Blame Yourself and Your City Leaders – not the Kids

by on February 3, 2010 · 64 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Health, Homelessness, Media, Ocean Beach, San Diego, Veterans

homeless_youthby hippiereborn

This is not an article laced with numbers, statistics, and quotes from various sources. In writing this, I am reaching back into my own experiences over the last year and a half as a social worker who happens to live in OB and putting the truth out on the table.

For those who have complained about the influx of “drug crazed” (mostly young) transients infiltrating our neighborhood, you are finding it difficult to hold someone accountable for the disturbances and quality of life issues this population has brought to OB.  You want them gone, out of here, ejected.  You don’t care really where they go, so long as they are not bothering you anymore.

Guess what? You are to blame.  The NIMBY attitude that has pervaded the governance of this City and County has reached a tipping point; the outcome of supporting politicians who reflect a lack of compassion towards the homeless are that there are not adequate services – housing options, medical treatment, food sources, etc. – in San Diego for what is one of the largest homeless populations in the mighty U.S. of A.

Bravo! We have successfully forced people to panhandle and sleep on our beaches without a viable avenue to look towards a better life.  Point the finger not at them, but at yourself.  Because you were unable to understand the consequences of pushing homeless shelters out of your neighborhood, or enacting a no-booze ban on our beaches, or any of the other short-sighted policies that many have supported over the last decade, we now have an explosive and divisive dynamic building here in the wake of one of the worst economic recessions in history.

One can assume that a large portion of the houseless in the area would refuse to access services in the first place. It is one of the biggest challenges in working in the social service field, and it is a source of constant frustration. I have such a big heart and idealistic attitude that I forget there are plenty of people who do not want help.  I still look at each situation with a fresh perspective, and as I speak with my coworkers – equally frustrated by the unmet needs of America’s Finest City’s most vulnerable – I know I am not alone. It seems, however, that compassion is lost on many in my own neighborhood.  And now I write this rant as a realist; as someone who can look at the reality and not figures or statistics, and honestly say that our problems are a reflection of the attitudes of our city.  Is there a way to turn it around? I really don’t know.

The term “Kerouacian” has come up a number of times on our own community forum, and this is an interesting way to look at the young transients who call our little beach community home. It is non-threatening way to describe these kids as relatable in some way to a literary genius who was also a transient for much of his young life, but it is a disservice to them.  This population is nothing like the Keroucs, or the Ginsbergs, or even the Hippies/Yippies of the 60’s and 70’s.  These kids are a reflection of their generation: lost, forgotten amidst the corporate growth of their parents’ careers, technically homeless – but many never felt like they had a home in the first place.

Why not call them “Obecian?” Why do you automatically assume that because someone has rolled into OB from another place, they are not part of our community? Like it or not, OB has a reputation of being a place that welcomes people from all walks of life.  In the 60’s, OB faced a similar situation.  Surfers, business owners, landlords, and “regular” citizens were faced with an influx of dirty, smelly, jobless, houseless, “dopers”.

What happened? The community fused with the new émigrés, creating a loving, progressive, compassionate, political, and self-policing community.  Have we forgotten the roots of OB? Do we complain, dispel, and propose ejection of what is obviously a population that lacks any permanence in their lives, or do we engage, explain, and demand better for and from them? I guess that is where we find ourselves now: those of us who feel they deserve respect as human beings, and those who see only the public drunkenness, drug use,  litter, and smell and thus assume they are subhuman.

I am able to have compassion because I count my blessings, despite living paycheck to paycheck. I lay my head each night knowing that below my window, there are one or two people sleeping in a nook between my building and a tall wooden fence.  I get to cuddle up in a bed with my cats and my girlfriend, a couple pillows and a comforter, with a good book and a piping hot mug of tea, while my counterparts, no less than 10 feet away, lay their head on a rock, against a concrete wall, with maybe a 40 ounce Mickey’s and a lost and found blanket to keep them warm.  If you wish these folks out of your neighborhood, then you are ignoring their suffering.  If you assume that there is somewhere else these people can go, then you are assuming your own attitudes are unique and forget that there are people like you everywhere.

How about we step up as a community and take action, instead of shuffling them around from ‘hood to ‘hood, city to city, ensuring that the cycle continues for decades?  The weathered faces of the homeless seniors (many of which are war veterans) who live on the streets should be reason enough to at least have SOME compassion.  You don’t want it in your back yard? Honestly, neither do I – but “it” is in our backyard, and isn’t going away. “It” is on our beaches, along the cliffs, and in our alleys.  We have a responsibility as human beings, as a community that has a history of taking in strays and welcoming them in as equals, to do something other than bitch.  At the very least, understand their condition and have a little bit of humanity.

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless data indicates that on any given day, there are about 8,000 homeless people in San Diego County. This is who they are able to count; there are thousands of people who go uncounted, and they are unable to approach or count people under the age of 18. Thus, subpopulations like the one that many Obecians have been complaining technically don’t exist.  Services for teen runaways are nonexistent.  Services for the homeless are amazingly few and far between, and aside from the clergy and members of OB’s churches (including a sometimes locked port-o-potty at the corner of Saratoga and Sunset Cliffs) a small food pantry, and some compassionate residents, OB lacks any real homeless services.

In East Village, where the majority of our city’s homeless folks sleep each night, one can see the outcome of years of lacking services: tent cities, entire parking lots full not with cars, but with shopping carts and sleeping bags.  This could be OB in the future.  The City Council continues to fight over what district should house the Winter Shelter – a tent with about 250 beds – completely and purposely ignoring the fact that there is need for MUCH more than that.

District 2 is the primary location for at least half if not 75%, of the city’s openly homeless folks.  The city’s only real services for those living on the street (non-profits like St. Vincent de Paul, SD Rescue Mission, etc.) are all in the East Village/Downtown area.  Yet Kevin Faulconer and the other council members are complacent with the current lack of services, urged to move the shelter by the gentrifying real estate developers and yuppies moving into the neighborhood.  In fact, Faulconer has suggested that each district rotate the tent each year.  Remember, this is a tent that can sleep about 250 people, in an area where there are thousands of people living on the street. The argument shouldn’t be about where the tent goes – it should be about how many more need to go up.

