Should OB Have a Town Hall Meeting on the Homeless Youth and the Police ?

by on February 10, 2010 · 23 comments

in Economy, Homelessness, Ocean Beach, Organizing

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Labor Day 'Riot', 1968: youth on Long Branch Ave spark outburst that is answered by police and crowd-control efforts. Here everyone comes out to watch order being restored.

The last week or so has been an incredibly busy time here on the OB Rag, due in part to Obecians’ emotional attachment to some very deep seated issues – namely, the police and the young transient/homeless population.

We have now seen what seemed like an unnecessary police response to a skinny dipper on a Saturday afternoon culminate with a number of young transients being the target of a crackdown on “loitering” and other “quality of life” issues this past weekend. In between these two events, we have seen a community both divided and mutually concerned on the possible implications of these and future events.

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Police cite homeless youth in wake of some residents' complaints. Seawall, February 2010.

What is clear is that there is certainly passion on both sides (or on the many sides) of these complex discussions. It is also painfully obvious that while the OB Rag is a great forum to voice concerns, there is also a need for many of these thoughts to be conveyed to those who can pull the right strings and direct policies that will be in the best interest of everyone here in OB – including those who may not necessarily be permanent residents of the neighborhood, but are in fact members of our community.

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San Diego Police use sonic sound device to force OB youth off streets. Labor Day 1968.

Internally at the Rag, we take this very seriously. At least two of our bloggers are actively engaging the street population whose life paths are seemingly at odds with some of OB’s concerned citizens.

I bring this thought to our readership today, in an effort to begin planning for a town hall type forum on these issues that will bring together the stakeholders responsible for moving forward in a positive manner.

Please, in the comments below, let the OB Rag know if this is something you consider worthwhile. Much of this debate has been driven by our readers’ genuine concern for the neighborhood despite ideological differences in weighing compassion and personal responsibility, and that should remain the common denominator. We all care about OB, and nobody wants to see anything happen that negatively impacts our little slice of paradise.

nudeport1

Police respond to comments from crowd during nude swimmer incident, late January 2010.

I would also ask that readers wishing to comment on this post please limit concerns to who would be best suited to be present at the forum (i.e. City Council representative, SDPD community relations, etc.) and what the proposed outcome should be or at least what we should attempt to accomplish at such a meeting. Anything else is better suited for earlier posts; the information here will be used to formulate a plan for a meeting where we can respectfully relay our concerns to people who are responsible for acting in our best interest as a community.

With the OB Rag engaging both our online readership and those who may not be part of our online community but reside in OB (particularly those living on the streets), we will be able to have the concerns of all relevant community members at play as we move forward and attempt to find common ground amidst discord.

Originally posted on Feb. 8, 2010

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Catherine February 8, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I would attend this forum. I think it would be most helpful to hear from current service providers regarding what, if any, gaps are in the system to meet the needs of runaways, people struggling with substance abuse or people who need some guidance and/or shelter if they’re looking to move off the streets. For example, looks like we have at least one if not several churches providing food pantry/hotmeal services and then there’s the teen shelter and SDPD’s homeless outreach. Are these folks collaborating? And can they collaborate in a way that creates more efficiency while preserving any confidentiality issues they may have (i.e. teen shelter)?

It would also be helpful to survey the homeless youth population to get some sense of what percentage need and would use services to get them off the street and what kinds of service they think they need. And how many are living a vagabond life and would choose to keep doing it not matter what services are available. And who’s somewhere in the middle. And how do they hear about OB in the first place? How many are from the region vs. Kansas or where ever? How do they get here? Where are they going next? Is there a circuit of traveling homeless teens/young adults? Are they connecting with their traveling peers on Twitter?

The survey would be very important. It’s hard to know what solutions might work if we don’t know why homeless youth are here, how they got here and what their plans are.

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avatar Danny Morales February 8, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Lane-First some historical context, Labor day 1999 saw the OBMA rent a trailer to address many of the same issues on the seawall that have come up again on the Rag and in the mainstream media. OB held several community meetings on these issues under the auspices of the Ad Hoc Committee for Community Justice which took the issues to the OBMA, OB Planning Board and OB Town Council. The only progress we made at these meetings was to obtain a phone list for recruiting into the newly formed Ocean Beach Grassroots Organization (OBGO). After the police killing of Daniel “Walking Man” Woodyard on Feb. 4, 2003, OBGO organized marches, rallies and community forums to place the issues and make recommendations to the policy makers and community leaders. Although all parties agreed that what occured was atrocious and wrong (or the product of downright evil) there has been no justice forthcoming.
Without justice there has been no peace if the crystalized attitudes reflected in the Rag are to be seen. The lessons of my experience from all of this is that talk without appropriate action along a defined time line is will not produce a just settlement of the issues.
I hope you will continue in your efforts with these lessons in mind but would ask that anyone considering an active role in the current issues consider what is the desired result of activism and whose interest is being advocated for.
For my part I would like to see a leadership cadre develop for organizing the unorganized. Its hard messy work but: if not me, who-if not here,where? and- if not now, when?

