Local OB Churches to Organize Community Forum on Homelessness

by on June 23, 2010 · 34 comments

in Culture, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Popular

by Jack Hamlin / Special to the OB Rag / June 23, 2010

Yesterday (6/22/10), I was invited to attend a meeting of OB’s local faith community. The purpose of the meeting was a beginning point to discuss and work together with the community to address homelessness in OB and all the attendant issues. In particular, there was an overriding concern the current sentiments by some could lead to violence in our community.

The meeting was called by Rev. Tom Ziegert, Pastor of Point Loma United Methodist Church on Sunset Cliffs Blvd. In attendance at the meeting were, Rev. Gwen Fruend, Pastor of All Souls Episcopal Church, Rev. Karen Marohn, Pastor, and Josh Serrano of St. Peters by the Sea Lutheran Church, Fr. Ron Hebert, Pastor of the Sacred Heart of Ocean Beach Catholic Church, Rev. Larry Bausch, Pastor of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Rev. Steve Drescher, Pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church, Rev. Don Leaf, Associate Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ocean Beach, and Glyn Franks of Second Chance Ministries.

The discussion was wide ranging, but the focus was peace within the community in which no person or group is marginalized. To that end, it was agreed the faith community will sponsor a community forum to discuss homelessness in OB. It was also agreed the forum is a beginning, not an end, and the focus is on collaboration and transformation. There will be more than one meeting and all stakeholders will have an opportunity to be heard and counted. I have been asked to hold back on the specifics of the meeting until some logistical aspects are worked out, but I am pleased to report, we are moving forward and not waiting for another flashpoint which could lead to a violent encounter.

At the conclusion of the meeting, I asked if we could make a public statement which would convey the position of the faith community in Ocean Beach. The following is what was decided upon:

“We recognize the complexity in our community of homelessness. We regret the polarization which has occurred in our community which is making it difficult in addressing these issues. We look to our community to come together to work on transforming the issues before us.”

And so, I am personally asking for all sides of the many issues which are before us to allow calm heads to prevail. If you wish to protest or picket, please do so civilly and with respect toward the rights of others. And this includes the right to disagree with your particular position. If you respond to this post, please do so without anger, vitriol and finger-pointing, this will only lead to further polarization and isolation of what have now become factions. Talk with and listen to each other. Acceptance has always been a part and parcel of the Ocean Beach soul.

We should celebrate our differences and not allow them to tear us apart. John Lennon sang it best….”Give Peace a Chance.”

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Ernie McCray June 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Amen! Hallelujah! And a Right On!


doug porter June 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I wonder if anybody from the Black will attend? Now that they’ve made all this money off the controversy, you’d think they’d be there, right?


justmy2cents June 23, 2010 at 8:11 pm

please re-read 2 nd to last paragraph.


psd June 23, 2010 at 1:39 pm

What’s this now, a constructive approach to dealing with homeless issues? Madness!

As I see it, there are two main, yet completely separate, facets of the homeless issue. The first is providing access to needed services such as restrooms (which was brought up the last time one of these forums was attempted). The second is how to discourage the negative behavior from the minority that’s causing the community backlash against the homeless as a whole population, or how to discourage the troublemakers from settling here.


Frank Gormlie June 23, 2010 at 1:52 pm

As it turns out it’s only the leftist radicals and progressives along with the true Christians who care about the homeless to actually have a meeting about the issue.


Abby June 23, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Maybe they need to print up some stickers so people will care about it.


Chris Moore June 23, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Hah! Good one :D

I would like to attend the next one, the rate things are going I may actually be homeless myself by then, so I’ll be highly motivated for once ;)


Andy June 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Unfortunately, most of the “homeless” chose to live this way……..Why work when people give you money if you ask for it? They can live in the best climate on the planet, on the beach, for free! We have heard this a million times ! They make X amount of dollars begging on the street, so why work?? So, stop giving them your hard earned cash people !!!!!!!!!!! They will just drink it away, go get puppies and let them crap on our sidewalks. It really is a simple solution. Stop feeding the fire. Who cares if they move on to another locale? Thats how they came to be here! If all the bleeding hearts would just freekin’ stop giving these beggers money…..let them figure it out on there own…it will happen if you give it a chance.


Tom June 24, 2010 at 9:12 am

Andy, I’ll have to say your perspective is interesting. I assume that you have spent winter nights sleeping on the street in downpour because there is no place to stay. I have not done that, so I will have to defer to you on how wonderful a life style that is.

