Will Ocean Beach come together and do something about our homeless?

by on June 16, 2010 · 63 comments

in Culture, Homelessness, Ocean Beach, Popular

homeless guy hodads

Homeless man in front of Hodads. Photo by Sam Hodgson of San Diego CityBeat.

by Jack Hamlin

A week ago, I saw the article about the “Don’t Feed Our Bums” sticker. I was on my way out the door to conduct three days of restorative justice mediation training which involves methods of collaboration and reconciliation. I have to admit, I was a bit furious about yet another sign of intolerance and hate, and no, my mind has not changed regarding the character of the stickers, but my fury has subsided. After all, as a mediator, neutrality is one of our goals, regardless of personal feelings.

Lupe feed homeless 5-24-10 015-sm

Lupe Haley feeding homeless. Photo by Frank Gormlie.

And so rather than enter into the fray on these issues, and there are many here, and adding to the fire, engaging in more community polarization, I decided to take some time and reflect. And just maybe open a community door for a positive change. I still believe it is one of the core values in Ocean Beach.

I must admit, the vitriol from some of the contributors has me more than a little concerned. But it is good those who are upset are speaking out, rather than relying on a flash point incident which results in violence. The various views presented in the forum, however, are good indications we really do not know what the problem is.

anti-homeless sticker br 03

Controversial anti-homeless sticker sold by The Black. Photo by Bill Ray.

First off, who are the people we are talking about?

Some of the names I have read and heard are of course,” homeless,” “bums,” “tumbleweeds,” and more recently “scumbags.” All are labels which regardless of your perspective, come with negative connotations.

I have also been reading how there are different categories of these people and based upon which category they fall into, some of us are more tolerant to them than others.

The bottom line is, however, they are all people…human beings, flesh and blood, brothers and sisters. And as such they have within them the same core values and needs you and I have; love, respect, honesty, community, compassion, happiness, etc.

42-16242445So perhaps the first thing we, as a community need to do, is look these people in the eye and treat them as we would another human being. Whether that is saying, “good morning,” as you pass each other on the street, or you engage in a dialogue as to why you would like them to not block your business’ doorway.

That brings us to what they do. Some of these people are just there. We see them walking down the street, we see them sitting in the park or on the sea wall, using the beach and park as it is meant to be. They just do not fit into our preconceived media fueled notion of what people should look like when they go into public, particularly when they are carrying all their earthly possessions with them.

Some these people are exceptionally industrious. Some of the music I hear is quite good and I do not mind dropping spare change into the hat. I have seen them selling little crafts on the sidewalk to make money. I am always amazed at those who peddle their bicycles to the recycling center loaded down with our trash which they have collected to sell for future uses.

As for those we perceive as “trust fund hippies,” I ask who are you to judge why this particular young man or woman has opted out of our conventional world. I hear complaints about how they look like “hippies” but they use a debit card. It is a bit incongruous to complain about them being homeless, but paying their way. But that is entirely a different discussion.

On the other hand, there are those who do not work. I find it sad to see a man or woman deep in the depths of addiction with a little hand written sign asking for money for the next “fix” be it alcohol, meth or some other mind numbing substance. Of course, the behaviors they engage in when they are fueled with their substance of choice is something none of us want to be witness to, yelling, fighting, stumbling, etc. They are damaged, the source is not known, we do not care…simply take your damaged self out of my sight and my life. Is that who we are?

And yes, they urinate, defecate and whatever else in public. And yes, it is annoying, and yes it has the potential for disease. And yes we moved or work in this community because we like the beach, and for the most part, the sun, and all that comes with it. And yes, we do not like what those people do, but what do we do. We get angry, and we say angry things and we write angry letters, we polarize our community into a wonderful little for and against mentality…but what do we do, really?

Well actually we do a lot. All the churches in your community take the responsibility of feeding the homeless at least once every other week.

By the way when I have helped out, the second most popular aspect behind the food and sitting at a table is the bathroom. So I really do not think in my heart of hearts those who urinate and defecate outside do it by choice.

We have mobile clinics. We have outreach services. We collect food and supplies. And while these efforts are a part of the community, they are more specifically from the faith based community. It takes all the community, however, and not merely one part. We are fragmented in our efforts, and it does not take care of the greater problem of where. Where do we send these people to use a toilet, to bathe themselves and to sleep safely at night?