In Solidarity,
Danny

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avatar Danny Morales February 8, 2010 at 2:26 pm

“Better to teach the people to fish and bake than to give them fishes and loaves”-Jesus Pagan

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avatar jon February 8, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I ditto what Catherine says. I think it would be helpful as a tool to keep the lines of communication open between the residents, law enforcement, business owners and the transient population. I think a specific agenda and time-frame for discussion of any issues would need to be well planned out in order to keep it from turning into some sort of anti-homeless referendum. I would like to see a town-hall style meeting where the focus is about creating a more harmonious, open and safe community and not about a narrow-minded “solution” to homeless teens. I would like to see someone representing the interests of OBMA and perhaps some local shop owners who have been well established in the community and are familiar with OB history and culture. Local law enforcement should be involved (David Surwillo comes to mind). It would also be nice to see a city-council representative show, but my money is on them sending a lackey, if anything.

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avatar Jack February 8, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Please count me in on any community meeting. I would also suggest we have members of the faith community included, as they do quite of a bit of work with the houseless. I believe, however, before a meeting is set up with any “officials,” a pre-meeting is held (0r two or three) to determine the manner in which the issues will be addressed, and protocol for any community meeting. Too often these meetings turn into rants and polarization of the various interests. Regardless of your position, it needs to be considered in an overall presentation. And while not discounting the emotions, the community is not best served by emoting, justified or not.

I am afraid, if we do otherwise, it will have the same media coverage and official response which in the past is…”Oh those tired old hippies in OB….” Regardless of whether you are tired or active, old or young, or hippy or hipless, WE are in this together and WE need to work on a process of resolving this many layered series of issues. And hopefully, not with a quick fix or a placating, patronizing response, but something which can be worked on in a long term solution.

Peace, Jack

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avatar Sarah February 8, 2010 at 6:58 pm

As a relatively new Obecian I’ve been reticent to chime in on this discussion but here goes…

A couple of years ago my world turned upside down and I landed at the foot of Niagara Avenue in my shiny new truck with my flush-with-cash checkbook, a cheap brown metal cane and a really bad need to throw a never-ending pity party for myself. I came, I saw, I laughed, I stayed. I stayed because of the surfers and the “hippies” and the wandering kids and the nice homeless man in the wheel chair who always smiles at me, even when I’m in a decidedly not in an “OB sort of mood”.

I stayed because it’s a community where Ross can ride around on the fire truck. I stayed because my neighbors embraced me with their warmth and friendship. I stayed because my friends cheered when I quit a job that was killing my soul. I stayed because of the unfinished jetty and all it stands for. I stayed because there is no McDonalds. I stayed ’cause people think it’s cool that I decorate the inside of birdhouses. I stayed because of the pelicans that fly in formation across winter sky and only occasionally drop their load on my front window. Oh, and the dogs. I stayed for the dogs, too. (It’s a little known fact that if you’re a really good person you get to come back to earth as a dog living in Ocean Beach.)

I love my adopted community and all the crazy and not-so-crazy people that make it home. I love it in spite of the “element” that disturbs me. Perhaps I love it because of the element that disturbs me. I love it here because one day, feeling decidedly brave and irritated at the same time, I watched a dirty, stinky, loud, aggressive man hitting up all the passers by up for spare change. In a fit of pique I held out my hand and told him I was flat broke and needed money badly, too. He reached into his pocket with a smile and a shrug, pulled out all the change he had, along with a funny wad of greenish lint (lint?) and put it all in my outstretched hand.

I love it because of the people that care enough to call the cops when the “rampaging youth” get out of control, and I love because of the people that care enough to NOT call the cops on those same kids. And I really love it because people say things like, “… move forward and attempt to find common ground amidst discord.”

By all means, let’s have a town hall meeting and see if this amazing community can self-regulate and find creative solutions to the problems of homelessness and vagrancy. Include residents of the high-impact areas, business owners and civil servants. Let’s not forget to invite a couple of the folks who do live “on the streets” of our town.

Face it, we’re all here ’cause we like it like this, or sort of like this. I don’t know anyone who wants to “clean up OB”. I think we mostly just want to know we’re doing the best we can for all concerned, including the property owners and the renters and the transient population and especially for those who really cannot stand up for themselves, the mentally ill, the disabled and the children.

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avatar Sunshine February 8, 2010 at 7:00 pm

I’m in, but only if these suggested meetings/forums are actually working toward real and tangible solutions that bring about change. I didn’t fall off the cabbage truck yesterday, and am not willing to spend time caught up in endless meetings that resolve nothing except for the call for more meetings, more committies, and endless bs. Spending my time advocating for solutions if real change is not possible due to unseen or undisclosed.powers-that-be is, in my eyes, bureaucratic red tape at its worst and so easily manipulated by those who refuse to consider the greater good.. imho, all cards of all concerned parties must be put on the table and those with hidden motives or adgendas must be exposed if real community harmony is to ever realistically prevail in OB.

Clarifing the issues is a good starting point. All concerns are valid, even those I disagree with, and all should be afforded the opportunity to be heard and respected. Open, honest communication is long overdue and is sorely needed here and now. It’s not about imposing my principles/values on anyone else nor is it anyone else’s place to demand this of me. What I feel we’re trying to accomplish here is to learn how to peacefully co-exist amidst our respective differences. Far greater women than me have accomplished these things throughout history.

