A Call to Action: Homelessness in the San Fernando Valley … by Alice B. Clagett *

Written on 24 March 2018

Dear Ones,

The number of homeless per 10,000 people is about 17 people, as an average across America. Yet the number of homeless per 10,000 is about 35 people in California. In 2017, about half the people without shelter, nationwide, were in California. That would be about 90% of the total homeless population of California. (1)

It makes sense that California should have many more unsheltered homeless people, because the weather here is mild enough to allow people to stay alive while unsheltered. Which may be why there are twice as many homeless people per 10,000 people here than in the national average.

Homeless people in the San Fernando Valley, here in the western Los Angeles area, are camping wherever they can. Some set up camp in the Santa Monica Mountains. Children wander into the mountains after school to play. They may run across inappropriate sexual solicitations from homeless women. Or worse yet, rough handling and shakedowns by homeless men. Our parks are no longer our own, because of the influx of waves of homeless people.

I had a talk with our local law enforcement recently. They explained that their jurisdiction ends where the mountain park areas begin. They said to contact the rangers who patrol the mountains. I did call several numbers, and eventually found out there is only one ranger patrolling the Santa Monica Mountains. He said he knows about the problems with lawlessness, but is unable to respond to these, for lack of manpower.

So basically, as I understand it, there are portions of the Santa Monica Mountains that have homeless encampments, and in effect, no law enforcement is available there. That makes those areas unsafe to walk in. This is true for men, women and children.

Then, when the homeless set up their camps near people’s houses, I find, from reading Nextdoor.com, that these incursions are threatening to homeowners, and rightfully so. Their presence there represents a threat to the safety of the housed people in those communities.

I’ve seen, recently, residents in my general area going around, around sunset, and taking photos of homeless people with zoom cameras. And then shortly thereafter, a man in a pickup truck, who looked to me like a rough sort, cruising slowly in their direction. I had a feeling he might have had in mind roughing them up and forcing them away from the homes in the area.

I know people feel threatened by the government’s dalliance in regard to providing housing, or at least locating tenting areas for, the 6,000 or more homeless in the San Fernando Valley. Yet I don’t feel that rough stuff will solve the problem. Especially, and hands down, vigilante violence, I feel, will not help.

When we express violence … even righteous violence … towards another person, the feeling of violence, and the thought of violence, don’t lodge themselves in the person whom we assault. Rather, that feeling and that thought pierce our own hearts. And we bring our own hearts … as wounded by our act of violence as is the heart of the person on whom we inflicted violence … back home to our families, where is enters the hearts of our sleeping spouse and our sleeping children … the newborn and the toddler, as well as the grade school child. That feeling of violence is no respecter of youth or innocence.

As we lay our injured heart down to rest, in the home we love, that violence seeps out, in our dreamtime world, and fills our home with darkness.

As we wake up to a workday morning, and take the long commute to work, the injury in our heart, that we have all unknowing and unthinking writ there, streams out, through the morning sunlight, into the hearts and minds of those we pass, with nary a second glance, on the freeway.

When we enter the workplace, and greet our co-workers, they register in their own hearts the violence we have inflicted and the darkness that thereby slumbers in our own.

And so I say, violence is not the way!

Moreover, when we forcefully dislocate homeless people from one area of the San Fernando Valley, then they relocate to another area of the Valley. As there are, by my calculation, facilities for only about 300 homeless in the valley, the likelihood is they will set up camp in a nearby inappropriate area once more.

Instead, I suggest we consider these steps to alleviate the problem:

As to the homeless encampments in the Santa Monica Mountains, we can get maps of the unsafe areas. Maybe we could speak with law enforcement about this? And get these maps into the hands of the schools and the churches. We ought also get them on the news. That way, until we can implement a strategic relocation, there will be no mishaps with unsuspecting hikers and mountains explorers.

Then, as to the issue of incursions of the homeless into residential areas: As a first step, I feel we must set aside some areas … parks, empty lots, or parking lots … for relocation from private home areas and from the Santa Monica Mountains encampments, to these new locations.