For those of you who look at the homeless and want them out of your backyard and into someone else’s, this is the outcome. That is why there is an enclave of young transients in OB, and they are not getting the help they really need.  Your attitudes have infiltrated the governance of our city, and it has made it difficult for our community to offer anything except maybe some spare change and some hand-me-down clothes.

Spare me the bitching about panhandling and open drug use. Spare me the complaints about the behavior of a population that is generally misunderstood, many of which suffer from mental illness, and for the most part, have long been neglected.  Most of all, spare me the bitching about how little the police do to fix the problem.  They enforce the law, hand out tickets even when a simple parking violation could easily be overlooked, and overreact to simple acts of defiance, as we saw recently when one naked man almost caused a riot.  From first hand experience, however, I can tell you that the police here give the homeless folks in OB way more respect than its residents.  I mean, lets not forget – they sleep on the street every night.  Imagine that was your condition.  Imagine you slept on the street or on the beach at night, woke up in the morning, and had nothing but your clothes and a few friends.  Spare change – yeah you would ask for it.  Booze – yeah, you would drink it.  Hard drugs – natural progression.

You want this to change? Demand better services from the city and the county. If we don’t get better services, the cycle will continue and homeless folks will continue to flood our streets.  It took years for things to get this bad, and will probably take years to weed out the campaign financers, business owners, real estate developers, politicians, and hate-filled residents who have prevented persistent quality services from existing and instead move forward with policies that have the long-term interest of all San Diegans – our homeless included – in mind.

{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar BillRayDrums February 3, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Wow, that was quite a piece.

For starters, I frequently refer to these nomads as “Kerouacians” as they are, by their own words “travelers”. If they were “Obecians” they would stay and forge a life for themselves here. In my personal history of being an Obecian I’ve witnessed a community that harbors “different” types of people. We’re not “of the norm” here and that’s what makes us unique. Being an “Obecian” should not translate into living as a bum, asking others for handouts. That’s a flat out insult towards anyone who lives here and pays their fair share.

Know who I blame for the kids and their slack attitude? I blame the parents who did not raise these kids within the brackets of reality. Then again, I look at my own life and realize I wasn’t raised with the semblance of a “normal” upbringing.

Over the years I’ve lived as a nomad on the road with bands and the rock-n-roll lifestyle. It ain’t all hotel rooms and afterparties! The reality sets in and once everyone else gets paid, the band gets paid. That means we’re essentially broke musicians and to tell you the truth, those homeless kids on the seawall probably have more money from panhandling than we ever had.

I’ve been a person with one foot planted in “the real world” and the other planted in “Fuck the Man land”. Somehow I get by working for myself building websites and playing drums. It’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing in this life and somehow my family’s needs are taken care of. Do I consider it lucky? Hell no! I work my ass off for the little bit of $ I am afforded.

If these kids who end up here on the auspices of “being a traveler” would extend one ounce of effort in trying to make a difference in the community rather than clogging up the sidewalks and bumming for money…..they might get a bit more than avoidance from me. Otherwise, I hope that when they are in their 30’s they will be able to cope with the reality that hard living “gets harder” as one ages. If they make it to 40 then they should consider themselves lucky.

To me it seems that many of these kids are looking for the proverbial “free ride”…aren’t we all? Eventually one wakes up and realizes that it doesn’t work that way.

If you think I’m too judgmental, then that’s your prerogative. But know this- I had a sister that lived exactly as these kids did, and she didn’t see 37. Yep, that lifestyle did her in. It was like watching a slow car crash and my poor mom had to suffer the insanity that lifestyle brought among my family.

The dude who sweeps up and works for tips…..he’ll get every penny I can spare. The old guy who looks 60 but is really 45? I’ll kick him a dollar. The kid who threatens to eat her pet kitten if I don’t give her some change? Notsomuch.

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avatar annagrace February 3, 2010 at 7:37 pm

BillyRay- that was some righteous rant. Thanks.

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avatar Patty Jones February 3, 2010 at 8:04 pm

That was a righteous rant BillRay. But can I say, for your mom’s sake, I’m glad you didn’t end up like your sister. I’m not going to say you’re too judgmental and I’m not going to judge your mother for your sister’s life.

We can blame the parents, who can blame their parents, you will blame their parents. That still gets us children, some rise up and some sink, some that grow up despite their parents and some that just plain spite their parents. And the circle continues…

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avatar Shane Finneran February 3, 2010 at 11:57 pm

BillRayDrums wrote “Somehow I get by working for myself building websites and playing drums. It’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing in this life and somehow my family’s needs are taken care of. Do I consider it lucky? Hell no!”

BillRayDrums, sounds like you are supporting yourself and your family via occupations that are meaningful to you, enjoying what the famous psychologist Maslow called “self-actualization,” something that he estimates only 10% of human beings are fortunate enough to experience, though all of us crave it desperately. I appreciate that hard work helped you get where you are, but in addition I’d note that you’ve been blessed with some unusual talents and an environment that rewards them, making you a lucky person indeed.

I’d also argue that most of the Kerouacians don’t have such valuable talents, or at least haven’t found them yet, and that the resulting anxiety contributes to their engaging in behavior that the rest of us see as confusing or ridiculous and that often is sadly self-destructive. I agree that when the behavior intrudes into the lives of the rest of us, such as with aggressive panhandling, it can be hard to maintain a sense of compassion. But maintain compassion we must.

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avatar hippiereborn February 4, 2010 at 9:12 am

billy ray – you certainly offer up a legitimate reason and I guess righteous is a perfect way to describe your emotional connection to this issue. I am sorry that your sister didnt make it deep into adulthood, and your mother clearly suffered through years of what amounted to an unhappy ending. I certainly feel your pain through your writing

The whole point of this rant is that OBecians and San Diego have an attitude towards the homeless that has led to many of the issues we see on the streets today. Your attitude is not what I’m talking about – but the idea that a shelter is a magnet for homelessness, that other services, like mental health treatment and psychiatry for people living on the street are going to draw more people to an area is simply false. They are already here. San Diego has one of the largest homeless populations in the Country, and maybe even in the world. To assume that offering better alternatives and resources to these folks would bring more people in is a misconception. As mentioned in the post, there are thousands of people living on the street who prefer to be left alone. Fine – they are entitled to feel that way. But the overall lack of services for those who NEED it and actively seek it out is inhumane, pathetic, and certainly a reflection of the grander NIMBY attitude I mention. Obviously, the term NIMBY is best saved for La Jollans – who literally hate baby seals. But the term stands for Not In My Back Yard. That idea is just as prevalant in OB as anywhere else. The problem with feeling that way in OB – “they” already are in your back yard. “They” sleep in your alleys and pick through your trash. So having some kind of service available to them – some small agency or drop in center – in case they really do want to make a change, well, that would be the least we could do.