Which brings me back to the stickers. Somebody has done something. Not a positive something, but something nonetheless. Fed up with the inconvenience created by some of our people, and admittedly it can be a nasty inconvenience, a message of intolerance has been spread…and for a profit.

The Black, however you feel about it as a business is not counter-culture. It has been in the business of cashing in on the counter-culture for forty years. So get all the romantic “hippiness” out of your mind in discussing The Black. There is a reason it has managed to survive for forty years, and that is because it serves a commercial purpose to the community. But they have made a statement, albeit one of intolerance.

But I am glad they have…really.

When my students ask me constitutional questions about the Klan and the Neo-Nazis, I reply, let them march, let them spout their rhetoric of hate and intolerance, let them dress up in their bed sheets and kinky uniforms (yes that was judgmental). Better to know who they are and what their message is, than have them operate as some mysterious underground movement.

The stickers have provided the proper flash-point, unintentional and non-violent. Perhaps now we can begin a dialogue within the community to address the problems created by a segment of our community.

It will take work. It cannot be done alone. It cannot be done in a vacuum. A group of us tried and started, but fizzled a few months ago. But we tried.

So again, I will make this offer. If you want to be a part of the solution and want to look back at this time and said I did something, let me know. I believe we can do something, but the operative word is “do.”

Ocean Beach is a dynamic place, not stagnate. But above all, it has always been known as a community unto itself. We can keep it that way. We can keep our community, and we can make it one of which we are proud. The door is open…..

Jack Hamlin, a third generation OBeachen, former OB beat cop and retired trial attorney, is a teacher and works extensively in the field of Restorative Justice as a trainer, mediator, writer and speaker. He is active with his parish, the Sacred Heart of Ocean Beach.

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

doug porter June 16, 2010 at 11:51 am

thank you:
thank you for taking the time to sit down and lay out your thoughts. thank you for recognizing our homeless populations as human beings and individuals. and thank you for inviting the community to put their two cents in.


Ernie McCray June 17, 2010 at 3:22 pm

I echo Doug! Thank you for your caring and your skills at putting together the words we need to act out of our concerns which, pretty much for the homeless and those with shelter, are: a desire to have a better life. How we make that win-win for all concerned is up to us.


Peyton Farquhar June 16, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Since when did OB become PB? The same small but vocal minority who are behind the annual drive to ban booze on the beach are probably the same folks behind the don’t feed the bums sticker.


Jon June 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm



lane tobias June 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm

ya know, i just spent 4 days in san francisco, 2 in the haight, and before leaving I heard all kinds of warnings: “the haight is seedy at night be careful”; “the homeless folks in san fran are much more aggressive than in san diego, be careful”; “you’re staying on haight street????? (look of disgust)”. I got there, and realized that much like OB, Haight-Ashbury is a neighborhood strattling the line between gentrification, a few years of “blight” (in the eyes of some local or another), and a long history of being a tolerant counterculture center. Obviously the Haight has the monopoly on that, ie summer of love but from what I’ve gathered from my friends here in OB, our little hamlet shares a similar and almost parallel reality.

That being said, I didn’t feel threatened once. In fact, the Haight was QUIETER than OB at night, something I was not expecting. I did notice that yes, in fact, the street population in san fran was somewhat more aggressive than in san diego. So I wonder….what is all the fuss about, really?

i can’t help but think that while people can have their grievances and complaints……. those who would go out of their way to put up stickers like that or call someone a derogatory term without really knowing their story, well, they must want to live in a world that’s completely sanitized, away from reality. there’s that quote about OB being a few miles surrounded by reality and there is clearly some correlation between that mentality and all this anger directed towards the homeless. There are more homeless folks today than there were yesterday, and that statement is based on the fact that evictions and foreclosures are not going down, but are steadily increasing. People seem to be ignoring the fact that we live in California, which is where pretty much every drifter, transient, or tumbleweed aims to end up at some point or another. Some will go North, some will go South…and for the most part, many who come South come to San Diego, OB in particular. Its not going to change just because the tide seems to be bringing in more resentment and disgust than compassion and pity; in fact, the resentment will only get worse as time wears on if attitudes don’t change.

karma is a force to be reckoned with. Just remember before making blanket statements about a group of people who happen to come to OB because its one of the only places they feel safe.


