I spent five years living in vehicles at the beach in San Diego.
I knew the cops, I knew the dealers and I knew the homeless.
I was upper class, because I managed to hang onto a vehicle. I made gas money by driving a hooker to her johns. I was elated when the courts told the SDPD to stop ticketing people for being on the streets. (The police have decided in practice that court order no longer applies).
Here’s how it goes down. The homeless get a ticket. They don’t go to court. They have a warrant issued. They are arrested and jailed. They learn from their fellow inmates how to steal, how to use stolen credit cards, and how to get along in jail. It would be much cheaper to send them to San Diego State, but that’s not going to happen.
My favorite SDPD unit is the HOT Team. These are Homeless Outreach cops that go around in a big utility van. If they find someone who wants to go to a shelter or rehab, they tell them to meet them a certain spot at 9AM the following day. Sometimes the cops don’t show. I know. I tried twice. I was there one time both times.
Now many of the homeless could use some serious mental health help. Many are drug addicts. Many are both.
I’ve got a question for you. If you were on the streets, with no hope, would you lose your mind, start taking drugs or all of the above? The homeless drinkers are not much different than the sheltered drunks.
Many of the homeless are devout Christians. “ Pie in the Sky when you Die.”
Some are quite accomplished musicians. My friend Sky wrote a song about being homeless and sang it the San Diego City Council. They were impressed. It was a haunting song about being haunted by the police.
There is a good friend of mine that has lived on the beach in her Ford van for ten years or so. For the years that I was on the street she supplied me and about 50 others with clothes that she collected from Buffalo Exchange and other places. She is a sincere Christian and puts up with people that would scare you or me big time. She’s old enough to collect Social Security and young enough to skate and dance with joy and elegance.
San Diego is rightfully proud of their new permanent homeless shelter. It holds on the order of 200 people or so. But there are another 8,000+ homeless that are not going to fit in there. Chances are good the other 8,000 are not going to be sheltered in this lifetime. They are in many cases not going to have a place to shit or shower. And they are going to be in your life, whether you have to step over them or not.
There are wonderful ladies of the Catholic Workers and the Methodist Church that help feed and clothe the homeless every week. Some can even find a hot shower now and then.
The department appointed by the City of San Diego to deal with the homeless is the Police Department. They have no tools to help the homeless. But they have plenty of tools to hurt.
This originally appeared at San Diego Free Press.