I’m certainly not proposing that we start advocating for OB to become the hub for homeless services in San Diego. But we have here an obvious issue, particularly in the winters, and something needs to be done to alleviate some of the tension for locals and transient alike.

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avatar Steve February 6, 2010 at 11:43 am

Did you ever think it is because it does not SNOW here? We have a weather pattern that allows them to live on the street without freezing to death. That being said do you think someone that drifts to an area that allows “non life threatening” living on the street (in terms of weather extremes) year around sounds like someone that is trying to get there life back together? And yes…. I heard “from a guy in jail” that he makes from $50-$250 a day panhandling here…

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avatar Patty Jones February 3, 2010 at 8:11 pm

We are well met hippiereborn. Gauging from the poll in the sidebar more people are thinking the same way. Right now “A permanent shelter for the Homeless” is leading as a priority project.

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avatar Dave Gilbert February 3, 2010 at 8:45 pm

I’m going to take what I feel may be an unpopular stance here and say that a new Stadium, not necessarily Downtown but within San Diego proper, will bring much needed Super Bowl tourist dollars back to San Diego. How many millions are being spent in Miami right now?

Most football fans know that as long as we keep the Q, we will not have any more Super Bowls, the NFL has made that quite clear. I for one could see a new stadium meaning more cash flow in America’s Finest City which I think should and would translate to important civic projects finally getting underway like homeless shelters and libraries.

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avatar Brian February 4, 2010 at 12:01 am

My friend sometimes look at me like I’m silly, but the best thing that coulda happened for San Diego (wrt to the stadium) would’ve been for Chula Vista to get it. I lived in Scottsdale AZ when the new Cardinals stadium got built way out in Glendale. When the Super Bowl came, know what happened? Everyone stayed in Scottsdale… an hour away from the stadium. ESPN, all the media stuff… all those tourist dollars. Every year when the Fiesta Bowl is out on the west side of Phoenix, the teams playing in the game stay in Scottsdale. If I was a Glendale taxpayer, I’d be pissed.

If a stadium got built in Chula Vista, do you really think all the folks going to the next super bowl are going to stay in hotels down there? or eat in their restaurants? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to knock Chula Vista… I’m just saying, when folks come from out of town, they know San Diego. They’ll stay in town, eat at SD restaurants… San Diego proper could get all the tourist dollars, without the ridiculous stadium investment.

Oh well.

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avatar Smuffy February 4, 2010 at 6:46 pm

I don’t quite think that gives the NFL the STAR POWER they hunger for or the bang for the buck The Fan’s deserve. I’m thinking a big stadium cruise barge. The NFL and screaming fans can drive it up and down the coast; unprecedented.

California’s Finest Stadium Cruise Barge

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avatar PSD February 4, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Awesome. Mind-bogglingly awesome.

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avatar hippiereborn February 4, 2010 at 9:16 am

the fact that the City doesnt have a permanent, year round homeless shelter and advocates have to fight to get a small tent put up on vacant lots just for the winter is really amazing and quite pathetic. Its mind numbing and frustrating to try and find a shelter for clients who really want to get back on their feet – so I can only imagine how frustrating it can be for someone who has been on the streets for years.

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avatar Danny Morales February 5, 2010 at 9:25 am

Hippie ‘n’ Drums-
My personal responsiblity in this passion play was forced upon me whereas some are born to it and others have achieved it. But always with the focus being on relieving the suffering of others. As the Sorrows descend like a shadow upon our City of Dreamers we must now answer the the question,
“Which side are you on?”.
We can disagree on the issues, tactics and strategies we apply .but in the end must remain united in the light of day. For my part I’ll stand w/Debs who said:
“While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free”.

Peace, Love and a whole lot of Kickass,
Danny

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avatar Dave Gilbert February 3, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Yeah, that was an excellent piece!

I’ve noticed that we’ve become a nation of blamers. Something going wrong in your life? Blame someone! It’s quick, easy and gives you the illusion that it’s someone else who’s causing your problems, rather than an opportunity for you to make something positive happen in the world.

Even the smallest positive gestures are still positive. I think when we, as good citizens of the planet, take responsibility for our own attitudes, actions or inactions, we will all evolve as the human race.

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 3, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Some random words on the Statute of Liberty: “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-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

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avatar Molly February 3, 2010 at 9:36 pm

No homeless services in OB??!! For shame, for shame, OB!

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 3, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Hippiereborn mentions a youth drop-in center on Newport. Yes, there was, it was called the Inbetween and I worked there for a year back in 1973 – 74. Local churches, the Town Council, and other bleeding hearts thought OB needed some place for the wayward youth to go, get counseling, have a break, or whatever. It opened sometime around 68, 69 and lasted for years. Then when money dried up, the facility was taken over by so-called community services and rehabbed the building like a forbidding fortress. Now it will be a pizza beer restaurant, so those with some dough can get drunk.

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avatar doug porter February 3, 2010 at 10:48 pm

i’ll take your Inbetween and raise ya one Frank. i was a “client” at the Inbetween in 1968/69. Oh boy, did the local NIMBY’s want us gone!

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avatar Get off my lawn! February 4, 2010 at 12:14 am

hippiereborn: first, much applause for the work you do and also for your thoughts. I don’t necessarily agree with all of that, but I do appreciate your saying it. One of my local heroes, Karen Pucci, is instrumental in running the East Village shelter (and about a dozen other programs to help the homeless), and I have much respect for anyone who would work in your field. Anyhow, for my money, it is a pretty complicated issue that is at least regional in scale, if not national. In addition to not really being “homeless” in the hardcore lifer sense that the East Village population generally is, the OB street crowd are overwhelmingly not even from California. As mentioned in other parts of this discussion, OB is a great place to be and the community should expect that there is going to be some level of transient population here. But even without the provision of services, one could easily say that OB is already taking more than its fair share of the load on this issue. To some extent, I really feel that your charge of NIMBYism would be better directed at affluent suburbanites or the places around the country that many of these people came to OB from.

