A homeless man sleeps on seawall in Ocean Beach. / PHOTO BY JIM GRANT
(The Peninsula Beacon is focusing on homeless awareness in this edition with stories on problems, myths, and solutions for homeless in the beach communities.)
Peninsula community leaders offered comments – and suggestions – on problematic homelessness.
Robert Goldyn, vice chair of the Peninsula Community Planning Board (PCPB), speaking for himself as a Point Loma Heights resident, noted Point Loma is “quite different than Ocean Beach.”
For the most part, the homeless are not too great of a population in the Peninsula as compared to OB,” Goldyn said, noting, “It is really difficult to address and recognize the scope of the situation.”
Goldyn pointed out that what people consider as the homeless population is the "chronic homeless,” people living on the streets/beach for extended periods.
“The transitional homeless are quite often not seen in this picture, and are often only temporary homeless and able to coordinate with local or regional services to help support them,” Goldyn said. “The best way to help or support the homeless would be to provide services that help keep people in homes, such as support with rent on a temporary basis to maintain people in homes versus being evicted. Or, a non-profit agency stepping in to talk to landlords and promise to help back the homeless individual for rent.”
Goldyn pointed out “landlords do not want to rent an apartment to someone who has been homeless, in fear they will be shorted the rent. But if we have agencies available to take the burden of the risk, we may be able to get some of these people back in housing.”
Goldyn noted Point Loma is housing “challenged.”
“Housing and rent prices are continuing to increase, preventing younger generations from being able to afford to move into the area,” he said, noting the chronically homelessness “have mental or physical conditions as well that need to be addressed.”
Robert (Tripp) Jackson is immediate past president of the Point Loma Association (PLA), a community nonprofit working for beautification and civic improvement. He noted the old school homeless population is gradually being replaced by traveling kids.
“These are your soul-searching, hybrid hippies,” said Jackson.“A lot of them have very bad attitudes and are very disrespectful and sometimes combative – which is disturbing.”
Jackson noted high-profile, sign-carrying panhandlers work the medians at prominent community access points. He discussed a scene he witnessed once with panhandlers counting their “donations” following a dayshift of begging at a local bar-restaurant.
“They (homeless) would work the Rosecrans-Nimitz corner, and they'd come into the bar-restaurant afterward and would be buying filet mignons and expensive pitchers of beer and shooting pool,” Jackson said, pointing out this group of about half a dozen panhandlers had gathered more than $800 in “donations,” and we're counting their cash.
“We can do this every day,” a panhandler told Jackson, adding, “Why would we want to go to a homeless place (shelter) where you have strict rules, have a 5 p.m. curfew and are expected to go out and get a job?”
Jackson said the encounter left a lasting impression on him. “If you got $850 a day standing on the corner seven days a week, you'd be doing as good (or better) than most professionals,” Jackson said. “I was kind of speechless. It was really unbelievable to see the potential of what they could really do.”
The Point Loma Realtor added that Peninsula homeless are also drawn to vacant retail spaces, like the old Arby's site on Rosecrans.
“There's a whole encampment of them (homeless) sleeping over there and working the medians,” Jackson said, noting he knows someone up the hill above Sabatini's Liquor Delicatessen at 1780 Rosecrans St.
“He told me they have women in the mix, who have much more potential (for collecting handouts), especially if they're younger.”
Cecilia Carrick is a community activist and a PLA member. Describing herself as being among the “silent majority,” Carrick noted the Peninsula homeless population is a kaleidoscope including: severely mentally ill people incapable of accepting their own need for chronic medication; those with debilitating addictions, in and out of jails, incapable of holding down jobs and resorting to petty crime to survive; a population that, through illness or loss of a job are eviction from their dwellings, are unable to re-insert themselves into the housing market; and lazy ne’er do wells that refuse to contribute, only to destroy and deface, refusing to abide by any of society’s decency rules.
“Our community lives with this picture – tents, mattresses, bags of filthy clothing and litter, furniture, bottles filled with urine, outhouse stations behind our alleys, stores and homes,” she said. “Whether volunteer, homeowner or business owner, most in our beach community have been negatively impacted by the homelessness trail.”
Carrick offered these possible solutions for combatting homelessness:
• A pitch for the temporary, scattered site, supportive services approach.
• Set up sturdy inexpensive National Park-type simple solar sanitary facilities discretely located near homeless, underpasses or other sites that can be serviced as regularly.
• A trial of small groupings of movable “tiny houses” placed near public transportation in areas all over the county for basic shelter for people wishing to stay off the street with supportive site visits from social services.
• Stronger temporary support for families with delinquent rents. The high bar of re-entering the housing market after an eviction makes for an insurmountable challenge, especially in beach communities.
• A basic decency “homeless tax” on all of us, Carrick said. “Yes folks, the art community needs it and has it. Cap it, restrict its use and adjust for inflation.
“Let’s stop giving those dollars to median panhandlers and save a lot by pitching in a little,” Carrick concluded.