Seth June 16, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Nice thoughts, Lane. Please allow me to riff off of them and throw in my three cents.

I spent 3 years living near the end of Haight at Golden Gate Park in 2002-2005, and certainly didn’t think it was all that “seedy” or “threatening”. Basically, it is a big tourist trap and even nearby residents don’t spend much time there. With that said, the houseless situation in that area, and city at large, was completely out of control at that time (just prior to Gavin Newsom’s “Care, not cash” platform that got him elected).

Between that experience, and my experiences living in other major cities (Vancouver, Boston), I have really come to think that homelessness is a pretty complex issue, and that much of the discourse on this blog the last few months demonstrates that. Not directed at you or anyone in particular, but I am wary of the people on either side of this who paint this in broad strokes.

Whether we are talking about the travelers in the Haight/GG Park or OB (many of whom are not even homeless, per se) or the more lifer crowd of SOMA/Tenderloin or the East Village, I don’t think there is much doubt that homelessness can get to a point were it seriously detracts from the quality of a local community, while also doing no favors for the homeless in question.

OB likes to think of itself as a “small town in big city”, but the truth is, we do live in a big city and have to deal with big city issues, and we face many challenges that other people have done before. Which brings me to my basic point here, which is that homelessness is a regional, if not national, problem that needs to be dealt with on that scale.

When the question is posed, “Will Ocean Beach come together and do something about our homeless?”, as this article does, my response is essentially, “OB does plenty. What will Rancho Bernardo do? Or the small tows that many of these people come from?” It’s just too easy for too many places to pawn off their share of the responsibility on a smattering of places that are more tolerant than they are, and I wonder how much we need to feed into that attitude by putting up the welcome mat. Other places that have gone too far in that direction, such as the Haight or SOMA or the East Village or East Vancouver or Skid Row in LA, have ended up completely and totally overwhelmed.

I don’t like seeing the viritrol directed at these kids and would like for some degree of services to be available to them, even here in OB, but as someone who is living in ground zero at the beach, and who has lived in other ground zeros of homelessness, I kinda get the resentment. I have sympathy for where a lot of them are at, but in terms of my behavior and the behavior of SOME of them, I don’t think it is me who needs the lesson in tolerance and being respectful of others.

Anyhow, kind of a rant, but IMO anyone concerned with this issue should probably want to focus more on what City Hall is doing than the merchants or residents of OB, who are dealing with some of the more negative aspects of this issue every single day. There are people who DO need help and services, and I am personally of the opinion that San Diego does less for them than other major cities.

But that isn’t The Black’s fault, IMO. Or OB’s.


lane tobias June 16, 2010 at 11:02 pm

i agree with pretty much everything you said here. i dont like the sticker and find it offensive, but at the same time I can’t imagine that the people who designed it thought there would be this much ballyhoo over it. I don’t paint broad strokes for other people, only myself…. i just tend to think the blanket statements seem to come from those who paint all homeless as bums, bums as homeless, etc, etc, rather than those who are trying to give these folks a little bit of a voice. really, the sticker itself is not really the problem but its the intent that comes when someone buys it and plasters it all over town that is the real issue. if i was starting to get fed up with the behavior of the bad apples in the crowd, im not so sure being so full of animosity would be the best way to change the situation.

all in all, this isnt an OB issue, its a city hall and sacramento and washington dc issue as seth said. theres no easy way to say it, but the reality vs sanitized existence thing is on full display here.


Jack June 17, 2010 at 6:50 am

Seth, thank you for your insights. I do appreciate it them and understand your position. I do wish to address a couple of points. You commented on how others problems have landed in OB, i.e. Rancho Bernardo. What is RB doing. Well, that is the point, we are a free moving society, no restrictions on travel. It is not like Joseph returning to Bethlehem. The people of whom I wrote are here, and they always will be in one form or another. So it has become a community problem.

As for City Hall helping out. I was not suggesting we do this work on our own, but rather we create the foundation for working up something City Hall cannot ignore and would be willing to work on with us. If we wait for the government for any amount of time, it will never get done…ever noticed the conditions of the streets in OB?

Good thoughts, please keep them coming.