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avatar hippiereborn February 4, 2010 at 9:29 am

I think maybe you are missing the point. Being a hardcore “lifer” as you put it it – someone has to start somewhere. Many of these kids are on that path now, and not offering to help is tantamount to letting them take that next step from “Kerouacian” to “lifer”.

I would agree with you and say that many of these kids probably did come from communities where the attitude closely resembled NIMBYism. My point is that doing the same thing here isn’t helping them any, and is just perpetuating a cycle. There isn’t one community that wants transients travelling in and out on a seasonal basis. But can’t we, as a community that collectively has SOME humanity at least try to engage or help in some way? By just saying “oh yeah, they come from somewhere else – let them deal with it” is exactly what NIMBYs do.

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avatar Get off my lawn! February 4, 2010 at 1:43 pm

With due respect, I don’t think that I am missing the point here. I am just talking about the other side of the coin. Despite the purest and best of intentions, there is also a “magnet theory” at work here, where if you build it, they will come. Providing services can very much be a net loss in terms of helping these people. Other cities have already gone down this road, and I have spent most of my life living in several of them (Boston, San Francisco, Vancouver). Before Gavin Newsom got elected mayor, SF’s homeless population was growing exponentially, and a large part of it was because they offered a wide range of services. You would have 3-4k of these traveler types every day of the week near the entrance to Golden Gate Park. Talking to them, many would say that they came because they heard Haight-Ashbury was some magical place where you could just hang out and get fed and get high and party and sleep in tents and not have to work. Not trying to be heartless here. I hope that any of them leaving abusive family situations or those who have mental health issues can get help. And I especially hope that the hardcore lifer crowd of the East Village get the help they need. I just don’t want OB to be that magic place where young kids come only to be indoctrinated into homelessness, nor do I want my community to be degraded by what can happen when these travelers are present on a larger scale.

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avatar DB February 4, 2010 at 6:22 am

I hear what your saying… on the other hand I think your piece continues to give creedance to the new American way… we’re all victims, we don’t have to take responsibility for our own choices and actions.

Why should we be responsible for being a safe haven for Portlands Heroin Kids on vacation in sunny OB?

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avatar lane tobias February 4, 2010 at 9:01 am

Its funny you mention Portland….I had a friend in town two weeks ago who was visiting from Portland, and she saw some similarities between the kids on the street there and our “kids”. But she also told me that most of the Portland kids dont leave for the winter for the most part….I think OB’s kids are from the midwest and the east coast. Going to school in Ithaca, NY there was a substantial population of young runaways considering the town only has about 30,000 people living in it…..many of them wintered on the west coast or in the South.

we can make it less welcoming for them or we can offer to help (or at the very least, a helping hand). the whole point of this debate is that OB HASNT done anything to make this a safe haven for them except for have a reputation – a long standing one, at that – for being a safe PLACE for homeless folks to be. We dont offer any services, it seems as if locals are NOT offering spare change and food – so what exactly ARE we doing to make this a welcoming atmosphere? I propose that the community does nothing…and they come here anyway.

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avatar lane tobias February 4, 2010 at 9:01 am

not propose – suppose

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avatar Debbie February 4, 2010 at 10:48 am

Lane, I think you are right…I suppose they will come here anyway. I have to say that I support help for those that are from my community be they old, mentally impaired, young and without direction, low income, handicap etc. What I cannot support are those that enter this community and expect us to do something for them because I feel that is the responsibility of their family and/or community. Southern Cal attracts so many homeless because of our weather….but you can’t live on the streets in the winter here or you will freeze to death. I believe people don’t realize California is not for free living until until they actually get here and experience it. What I really would like to see is a place for elders who have lived their live in OB have a place to gather, make friends and find people to volunteer to help them shop, mow their lawn, take them to the doctors etc. I help a few of my neighbors and they truly appreciate the company and assistance. I think the NIMBY stuff about the youth is because many feel that are not approachable, or scared of them because of the way they look and act or because they are unknown and these days it’s hard to trust people. Sometimes when you need or want help you to have to change.

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avatar Get off my lawn! February 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I’m with you. If young folks want to spend some time backpacking around the West Coast, that’s great. Glad to be part of your journey. But don’t forget to go home. If we are differentiating between that crowd and the more hardcore homeless crowd, and asking how to prevent those kids from joining those ranks, the most compassionate thing in some respects is to not enable that lifestyle much. Further, I still believe this is more of a regional or national issue. I’m not in favor of a handful of neighborhoods in 10-12 cities having to take on 80% of the houseless. A lot of places that have put out the welcome mat found that they were overrun (Santa Monica and SF come to mind).

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avatar just my 2 cents February 4, 2010 at 6:38 am

A homeless shelter is a great idea. Where ? The City Council can’t decide. I am sure even if there was one the people at the wall, pier or lot would NOT want to leave OB and go to the shelter. They now are locals after 4 months. After all did’nt you notice the ” i’m a local ” t shirt .

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avatar Debbie February 4, 2010 at 7:48 am

Question about Shelters…are those that receive services required or agree to abstain from alcohol and drugs?

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avatar hippiereborn February 4, 2010 at 8:56 am

for the most part, there;s no drug testing. but many social workers have what we like to call a “bullshit” radar. When someone is bullshitting, we can almost instantly tell. Much like a hustler or a gambler, social workers are forced to look for signs of lying or trouble. So yes, when someone enters a shelter they have to agree not to use. Dothey drug test? Who has the money? We’re talking about shoestring budgets here. So, No….obviously, some people are going to spend the day getting high and the night sleeping in the shelter. but for the most part, if someone even seems to be under the influence, they are kicked out.

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avatar hippiereborn February 4, 2010 at 9:24 am

for the most part. obviously, most drop in, day-to-day shelters cant afford to drug test people staying on site. But social workers and other staff usually have a pretty good radar for “bullshit” – and all of these places are technically substance free. There are programs where there is more permanence, sort of like transitional housing….but they are so few and far between in this city that the people in them are lucky just to have gotten past a wait list. Basically, at a place like SD Rescue Mission, it may be difficult to differentiate between someone who is high and someone who is mentally ill…so it could be a judgement call on staffs part. But there arent any nonprofits that would actually let someone in for the night if they are obviously under the influence.