I volunteer four days a week as an attorney working with the homeless (I know that probably makes me a bleeding heart liberal in your opinion), but I invite you to come down and spend a day or two with me and see if your perspective on the homeless changes. My bet is that it will.


Chris Moore June 23, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Having gotten to know a few of them, that’s a radical oversimplification.

It’s certainly true of some (the “traveler kids”), but for most it’s a combination of problems (major depression and alcoholism are a popular combo) & bad breaks that lands them in a vicious cycle that they can’t find a way out of.

And once they’ve been on the street a couple years, they learn not to care anymore.

People like to say “get a job,” but it’s not like there are a lot out there at the moment.

And *nobody* in this town wants to hire some guy with dirty clothes and bad teeth (you can’t get a job as an elephant-poop scooper in this town with ugly teeth lol) that hasn’t shaved and smells like last night’s beer at 8am.

There are plenty of people looking for work nowadays that are safer bets for an employer than some guy who sleeps on a fire escape.


Kenneth Legg June 23, 2010 at 4:38 pm

that’s not last nights beer they smell like.The liquor store opens at 7)


Chris Moore June 23, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Probably true.

Then again if I end up out there I’ll probably want to be drunk all day too heh ;)


Sunshine June 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm

ahhhhhhhhh, leave it to you, Jack, to propose an actual solution-oriented, peacable forum. Well done. You can count me in!


Cathe Burnham June 23, 2010 at 3:42 pm

I would love to be involved in this forum. I’m a masters student @ USD and my summer project is this exact issue in OB. The class is called Community Organizing and Change. My professor is Rev. John Hughes. Would love to be part of a team to foster relationships between organizations and the community.


Shane Finneran June 23, 2010 at 6:13 pm

I agree with your point that no one — most notably those who claim OB has more street kids than before — has provided any statistics or other proof. So far, the discussion has been limited to personal observations and anecdotes, which are worth about as much as an empty aluminum can. Also agree that crime-related complaints regarding drunkenness and drugs and public bathroom-going are police enforcement issues.

But just FYI, the snide tone of your post takes away from your argument — as do some of the more ridiculous points you make.

Suggesting anyone personally provide lodging to homeless, for example, is like saying “if you’re concerned about crime why don’t you don a superhero outfit and start fighting it?” Ripping on this site’s defense of the fire pits downplays an issue that is serious enough to have garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations over the last two years. Perhaps most objectionably, your proclamation “Only centralized services work” is delivered with no supporting evidence…should community members just take your word on that and stop thinking about what we can do in OB?

Deep breaths, Lisa, deep breaths! No need to put the Be-ach in Ocean Beach.


Chris Moore June 23, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Good post, it was honest.

I would vote for a shelter I don’t care if it’s on my block, then again half these folks sleep on the end of my street anyway, that is why I have become familiar with the subject.

Sometimes I try to help, often as not I end up regretting it.

There are no simple answers otherwise it wouldn’t merit all this discussion.


lane tobias June 23, 2010 at 11:04 pm

as someone who works directly with homeless individuals and organizations that work solely to improve the lives of the less fortunate, i can tell you that centralized services for the homeless is NOT a priority for the city. it has been a priority for council members (particularly ours) to demand that “in fairness” the location of this supposed permanent homeless shelter be researched to lessen the “impact” on the community in which it is built, but all that has done is prevent it from being built.

if this was a priority, there would already be one. its a shame that in a city of over 1 million people, there is no year round city or county run center for the homeless. all it proves is that politicians play off the fears of their constituents to dilute the conversation and enable this to be delayed by decades. should there be a public homeless shelter in OB? yes. PB? yes. downtown? east village? yes. Rancho Bernardo??!!? yes. but why isn’t there? because people don’t want their “tax dollars” going to “bums”. by delaying the process and sanitizing communities by thinking that we just need to “get these folks out” rather than build a local service center that people can access year round, it opens up places like OB to exactly what most people are complaining about. circular logic breeds blockheads…….


Chris Moore June 23, 2010 at 11:50 pm

I think a set of small decentralized shelters or “safe houses/dorms” would work better and have a smaller footprint in each community than a large centralized system. It would also deal with the problem at a local level and more efficiently weed out the people who are simply a menace to the neighborhood.