As I see it, it’s time to wake up, grow up, and play nice with the other kids in the sandbox.

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avatar annagrace February 8, 2010 at 10:38 pm

“As I see it, it’s time to wake up, grow up, and play nice with the other kids in the sandbox.”
Let the Sunshine in.

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 9, 2010 at 4:18 pm

By the looks of the current poll on our sidebar, people are not really split on this issue. A sizable minority of 36% think a town hall meeting would be positive. Only 1 voted to say it would be a waste of time.

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avatar Jack February 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Well then, it is probably time we started moving forward. Any suggestions for time, place? I suggest an evening meeting, and if anyone can suggest a place large enough….Frank, I will work with you and Sunshine and whoever else is interested in setting up an agenda. Thoughts?

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 9, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Jack, sounds like you’re ready and have energy to do this. As I understand it, there’s a number of OB Ragsters who will calling a meeting to plan this thing out and will be certainly contacting everybody who wants to volunteer to help and plan it – people who indicate that here in these comments. Everybody who wants to jump into this will give me the okay to send your email to Lane, so he can contact you.

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avatar lane tobias February 9, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Jack – I have been fairly involved in this discussion, and would like to talk to you about it. I think there are a number of questions to ask before setting an agenda – although I agree with your timely attitude. I think we’ve heard from a number of sides, but one of the sides – the community that seems to be at the heart of many of the complaints – is missing from the equation. I struggle with that big time. I have your email from your earlier comment and will contact you tomorrow – maybe we can meet in person in the next few days.

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avatar Larry OB February 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I’m sure you’ve got the city and county on your invitation list, but what about the State of California? I was thinking maybe someone from state parks to talk about the lack of state campgrounds in our area, and what is the process (planning) to improve from where we are now. Ya, ya, I know the state is broke, but the planning has to start somewhere.

On the city level….they dropped the ball at De Anza when they allowed fixed trailer homes to displace campers. It’s time to return a piece of the bay to short term (affordable) camping.

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 10, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Our friend and photographer Jim Grant has posted his version of what happened during the naked swimmer incident at The Reader. He has added his own “twist” on the event ha ha ha.

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avatar annagrace February 10, 2010 at 6:19 pm

The guy was naked, then he ends up in green boxers. How did that occur?????

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avatar justmy2cents February 18, 2010 at 8:01 pm

he put them on when asked to…butt that was all he was going to do…..the water was cold and he had shrinkage going on. he fought afterputting them on i thought that was clear.

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avatar CeeKay February 10, 2010 at 7:45 pm

I can tell you right now every time I go to OB I do walk by the wall and these people do not bug me. In fact they are pretty friendly. If they are doing unlawful things in public they deserve to be removed or cited. But there is no point in citing all the homeless. They will make it a priority to come back there and do as they please. This is their home too. If San Diego could provide food and shelter for these people then they would not be on the streets. Those simple little things are not provided and people DONT go out of their way for anyone here in San Diego. I side with the homeless until action is taking to help these people
Instead of giving them a hard time
-Christina

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avatar justmy2cents February 18, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Who said ” all the homeless were being cited” Did I miss that part somewhere?

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 10, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Here is Jim Grant’s “twist” on the story published in The Reader (site address in previous comment):

“The move that took the offender down was implemented by a female police officer. She grabbed the man’s testicles from behind with two hands and twisted hard. The man went to the asphalt and got several bumps and bruises.”

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avatar claudia j February 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Hey…just want to make a comment on the pictures from 1968..Things were different then and much more peaceful !!!!! When my son found these pictures in a garage sale in PL, I remember when I saw them, I realized things could get heated due to Peace Movements and try saving everything we could in OB…. But all in all we were friends and just wanted to keep OB the unique beach town at the end of Highway 8…. The ones of us who really can call yourself a LOCAL pat yourself on the back remember we need to stick together and RESPECT are wonderful town of OB…. cj

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 17, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Actually, the event pictured in these old black and whites, occurred when police arrived after numerous reports of unruly youth lobbing water balloons at neighbors and passersby.

If that happened today, the SWAT team would be called up.

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avatar 1984 February 15, 2010 at 9:33 am

I’m sick and tired of seeing police cruisers doing a 100 mph down streets that are designated 25 mph … when someone dies of a m.v.a. whats their excuse going to be?? our lights and sirens were on, didnt you hear us comming? such b.s. for them to come into our town speeding like maniacs thru our small streets … many of the sdpd have very bad attitudes which creates further conflict .. I have personally witnessed more times than I can count their hardline posturing type attitudes take a mole hill and turn it into a mountain for what I guess would be for their personal gain and or amusement. I have seen it, I have felt it, I have experienced it all these times I was never in the wrong. People make mistakes everyday either they are forgiven or forced to make atonement for what they have done … when police make mistakes peoples lives can be shattered and they get to hide behind the badge. NEVER FORGET the police code of brotherhood and such a joke that it is

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