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avatar Dave Gilbert February 4, 2010 at 12:52 pm

We had a homeless guy living in our courtyard for quite sometime. Every morning I’d walk by him and he’d already have a bottle of Vodka and a couple of tall boys going. It got pretty depressing, and by not saying anything, none of us were really helping him.

It turns out that he’s a Viet-Nam vet with all sorts of programs available to him, but I’m pretty sure that he’d have to give up drinking to take advantage of those programs. I really tried hard to get him to call the V-A, because he couldn’t continue living in our courtyard like that. Maybe he did contact them, he said he did, but he’s still drinking and still living on the street.

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avatar my 2 cents February 5, 2010 at 8:27 am

Yes they are.

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avatar obsteven February 4, 2010 at 8:52 am

I think that during the holiday season we should dress the homeless kids in Victorian costumes and pretend that they’re the children from Oliver Twist!

I’ve always preferred the term Street Urchin over homeless child anyway. Sounds more festive. We could teach them Christmas carols and every business on Newport could hang a goose in it’s window. Just think of all the tourists dollars flowing in during the Christmas rush.

Then when La Jolla hears about how much money our businesses made they will want Urchins of their own. We could then rent our little Street Urchins out to them increasing our profits and removing all homeless children. We will refer to them as homeless children again after we settle on the financial terms with La Jolla.

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avatar jon February 4, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Nice Steven. I think there are some lovely parasols at my mothers house that we can use to get this project started. Let’s get these kids off the heroin sex parties onto the Earl Grey! Who’s with us???!!!

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avatar obsteven February 5, 2010 at 8:39 am

Glad you’re on board Jon. The rest of these people don’t see the big picture like you and I do. If these kids are on heroin or even just one lets give them old guitars and harmonicas and see if any of them can play the blues. If so we’ll make a killing. If memory serves I’m pretty sure this is how Kriss Kross got started. So….Warm it up Jon!

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avatar BillRayDrums February 4, 2010 at 11:21 am

One nod to the homeless kids though- I live in what would be deemed a “high traffic area” here in OB, right around the pier. It’s very rare that the Kerouacians come up into our place and proffer disrespect in the forms of pissing/defecating on our house, stealing, starting fights, noisemaking, etc.

However….just last week a limo driver allowed his two teenybopper rich kid passengers to exit the vehicle, lean against my neighbor’s cottage and piss all over the walkway. This is a common occurrence here; it’s happened more than once and our solutions so far are to: A- get the waterhose…. B- tell the pissers that they have just been recorded on live webcam and now some hairy old gross dude in Lithuania is masturbating to them, and that we make mad profits off little snotty brats just like them that use our walkway as their own personal defacatorium. (That’s why it’s so inviting….) :D

Being that we have a cop car planted up here nearly 24/7, the neighbor simply flagged one down and they hemmed up the errant little snots down the way.

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avatar hippiereborn February 4, 2010 at 12:37 pm

your statement partially disproves many of the complaints lodged against these kids….how much are they really doing to bother people? I dont think they do much outside of ask for a little help here and there…for the most part. Theres always bad seeds. Just like the people who come to OB from all over the County, and let their dogs crap on your lawn or on the cliffs or in the grass area by the lifeguard tower- and then dont clean it up. If anything, we saw how destructive non-locals were during the summer events held at the bottom of Newport …many blamed visitors from PB, East County, etc. So in some way, couldnt you argue that despite a few bad apples these kids actually respect OB more than other visitors?

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avatar lane tobias February 4, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I did a little further research, and found that there are in fact a few meager services in OB proper. But the truth is – its not even close to enough, especially for these kids.

First off, SDPD has the HOT team (homeless outreach team) who interacts and engages homeless individuals in the beach area and assesses how they can be helped. My understanding is that this is a great thing – but vastly undermanned, underprepared, and underfunded for the task at hand.

there are a few food pantry/distributions in OB, notably the Loaves and Fishes out of Holy Trinity Church. Many of the peninsula churches offer some form of food pantry/distribution during the week, including one that is run out of OB elementary. They can all use donations and/or volunteers I’m sure.

One interesting organization I found is called Stand Up for Kids. They are a national organization with offices all over the country, in an effort to get kids off the street. They DO conduct street outreach and have transitional housing as part of their programming….but the data is disheartening. They estimate that to house or shelter all the street kids in the country EACH STATE would have to have at least 25,000 beds available on a given day. Noting that California probably has a considerably higher number of homeless minors than say, North Dakota…well you get the picture. they are entirely volunteer. which usually means limited funding and limited services.

And finally, there’s the Storefront shelter run by San Diego Youth and Community Services (I think its in Pt. Loma) this from their website: “The Storefront Night Shelter is a 20-bed emergency shelter–the only one in San Diego specifically designed for homeless and runaway youth. The goal of the Storefront is to stabilize the lives of vulnerable youth. ”

http://www.sdyouthservices.org/site/PageServer?pagename=storefront

20 beds.

Anyone get the picture here?

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avatar obfuzz February 4, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I find it odd that the answer to the homeless problem is generally a shelter. Many of the homeless people are in and out of jail, and they don’t like it. The only difference is the shelter you are free to come and go (well wait- even the winter shelter has a curfew). Shelters aren’t exactly jail, but most homeless people don’t want to be in either. They like the freedom and don’t conform to laws they don’t like. Many are substance abusers who will never get clean. Many have mental health issues who we can’t force meds on (it’s America right?). There will always be homeless people in So Cal beach areas. They come from all over. Few are from here. For the few who really want services, they are out there, and easy to find. The HOT team will even go to them. The police need to enforce the law on the books (public intox, urinating, hard drugs, breaking into cars, etc), but other than that, there is nothing that can be done. Or should be done. It’s America. Most homeless here have it pretty good. It’s a lifestyle for many. And who are we to say that it’s wrong… unless they are breaking a law. I’m not opposed to a shelter, it’s just not going to stop homelessness.

