Editor: Our blogger OBCindi attended last night’s community meeting on Homelessness in Ocean Beach at the Sacred Heart Church on Sunset Cliffs. She volunteered to be a scribe for one of the “peace circles” so was deeply involved in enunciating the results of her circle’s ideas and thoughts. Here’s her report:
As I walked to the meeting, I was met by a neighbor who wanted to hear the issues on homelessness in OB, but was specifically interested in aggressive panhandling. My neighbor shared with me his concern with the growing threats of violence, a need for clean streets, more police, and decreasing theft/break ins.
We talked about my recent encounter a few weeks ago with one rude panhandler. My encounters with panhandlers have been almost entirely positive and sometimes enlightening. But when I met with a counter-productive panhandler, I offered this advice:
“I live here in OB and do not deserve to have you be rude or threaten me. If you want to continue to enjoy our beach town, I recommend you stop being rude/offensive/threatening as this behavior will guarantee two things–cops will come, and you will never be allowed back in this town again.”
As we walked in the door, my neighbor and I went our separate ways with me signing in and finding a seat near the middle of the room. Each person in the room was given a number from one to 10, then we broke into 10 “Peace Circles” to discuss the following 8 questions:
What two things do you love about OB?
What two things drew you to OB (whether a business/owner/lover of OB)?
What two things do you find negative about OB?
What kind of community do you desire OB to be (describe)?
What is in the way of making OB the kind of community you desire?
What resources do we have to make OB the community you desire?
What resources do we need to make OB the kind of community you desire?
How do we address the threat to peace in our community this summer and beyond?
Before we began with the questions, the pre-determined facilitator in each group went through the Peace Circle rules:
–Only the person holding the “speakers tool” (ours was a pen) could speak.
–Facilitator would be in control of our discussion group and had the last say.
–We agreed to speak the truth, one at a time and would not interrupt each other.
–We would listen to those who were speaking and if necessary, summarize accurately what they said.
–We agreed to be respectful of one another and not use threats or profanity.
–Most importantly, we had come to the group discussion last night to engage in solutions.
More then 50 people left the building before group discussions began. My personal opinion was that some were put off by the prayer (it WAS hosted by the church leaders in a church so no surprise for me, but maybe for others?) while others who came looking for a verbal showdown like that outside The Black acouple of weeks ago were let down that they were not going to be on camera, and would not have a forum to incite arguing.
In my group, the things that seemed to draw us to OB were:
–The eclectic, diverse and bohemian culture
–Music and art, Street Fairs and Festivals, Farmers Market, and artist driven town
–University town feel without the university (small town within metropolitan area)
–The beach, pier and weather
–Small business environment
–Place where generations of families move to live by the sea
–Buy a home at the beach for a reasonable cost
The negatives about OB were:
–Ongoing tension over the Homeless in OB.
–Rumored threat of skinheads/gangs moving to our community.
–Lack of enough restrooms WITH SHOWERS and water fountains spaced evenly every 100 feet along the boardwalk.
–Increasing number of able-bodied on streets pan-handling (can we get a bulletin board up along Newport to list local work such as small projects or full time work?).
–Need to build the boardwalk/bike path out from the lifeguard tower all the way to dog beach with lighting.
–Not enough lighting along the alleys in the OB Business District (btwn Newport and Niagara and Newport and Santa Monica).
–No local centralized homeless shelter/low cost medical clinic/camping facilities (ie Freedom Point).
–Sidewalks along Newport and by dog beach are littered with freshly smeared dog poo each morning (if your dog poos on concrete, walk your dog in the gutter/street please!).
–People walking their dogs off leash (its scary to those who are afraid of dogs–I have vowed to be more respectful to my neighbors on this one!).
–Medical marijuana, head shops and liquor stores are promoting tolerance to those who abuse alcohol/drugs.
–With the “Don’t Feed the Bums” sticker has come a “Locals Only” mentality (if you were not born in OB, if you don’t live in OB, you have no right to put your opinions into our community). This is divisive rather then inclusive to finding solutions to our city’s problems.
–Tourists and families being targets of aggressive panhandling or seeing illegal behavior.
–Seeing young people and children becoming homeless–needing community help to feed the homeless and work together to build a shelter in this town.
–The Black for creating a sticker that caused media to put OB on a world stage in a bad light.
–Increased crime in some parts of OB that require more police presence and the police to come into those areas and create Neighborhood Watch.
–Local politicians need to attend these meetings and act on our needs, or we need to organize as a community and go to Town Council meetings to vote the ones who talk a big game and don’t follow words with actions, OUT of office.
My group agreed on the following:
–Creation of Neighborhood Watch groups in areas of OB hit hard by criminal activity.
–More water resources along our beaches and Newport–bathrooms/showers/fountains.
–Build out the boardwalk from Lifeguard Station at Santa Monica and Abbott to Dog Beach at the end of Voltaire (with lighting, and restrooms with showers).
–Dog owners need to be more respectful and responsible (clean up after your pet and walk dogs on leash).
–Local politicians need to attend community meetings like this one and ACT on what they hear.
–Don’t change our small town culture–keep OB non-corporate!
–Have police offer advice at next meeting on how to peacefully negotiate situations, and areas where we need to be more involved as a community.
–Keep gangs and violence out of our community.
–Peaceful negotiations by police and leaders in our community.
–Treat all humans with equal respect no matter what their situation may be–you may be there some day!
–Creation of Freedom Point at the parking lot on the other side of the bridge. Charge to get in and park your rig or pitch a tent or stay in a group tent. Everyone must pick up and leave for 2 hrs each day while locals who are hired to clean up, hose down the concrete and get rid of trash.
–Provide weekly low cost vet and medical facilities.
–Creation of medical clinics and addiction solution centers and get rid of medical marijuana shops.
–The homeless issues will not be solved overnight so they will require patience, compassion and ongoing respectful community meetings like this.
–We need to get a flier going with resources listed that we can put in businesses on Newport and can drop off in OB for locals to use to help homeless or Travelers who need help in our community.
Many groups who work with Homeless/Travelers came to the meeting last night. Mapi from “So Others May Eat” stated that her group hosts free dinners in OB, PB and La Jolla (soothersmayeatinc.org).
Glyn Franks, President of Second Chances Inc (soothersmayeatinc.org) feeds the homeless on Saturdays in the Baptist parking lot at Santa Monica and Sunset Cliffs at 7:30am and needs help with handing out food and providing comforting words to the homeless. Second Chances has been around for 15 years providing over 100,000 lbs of food, toiletries and hygiene products every year to those in need. After Second Chances is done in the parking lot, they take food to low income seniors. They are asking the community for our time and help. If you have no money but you have time to give, please attend one of these food handouts on a Saturday morning.
Thank you to all the facilitators, and to our local religious organizations for bringing this community together in peaceful collaboration last night. I look forward to seeing what comes of this meeting, and any future meetings/discussions.