But City Hall, they want the grand plan, and of course they a;so want their buddies to get greased well on the contracts ;)


LisanOB June 24, 2010 at 10:52 am

@Shane – forgive my frustration but I’ve provided info and posts to previous articles on this very topic and it is clear that the majority of the bloggers except for Lane….really avoid the discussion about solutions and default to arguing about human/civil rights or even worse…have just focused on the sticker. If all of this negative energy could be focused on a solution, we’d be half way there by now. The spectacle thus far has only served to bring the Rag noteriety and apparently from The Black’s most recent post – a lot of cash. Yet….no temporary solution, no real statistics on homelessness in OB and no position from the community on whether or not to support ongoing efforts to approve a permenant shelter and location of that first shelter.

@Lane — Not being argumentative…so bear with me. I didn’t mean to say it has been a long time priority…it clearly hasn’t. SD is the 5th largest city in the nation and doesn’t have a solid homeless program or a permanent shelter. Both get an F in my book. The Office of the Mayor has never made this a priority but City Councilmembers have made it a priortiy but keep getting stymied. The Mayor would love to act as if SD doesn’t have a problem. But SD does have a problem – I’m not certain that OB does have a problem. To offer proper assistance would require a full program….not just food and beds. Food and beds is only managing the problem and doesn’t actually get people off the street. Programs like Denver that revolutionized homeless programs in the nineties focused on getting the people off the street who actually have a chance of turning their lives around. That program has been replicated in many cities and has a success rate that is proven. Having a shelter in 40 communities is NOT effective and would clearly be a tax burden well above what would be effective.

and last….. @Chris — I would much rather my tax money be working to provide me with a park, better storm drains, better roads or better libraries and public facilities than continuing to support the lifestyles of the transient/homeless that have no intention of ever getting help or changing and are just resolute on living out their lives on the street. That is clearly tax money wasted.

and last last….just so it is clear. My opinion is that both sides of the sticker controversy are in the wrong. Neither side really providing solutions because I don’t see any of these “prominent” community leaders at any of the many hearings I sit through on the subject here at city hall. I see other people ALL the time down here representing OB and that are vested in the discussion at hand. Sounds like this group should be more in-touch with those people, because they are ones we are listening to in order to make decisions.


Ernie McCray June 24, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Boy, that was a lot said but “solutions” don’t just happen in a moment. The sticker situation has been a trigger in this stage of OB’s homeless problem, creating a debate that’s put a lot on the table and has gotten some people more involved into finding solutions, skilled mediators like Jack Hamlin. It’s one step at a time. Often people who work on causes do so for practically a lifetime and don’t ever live to see the kinds of solutions they’d like but they give what they can and hope some kind of momentum carries forward while they’re gone.
Rather than condemn the “prominent” community leaders, I would just encourage them to find ways to deal with the problem beyond the current “noise.” We’re talking about people who have given their all to OB for many years whether or not they’re at city hall or not.
One step at a time.


Jack June 25, 2010 at 3:16 pm


Thank you for the endorsement…although you are assuming facts not in evidence (yet) about my abilities as a mediator.

But the point I really appreciate you making, and I cannot emphasize this enough, is change does not happen overnight. And in this particular set of circumstances, the issues are a lot more fluid and subject to change. What I hope we all can do, those of us who are interested in addressing the issues, is to realize whatever we come up, whatever we do, will be an ongoing process. I am certain it will take an attitude modification on the part of almost all who are involved.

What I have seen here for the most part has been very constructive dialogue…great! It is such a very positive start. Let us keep the idea of construction over destruction going. We are at the bottom of the metaphorical mountain, and when we reach the top, well those shadows we saw are the bigger one behind.

We will not “fix the problem.” I do not believe we have even defined “it” yet. What I am hoping for is a transformation on number of levels which will enable us to live in a relative peaceful coexistence in this very eclectic enclave.

And Frank….for those of us who suffer from Dan Quayle syndrome…could you put a spell check aspect in this blog?