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avatar Mark Rafferty February 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

In regards to calling them “Kerouacians”, I completely agree with the author (although I disagree with him on many other things). Having lived next to the lifeguard station (where they want to build “Saratoga Shores”) for two years, I have never seen these youths reading literature to each other, nor have I ever seen them writing any literature either. I don’t see them with Herman Hesse novels in their back pockets, nor do I see them with dog-eared copies of “Catcher in the Rye” (RIP, J.D. Salinger) in their backpacks, nor do I see them with copies of “Howl” in their shirts. While there are likely ones who do read, I doubt these youths as a whole have any real respect for literature. By calling them Kerouacians, it simply ignores the fact that they are one step away from being something OB already has plenty of: trolls.

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avatar BillRayDrums February 5, 2010 at 8:03 am

So indeed I WAS giving them more credit than they exhibit….consider myself “schooled” and shan’t refer to them as such ever again. :D

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avatar Larry OB February 4, 2010 at 7:01 pm

It’s a complex problem that needs more than just shelters. We need affordable public campgrounds. Cooking and nutrition classes rather than simply giving away free food. Maybe even community bicycles. I’ve long thought that Robb Field could be put to better use….camping, community farm, job training, hot showers, lockers, etc. The large weekend tounaments held there add little to our community. Few shop or spend money here. And sometimes it takes 2 hours for all the SUVs, Van and diesel spewing buses to exit from Robb Field, because they all have to funnel through a 4 Way stop sign. I supose it’s nice to cater to the Lacrosse crowd from North County, but I think we could do better…if we had more local control of our parks.

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avatar annagrace February 4, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Larry- that’s an interesting take on a local park. How much does the local community use Robb field?

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avatar Tommy February 5, 2010 at 9:02 am

We live in OB and our kids play soccer with Peninsula Soccer in the spring and fall, and I know from several years of experience that with the exception of a couple kids from Mission Hills, all of their team mates are from OB and Point Loma. There’s a great sense of community fostered during those sun shine filled Saturdays at Robb Field where kids from all the different elementary schools get to know each other and form the kind of friendships that will last them through their school age years. In other words the local community relies heavily on Robb Field.

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 4, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Larry OB = interesting points. At the beginning of the OB planning area in the mid-seventies, Robb Field was included. At some point over the years, the city determined that it was a regional park, not an OB local park, and it was taken out of the area which the Planning Board has jurisdiction over.

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avatar annagrace February 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Isn’t the OB master plan under review right now? Maybe this is an opportunity to raise the issue of the park again….

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avatar hippiereborn February 5, 2010 at 9:21 am

very good points, all legitimate. Everytime I’m near Robb Field, or playing softball, or whatever, I always see people coming out of the woodworks with sleeping bags, a couple belongings, and whatever else someone who sleeps outside would have. Its clear people use it at night. It would be nice to organize it a little better so people could at least have a safer place to be. Its obvious however, that people would have a problem with a plan like that….even though its probably the most logical place to put a night shelter.

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avatar E.T. Morse February 4, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Mr. Hippiereborn, your right these homeless kids (from the Pac No. West) are not your typical homeless from years past. The “dope” they smoke is not just organic harmless weed but other synthetics mixed in as well. It’s not the past “free to be you and me” crowd. This group is not a merry band of folk guitar singing hobos. Rather, it’s the “go fuck yourself”-response-homeless crowd when politely asked to pick up there trash, or not to pass out on the seawall from being to drunk. They don’t want to forge a life for themselves like the rest of us. Its the same group that doesn’t think the rules apply to them, like: swimming naked on a public beach, or smoking or drinking in a prohibited area, —or treating our lifeguards like assholes when they’re just trying to do their job and make the beach safe for everyone.

Mr. Hippiereborn, if your so concerned about these “homeless youth” sleeping just outside your window, why don’t you welcome them in and crash on your sofa??

The bottom line is that you could have a thousand homeless shelters in the area and there would still be those homeless downtrodden who would refuse to come in. Why? Oh my gosh, they might have to follow a few rules like the rest of us, and God forbid, try and actually be minimally productive, or damn… actually refrain from getting obliterated on drugs and alcohol. So far, their only productivity is to sling nickle bags and turn the ocean front into a drug dealers paradise.

“Affordable campgrounds”, bathrooms, and showers, are not going to make this element go away. Turning up the heat on these yo-yo’s and making it uncomfortable for them to either shape up or ship out, is unfortunately, the only way. Let’s not live naively in the past.

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avatar Mary February 4, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Nice piece, hippiereborn. It seems like people give back what they get in life – so, if these kids seem to be saying “fuck you”, it’s probably because that’s the message they’re getting from… well, us.

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avatar hippiereborn February 5, 2010 at 9:24 am

thats exactly the point. Maybe we dont have the resources necessary to complete combat the ill will between these folks and some OB locals, but the least we could do is try and understand the other side…..being neglected and abused for years is unfortunately a common theme with many homeless kids.

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avatar Smuffy February 5, 2010 at 7:03 am

The transient OB community isn’t just PNW kids. There are a lot of east coast kids from Maryland, Vermont, Connecticut, and it is not just US citizens or Mexican. We have seen many people in our area cram 8-10 people into housing meant for 2. They leave their doors open for others to wander in at all times of the day or nit. They come out and do their yard work or moving during the night.

In my opinion all this stems from our economic structure in this country. We have our corporations set up so a small group of fat cats at the top do the least amount of work and receive the most benefit. We have another middle section that wants to be at the stop and in the mean while they are treating the lower portion with rude disregard. How can we cultivate a meaningful community when we treat each other like dirt? We worshiping the way someone is well groomed on TV or in the magazines. I see a lack of self respect in a lot of people. If a person loves and respects themselves, they love and respect nature. We have allowed sloppy thinking and acting in this country. We reward it with large sums of money. I have been an artist all the days of my life. In the social service programs I have instructed, many people show up with a poor self image and no belief in their own ability. This does not last in my teaching environment. By the end the person, of all ages, knows they matter and they have the ability to do things that matter. I am surprised in a state like California that has such a huge entertainment industry, how uncreative this state is. The students don’t have art classes’ in their schools. Unless a special interest group comes in and shares that skill and those supplies. Our creativity is the foundational tool of who we are. There is no topic that I have lived were I have not accesses my creative thinking skills. California is so in the hole they can’t think themselves out of a box. We elect people on promises rather than a solid plan. Not all plans work. It helps to do a machete or a proto. Treating a person like they matter and cultivating their creative ability assists them in cultivating their own life. I would like to see a business plan that serves all level of the participants. You know Wal-Mart and others make money hand over fist above and beyond what they pay employees and reinvest in their business. Would we not better serve each other to give the participants more of the proceeds? Have employees that want to be there for the thrill of the job? I want to see people happy and fulfilled. It is painful to see people killing their children and families because they have gone nuts from being treated like crap for so long and they never built the inner strength to tell everyone to hit the road. I taught in social services for over 20 years; I have run countless groups, funded family picnic, outings, camping, and innumerable events. The line of people wanting something never ended. It was a conveyer belt of people that could see no one to do for themselves other than receive from me. Which is not true. No one needs me. Everyone has everything they need to survive. We have just been force fed to go a long with a social program that lots its true meaning and intent generations ago.