Peace, Jack


john June 17, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Difference between RB and OB is that RB is not a community per se. They don’t have a chili cookoff or christmas parade or weekly market. They are an area of apartments, condos and homes where you are not likely to know the name of anyone past your next door neighbor.
Many of OB’s homeless came here after they were homeless, most however lived here at one time or another and stay around because they call it home.
Which brings up George Carlin’s point: They’re not homeless. They are houseless.
I’ve said this alot lately as our economy plunged and I’m sorry but it is never coming back- the way of life we used to have in America is gone forever, US commerce policies of the ’90’s facilitated the transfer of patents and manufacturing knowledge to China that generations of trial and error in the marketplace here had earned, and we cannot get that back. It’s far from rock bottom as the world is still technically on the “PetroDollar” standard. Factors will cushion a snowballing selloff of the dollar, (anyone quickly divesting only hurts the value of their own assets) but when it (a dollar crash) comes we are really going to be in a world of hurt. A rebuilding will occur afterward, though, and OB will still be here, with people pushing shopping carts amongst a few beachfront mansions built on the site where 500 monkeys once called home. (ode to Danny Morales)
BTW, watch out for El Nino. It’s about time for a 100 year flood.


see second pic!

Rising sea levels and a flood matching the above, which is hardly unprecedented..

Could be a lot of homeless folks after that.


Frank Gormlie June 17, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Great link, thanks. But you didn’t mention the Rainmaker, played by Burt Lancaster much later. BTW, that wasn’t an el nino, it was flooding caused by the rain produced by whazizname? Okay, history buffs, whom am I talking about?


Marilyn Steber June 19, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Are you thinking of a man named Hatfield? He was hired during a drought and the ensuing flood caused the SD River to rise high up the walls of Mission Valley according to an old timer who recounted it. I think it also wiped out a bridge.


Ernie McCray June 17, 2010 at 3:51 pm

The Haight, like OB, is one incredible community. I remember my last visit there a little over ten years ago. I arrived at night to visit and spend a couple of nights with a friend, so I couldn’t get much of a feel from what I saw – but when I got up the next morning and stepped outside for a walk I thought I had stepped back in time, a wonderful time, the 60’s, when so many dared to express notions of hope and promise out loud before the world. There were tie-died clothes and long hair and a sense of a slower funkier pace of life as far as the eye could see.
Now here we are all these years later with more opportunities to pursue a better world than one could dream, where people can organize in the comforts of their homes, where people can share positive ideas in communities like the OB Rag, where we can twitter and tweet and text and order a pizza with a soft click.
Once we learn to use this technology more for the good it can bring rather than call each other names and put down “categories” of people, we’ll be on to something worthwhile and our children, who are far more advanced than we are with these new world gadgets, could make the Planet what it’s supposed to be, the home of a world of people who love it enough to take care of it – together, no matter our ethnicities and creeds and beliefs.
Idealistic? Sho nuff is. But isn’t it the pursuit of ideals that allow us to settle into doing what it takes to realistically deal with the negativity that colors so much of our world and impedes our progress as a people?


Cherri Cary June 16, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I neither live nor work in OB, but spend lots of time there mostly because I like the vibe of acceptance and tolerance. When my adult children were small and we came to OB they learned not to be afraid of “street people” but to respect their need to live differently, possibly to be left alone and occasionally to behave in mysterious ways. Now that my younger son is himself a “different” kind of kid, we find OB again welcoming and non-judgemental place to hang out. The folks who seem to understand him best, and who have shown the most kindness toward his disability have been the (presumably) homeless folks, the muscians, the “bums” and the occasional panhandlers we have encountered.

Fact is, I choose to come to OB not despite these people, but really because they are part and parcel of the OB experience of tolerance and diversity.


Danny Morales June 16, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Thank you Cherri C.- May the blessings of the all under heaven fall ever so gently upon you and yours. More than a breath of fresh air…thank you Jack H.


Jack June 17, 2010 at 6:50 am

Thank you Danny….I will attempt to keep the air fresh.


Bob Hamm June 16, 2010 at 4:14 pm

When I was at SHA, the school was deeply involved with StandUp For Kids. I know that that involvement is not what it was, but I encourage you to contact StandUp For Kids as they have a real sense of the homeless youth in OB as they have been doing outreach with them for many years. They are organized and have many resources at their disposal, but are always ready to work with those in the community who are ready to reach out to the homeless youth.
May God continue to bless you in all that you do for your community


Jack June 17, 2010 at 6:54 am

Bob, you will be interested to know SH and SHA are beginning a new multi-year program called generations of faith which incorporates all the members of the SH Community in a lifetime effort of faith and work. The first year’s theme is Social Justice. We will not simply be talking, but doing. I have been working with Jeff Saavedra to figure out different programs we can integrate into the Academy. I will be sure to speak to him about StandUp for Kids.

