] a solution.”
However, despite the popularity of this conspiracy theory during the meeting and in social media, there isn’t any substantial evidence to support claims that homeless people are being bussed to San Pedro.
“I’m not aware of any [buses],” said Richard Hildebrandt, director of Christian Care at Mary Star of the Sea parish via phone at a later date.
“If I were aware of any, I would be talking to those agencies that would do that. I can’t imagine them doing that. It’s wrong. [I think] these people who are saying that are making it up out of whole cloth.”
The public comments were followed up by a Q-and-A from two former homeless people, along with Shari Weaver of Harbor Interfaith, and Sgt. Catherine Plows, who is in charge of Community Relations for the Los Angeles Police Department Harbor Division.
Plows said that Harbor Division has two officers and a car dedicated to quality of life matters, establishing relationships with the local homeless.
“The reason I say ‘establishing relationships’ as opposed to arresting homeless, is that we don’t really get anywhere [by arresting],” Plows said.
Plows said that it comes down to a simple cycle: continually ticketing homeless people, knowing that it will lead to a warrant, an arrest and a weekend in jail only to be back on the streets to do it again. It is a waste of time and resources.
“What’s the definition of insanity?” Plows asked rhetorically. “Doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same result…. My hope is with meetings like this… something will actually get done. “
In her research, she has cited cities like Olympia, Wash. and Houston, which have built tiny villages.
“These are all public-private partnerships that cost a lot of money,” Plows said. “It’s something to consider.”
Concluding the meeting, neighborhood council President James Dimon said that this won’t be the last meeting of its kind and that he expects to build a larger forum with a larger crowd.
“We’ve learned a lot from both sides,” he said. “The important experience is to understand what is really going on because [at first,] I was the ‘put ‘em on a bus and get them out of town’… I was the first to admit it. I got involved… I started to educate myself… as I’ve gone down this road, my opinion has changed. I tell you, we’re going to solve this problem. Working together with this community is the only way that works.”