I ride mike bike a lot around OB. Robb Field is used a lot. People of all ages use the baseball diamonds, play soccer, tennis, and cheerleaders practice there. Musicians play on the grass, Families have picnics, bird watchers, exercisers. Just because we may not be there to see it doesn’t mean those folks don’t use the space and the space doesn’t matter. Street Fair over flow parking parks there. Not just Obcieans. People from all over the city and state. The parking entry needs addressed. The entry way into OB with it’s 2 lanes and the right turn to Robb Field is so inefficient. Too bad there was not a direct route into he parking lot off the 8 highway.

I love sports and I love watching the fans and players have a good time, but we have seriously gotten off track with our funding of professional sports. They talk a sweet talk of promises, but in the long run they do not make an impactful difference on the vast majority that fund their interest. If they have all that money to pay such high salaries to individuals, they have the money to pay for themselves. It’s like AIG they would not turn down free money if they can get someone to give it to them. In a sense they are a social service program in disguise.

The blame game is an old ugly habit. Everyone sows what they reap. So you have so little self control that it is other people fault you have a bad attitude? Were is the personal power in that?

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avatar obsteven February 5, 2010 at 8:29 am

I can honestly tell you that I have NEVER been aggressively approached by any of these kids. I have been aggressively approached by the older homeless. I have also never seen them do heroin or have sex parties. I have seen them smoke weed.
I also try not to be a hypocrite. I have had outdoor sex before in my youth. I have gone around town shrooming before. I have smoked weed in public many, many times in my life. I have done cocaine in public many times in my youth. I have never pan handled, but I have thrown eggs, toilet papered houses, shoe polished windows, spit in the holy water, I even had sex in a church. I am guilty. Just as guilty as those homeless kids. Please don’t chase me with video cameras or call the cops on me. I have a roof over my head so it’s cool. Right?

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avatar Debbie February 5, 2010 at 8:37 am

Are you proud of yourself?

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avatar obsteven February 5, 2010 at 8:45 am

Not really proud. Just honestly remembering my past. I really doubt that I’m the only person in Ocean Beach who did crazy shit when they were young. Some of it I wished I would not have done. But I did it. I sure am glad there were not cameras capturing my every move. That would make a very entertaining and at sometimes embarrassing DVD.

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avatar jon February 5, 2010 at 9:09 am

I’ve done all that, except shoe polishing windows. That’s just crossing the line Steven. You’re a madman.

Seriously though, I think there are many of us who have done crazy stuff in our youth. Hell, I went skinny dipping in the Pacific last summer. So I’m not about to condemn someone for having fun and doing something a little crazy. The difference in my own experience, is I did not do this in broad daylight in a crowded area. I understand that most people (i.e. nobody) wants to see my pale white butt running around the beach. So, we go do that at night in a private beach area. Being free spirited is one thing, having group sex and dropping your pants and yelling at people on the cliffs in broad daylight is something completely different in my mind.

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avatar Danny Morales February 5, 2010 at 9:47 am

“Dropping my pants first, yelling at people on the cliffs and having group sex is something I aspire to. Having the police kill someone like Dan Woodyard is not something I want to be responsible for or rationalize in any way.”- Ann Arco Syndicalist

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avatar jon February 5, 2010 at 10:03 am

lol. Dream big Danny, dream big….

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avatar lane tobias February 5, 2010 at 9:16 am

thanks for being one of the only honest people on here. I think its all about how you approach things. I’ve never once had someone aggressively ask me for money, or spit at me, or throw garbage on the ground within my personal space. Obviously this happens…but I think its been quite overblown here.

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avatar Catherine February 5, 2010 at 10:40 am

Cuts in social services are a real problem for OB and the whole county and state as evidenced by voiceofsandiego’s excellent series this week on county social services and the ongoing debate every year about where to put a homeless shelter. Also, you are probably all aware that the state completely cut funding for domestic violence shelters. We are a dysfunctional city in a dysfunctional state and a lot of this mess is rooted in our desire to have everything and not pay for it by increasing revenue or revising that sacred cow Prop 13. I’m happy to pay a little extra to support investments in infrastructure, education, health care and social services. (FYI, voice has another story today about how SDPD is reporting increased issues dealing with mental illness and attributes the problem to cuts in prevention and treatment programs.)

However, I take real issue with some of the attitude here that if I’m not entirely cool with the hordes of street kids lolling around the park, seawall and sidewalks asking for money to buy weed that I must be some kind of yuppie interloper from North Park who’s ruining OB, dishonest, or the root cause of homelessness because I’m obviously too selfish to have any compassion. None of which could be further from the truth. And, ironically, it’s a lot of judgment coming from the same people who are urging us to be more accepting of others with a different lifestyle. I find it interesting that this piece here says I’m(we’re) and the city are all to blame for street kids but the kids themselves (many of whom are easily in their early 20s) have no apparent responsibility.