Kenloc June 24, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I guess what really needs to be looked at is other cities comparable in size to San Diego that have permanent shelters. Where are the shelters located,how did they affect the area it was placed, did it help reduce the amount of homelessness,etc. Has the city done such a study? Are there other cities we can look to as a template for what we are trying to accomplish here?


doug porter June 23, 2010 at 10:25 pm

thanks for the hate. haven’t seen such venom since the “bull connor” days. if it’s such a “joke” why was there so much hatred expressed? y’all showed your hatred for the world to see. case closed.
oh, and for those of you who don’t know better, the First Amendment applies to Government prohibitions/limitations on freedom of expression, not consumer boycotts. the State governments in Alabama and Mississippi found that out the hard way back in the segregation era.


Citizen Cane June 23, 2010 at 11:23 pm

I don’t think we get by with just a centralized homeless facility. Sure we could use a really good hub, but we’d still need neighborhood branches. And we’d still need a dual track of pubic and private (state and church.) That doesn’t mean we can’t sometimes mix the two. Locally we need church folks and the heathens to work together on this. The churches can act as a conduit for charity from the unchurched members of the community. Traditionally this has been done with church rummage sales open to the public. Perhaps we just need more sales events, and the churches working together on parking and storage issues. I’m thinking themed events, like book sales one month, beach toys another month, home and garden, etc.


denine hunt June 24, 2010 at 7:47 am

I am encouraged to read this and look forward to having the opportunity to work together with my fellow community members to try and tackle this very complex social issue.


OB Cindi June 24, 2010 at 8:00 am

Rev Tom Ziegert of Point Loma Methodist and his congregation have been actively assisting those in need and deserve a standing ovation. I wish the portapotty on their grounds would return, but in the meantime, I see Rev Tom Ziegert not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. It’s great to hear that the community churches are coming together to help this community find it’s path back to charitable contributions and peaceful solutions.


Chris Moore June 24, 2010 at 9:16 am

I didn’t know the name of the Rev. there before now, but I know they do a lot of good work (they’re right on my block.)

I miss the porta-john too, there has been a noticeable uptick in, err, biohazards in the alley since it’s been gone.


Citizen Cane June 25, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Do no harm…don’t give cash to panhandlers. That should be the goal of people on both sides of the sticker squabble. In the past local merchants had a ticket program to encourage people to give OB coupons instead of cash. I think that that project fizzled, but the goal was spot on. We need to stop cash from going to alcoholics and addicts, and we need to eduacate our visiting tourists why we need them to cooperate on this. “No cash in the pan” should be the next sticker from the Black. Build a small army of legitmate charity donation boxes. Put them on the counters of most merchants along with signs explaining our “no cash” policy in Ocean Beach. Maybe we call the program Indirect Charitable Services (ICS.) The funds would go to the Ecumenical group for distribution.


Citizen Cane June 25, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Hey Frank,
what’s up with the posting format? New comments get thrown in a time warp to the middle of other posts….

Not all shelters are created equal. Some years back I was asked to be a chaperone at a homeless slumber party at a church. The program was targeted at people with a high probability of success. The goal was to give a hand up, not a hand out. All of the homeles were employed or honestly seeking a job. It was maybe 20 people at the most. Some were couples. I doubt the local community ever knew we were there. They got dinner, a place to clean up, sleep safely, and a simple breakfast. I think they rotated around a network of Episcople churches. There was no drugs, alcohol, or panhandling. They didn’t smoke outside the building, but could in their cars if they wanted to. It was a rather Darwinian program for a church, but I like the idea of making the easy rescues before the people sink too deep.


Frank Gormlie June 25, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I noticed that. Time to have our tech desk take a look. Thanks for the heads up.


Sunshine June 25, 2010 at 10:26 pm



Sunshine June 25, 2010 at 10:47 pm

did you read this, Mayor Sanders? Obama is calling YOU to lead the charge here. What does San Diego have in place, if anything, regarding its current 5000+ homeless population?

“Working together, we can connect public and private resources—consistent with principles of fiscal discipline—to finish the effort started by mayors, governors, legislatures, nonprofits, faith-based and community organizations, and business leaders across our country to end homelessness. The Federal Strategic Plan provides a clear path to get there.”
from the Opening Doors policy (overview section) just released by the US Interagency Council on Homelessness…http://www.usich.gov/ .


gail powell July 6, 2010 at 12:39 pm

there will also be in attendance, one of the Homeless Ministry Leaders from the Rock Church in Point Loma. Many of the local Church members do homeless feeding and outreach on their own. It is important for them to know what this meeting holds for the future of the “Do Something” ministries.


Jim Grant September 28, 2011 at 10:36 am

Where has this gone in all these months ?


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