We’ll need sanitary facilities, to prevent more epidemic outbreaks. I feel we’ll need guards to ensure the safety of this vulnerable population. And, I feel, we will need to create minimum wage, unskilled job opportunities near the encampments. And we need doctors to help with medical needs.

This relocation effort ought, I feel, to be coordinated with the Santa Monica Mountain ranger, and with local law enforcement. It’s very important, to prevent violence, not to proceed with vigilante efforts, even though I know that homeowners and property owners feel a sense of rising helplessness about the situation, due to government dalliance.

The first thought is not always the best thought, especially when emotions run high. Teamwork is the very best way to go, I feel. But on the other hand, the average homed person can no longer sit idly on the sidelines, waiting for a nonresponsive government to act. We must take the initiative, and help our law enforcement representatives organize a proper response.

First, I feel, a relocation effort, as noted above. Compared to providing up-to-code housing, the outlay will be quite reasonable. A number of lives of the homeless may be saved by this effort. And the general feeling of the homed, of being at their wits’ end over this problem, will be allayed.

As a second step, I suggest we in the homed community reach out to our churches and businesses and ask whether they have facilities they can offer for the homeless to live in.

We have very many churches and businesses here in the San Fernando Valley. If one in two such groups would agree to house just one homeless person, the situation could be much abated. Further, the burden of homelessness would be spread round, throughout the city, and not just concentrated in one area.

Then, on to the disproportionate number of homeless in California. Might we get additional financial aid from the Federal government to help with this?

Intuitively speaking, I feel that homeless are fleeing other states, and coming to California, not just because the climate here is more suitable for outdoor living. It may also be that other states are treating the homeless with more violence than may be encountered here in California. At least, my prayer is that that their experience here will be relatively pacific.

If it be true that, for reasons both light and dark, California is asked to bear the lion’s share of the homeless problem, then in this time of somewhat greater social unrest, when a rising swell of the homeless seeks shelter and work … however humble … across America, and if California has the heart to welcome these people, where other states in our great Union will not or cannot … then to settle this unrest, and to buoy the feelings of all our peoples, surely it would be in the best interest of our nation to provide assistance, where our state, alone, cannot?

The American people stand by a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That is, I feel, not just the people who are able to buy their own homes, and own their own cars. Nor is it the people who buy or rent their homes. Rather, it is all the people of this great Nation … owning, renting, or yearning for a place to lay their heads.

In 1883, a poetess named Emma Lazarus had the highest hopes in this regard. Her words, strong enough to ring on, down through the centuries, strong enough to greet the eyes of every traveler crossing the weary seas in hopes of a better life here in America, strong enough to light the path for all Americans even in these modern times, are:

“‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'” (2)

I agree wholeheartedly with Emma Lazarus. I feel we can embody her vision for America, even in these times of change. Especially now, in these times of change.

Let us act, together, as a community.

Let us conceive our actions in faith, in hope, and in charity. In a manner befitting the greatest vision our hearts and minds can conceive to meet the challenge of these times.

Let us rise nobly to this effort to uplift and assist these, whom none yet love and protect … and in whose shoes each of us might … but for God’s Grace … find ourselves.

In love, light and joy,
I Am of the Stars

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FOOTNOTES

(1) “California Homeless Population Rising Higher Than Other States: California experienced a nearly 14 percent increase in homelessness from 2016 to 2017,” Published 21 December 2017,  http://www.abc10.com/article/news/local/california/california-homeless-population-rising-higher-than-other-states/501590366 ..

(2) From “The New Colossus,” a sonnet by Emma Lazarus, 1993. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_New_Colossus .. public domain … This sonnet was mounted on a plaque inside the Statue of Liberty.

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homelessness, democracy, social issues, law enforcement, Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, California, social unrest, property rights, home ownership, vigilante, violence, nonviolent activism, crime prevention, government, cities of Earth,

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