I may be wrong about this, but I make a distinction between the homeless that I see camped on Island Avenue, or downtown, or along church row here in OB, who are struggling with issues of mental illness and disability, and complications of age and years on the streets, and the street kids who hang out under the pier or camped in the dunes. If I’m wrong to make this distinction, I’ll be the first to say so when presented with evidence to the contrary. I recognize that there are some runaways in this bunch probably coming from difficult home situations or kids who struggle with depression or mental illness. I would support increased public funding to provide services to help kids get off the street if that’s what they want. But I think lots of them may have just read Into the Wild too many times. And I just think, “what a waste.” I believe we are all obligated to make a contribution to our community and society at large. I love walking by the seawall and hearing a good drum or guitar session — that’s a contribution in my view to the liveliness of the hood and I’m happy to drop those guys a dollar. If they can scratch a living doing it then good for them. Not everyone wants to spend their life in a cube and there are many ways of contributing to society. Hanging out under the pier, or lolling around the grass or the sidewalk and smoking and drinking all day is not one of them.

I do think we have to ask ourselves why so many street kids choose OB. I’ve lived in plenty of places that have had issues with more traditional homelessness brought by hardship or illness. The street kid issue is a unique one and I do think we have to ask ourselves why it exists and what can be done to reduce its impacts on the community. I would agree we need more services, particularly from organizations that have experience with runaways and younger transient adults.

on a side note, I think it’s kind of hilarious that folks here really think all the dog poop is left by outsiders. One would think all Obecians are incapable of treating the land and their neighbors with disrespect. One walk through the neighborhood on a Saturday morning, taking note of all the empty red cups, liquor bottles, beer pong remnants and half eaten burritos should cure this notion.

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avatar hippierebron February 5, 2010 at 11:11 am

Catherine – you make a valid point. Maybe I overlooked the issue of personal responsibility in the actual post, but its not something I overlook when thinking about the issue. The point is that, as you mentioned, the services just aren’t there. I think part of the problem is that these kids are just that – kids – and may not yet have the understanding of what it means to be a productive or at least friendly member of the community.

However, you can’t look at a 19 year old who has chosen a life on the street over a “conventional” lifestyle and honestly think they chose a life like this solely because they wanted it. Maybe they did initially choose to strike out on their own and live a vagabond/transient lifestyle. But something has prevented that kid from choosing a more productive course. My assumption is that much of it is rooted in their upbringing, and more often than not that upbringing included a sexually or physically abusive parent or family member, drug and alcohol use from too young of an age, and just an overall lack of a solid home. So sure – you can say, why can’t you be more productive and at least get yourself some help? But the problem is most likely deeper than that. And that is where the lack of resources – particularly those for runaways and homeless minors – is most impactful. The idea behind the post is that, as you mentioned, the whole attitude towards services that are necessary but mostly considered extraneous by “responsible” citizens, like our County Supervisors, has become the status quo. And that attitude is the same one, maybe in a different form, that La Jollans take towards the seals. Or wealthy communities have when affordable housing is being built in their neighborhood.

Nobody can accuse any individual of being a “NIMBY” without actually knowing them, interacting with them, or at the very least, reading about their take on a specific issue. In this case, I am pointing a collective finger at all of us – everyone, including our elected representatives, like Kevin Faulconer – for letting it get this bad. Unfortunately, in this case you have to group anyone who is houseless into the same group, because it is the OVERALL lack of services that is most glaring. The street kids are certainly unique, as is OB – which is probably why they feel comfortable here. As noted on this forum, it is obvious that there is even less compassion for them as there is for a middle aged man suffering from alchoholism or mental illness…personally, I think that it should probably be the other way around. adults are more capable, over the course of say, 30 years of getting help – even if they have cognitive damage, addictions, or mental health issues. 16, 17, 18, 19 year olds? They probably have built up anger from years of neglect that makes them less likely to look outside their comfort zone for help. Thus – a fuck you, give me a dollar or get out of my face attitude.

Really though, I dont judge anyone except myself. And I am tortured by the fact that despite what I do for a living, I still cant figure out how to improve the situation in many peoples’ lives. Thats the frustration, and thats what came out in the post. Its everyones fault…not just the kids, not just ours. I wont invite a stranger into my house to sleep on my couch because I shouldn’t have to, but I do give clothes and food to people when I see they are in need. If there were shelters or proper services – I would give someone a ride or a bus pass or a couple bucks to get there, and I have in the past. So dont judge me either folks….I’m just being honest and laying out the truth. Most Obecians arent to blame, and keep an open mind – but I did think there was more compassion in this community than what I’ve seen of late.

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avatar Smuffy February 5, 2010 at 11:38 am

I love OB. I am proud of the core people that live here. I love doing my own thing and letting others do their own thing. I do expect us all to do our best. There are a lot of caring words said on this thread of passion; both on and off topic. I wish we could harness the power of the creativity here in OB; be it by local or visiting transient guest. Build a new paradigm for the future. I wish we could have creativity co-ops or some kind of cultural co-op were we collectively gathered all our creative talent and marketed it together and teach it to others and sell our various wares. Regardless of what anyone says about the OB and its history or legends, it has been a great clinical trial for showing that the world is not going to end if someone does a bong hit or stays up late with friends and drinks or hangs out on the beach singing songs or accepts the differences in others. I wish we could organize our skills and build our own corporate kingdom. Thanks for caring everyone. I tripped over your blog looking for Swami Records. Smuffy-out

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avatar Larry OB February 6, 2010 at 1:33 pm

A few final thought on Robb Field…you can visit the Little League Baseball field where famous Padre David Wells played as a child. The dugouts, the grass, infield and fenceline all look they did back then. There are a few major differences, like the missing scoreboard, and the absence of an Ocean Beach Little league. Also gone are the businesses that sponsored them…Adlers Drugs, Horn TV, Dover Plumbing, Bamboo Florists, Save All Drugs, Academy TV, Joe and Marios Pizza, etc. Also gone is the community spirit generated by that local Little League and the local sponsors. Bottom line…the park isn’t as local as it used to be, and there are far more parking spaces today.

Let’s consider the parking spaces. We devote a lot of real estate and expense to cater to the people that have cars, but how much do we cater to the recrational needs of the people that don’t have cars. Some folks would rather have a large locker than a parking space. We devote a lot to the kids that play in competetive leagues. What do we do for the kids that don’t want to compete, don’t have the time for a league season, the kids that just need recreation? What specific planning is done for the recration and health of the homeless? We do more for the recration of dogs, yes dogs, than we do for our homeless veterans

Robb Field borders the river, but there is no sabot sailing or kayak ramp for local OB people. The place is way too focused on just a few sports.

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avatar ?? ?? November 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm

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