Thank you for your thoughts.

Peace, Jack


Bob Hamm June 17, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Thank you for following up on this. I see no reason to reinvent the wheel on this one, especially when you have an organization like StandUp For Kids that has been in this business for many years and has much of the expertise needed by the community to work on solutions. SUFK is the largest organization of its kind in the US.


just sayin' June 16, 2010 at 4:56 pm

find it kinda ironic that so much anger on homelessness in ob is getting directed at the black, who are ob to the core, rather than… i dunno… a big liquor store that makes a big profit selling prodigious amounts of booze to homeless people day and night, no matter how f-cked up they are. and dont even get me started on pizza port. its like pb all hopped aboard the ss douchebag and sailed across the river to invade us.


just reply'n June 16, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Pizza Port! lol That was a funny (and honest) comment my friend! And here is some food for thought (no pun intended)….. What if the Black sold that same sticker but instead the sticker had an obese person and the sticker read, “ATTENTION Ocean Beach restaurants owners, PLEASE DO NOT FEED PEOPLE OF THIS SIZE”. Then what would you think? Remember, humans are humans.


just sayin' June 16, 2010 at 8:47 pm

as a big fat bastard, i would probably feel sad and unwanted. the sticker is in poor taste, and i wont be buying one. but i just have too many places in ob to boycott right now. wings, starbucks, arco, that noisy hot dog cart, blondstones, that big liquor store, pizza port, the eye doctor, that vet who makes people wait before overcharging them. i am running out of places i can to go to, man! gotta pick and choose at some point. good luck to the street kids, though. as long as they aren’t pooping on my sidewalk or stealing stuff out of my yard like this last winter, im good.


Frank Gormlie June 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Funny, funny, funny, should be a comedian at the comedy show at Winstons. In fact, can I use these lines … before Dave Sparling does?


just sayin' June 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm

fine with me. i already stole “chucklenuts” from dave after reading one of his posts here about bush. totally classic. i would also like to apologize to jack here for cluttering up the comments section here with such nonsense. it was a nice article and he is right.


Jack June 17, 2010 at 6:57 am

Hey Just Sayin’ ,

No worries at this end. I personally have found running around in sack cloth and ashes sort of put off. If we cannot have some fun while trying to do the right thing….maybe we aren’t doing the right thing to begin with….

Peace, Jack


Frank Gormlie June 16, 2010 at 10:08 pm

It just helps you to become an aware and conscientious consumer. It helps steer you through the maze of capitalism.


Goatskull June 16, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Sorry but I gotta disagree on that one. I live Pizza Port and am stoked they opened on in OB. Haven’t you ever been to the one up in Solona or Carlsbad? Haven’t you ever had any of their beers closer to home? I don’t think PP is in anyway shape or form anything like PB. It’s about time they opened one closer so one doesn’t have to go all the way to North County.


just sayin' June 16, 2010 at 10:50 pm

pizza port is alright, i guess. it just seems very out of scale, and a little out of character. i give casanova’s 4 more months.


Kenloc June 17, 2010 at 1:10 pm

At least they did something with that chitty red,graffitti strewn building that was the eyesore of ob.I give newport pizza and cassanovas six months


Abby June 17, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I haven’t eaten at Pizza Port yet, but they have a pinball machine, so they’ve already scored points with me!


john June 17, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Only if it’s 5 balls for a quarter, with a forgiving tilt sensor. This 3 for 50 cents thing has gotta go!


Abby June 17, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I’ve always preferred a 3 ball game, 5 is too many. If you’re any good 3 is enough!


Goatskull June 16, 2010 at 9:38 pm

I suppose the simple fact is that sometimes one needs to tolerate those who are intolerant and try to understand there side.


Jack June 17, 2010 at 7:02 am


I have wrestled with your comment in the past, and what it comes down to is two things, ignorance, and a lack of compassion for those who do not fit in to our particular worldview.

I have compassion for those who are intolerant, many of whom I will not change regardless of what I do or say. But I cannot accept their intolerance….hate the sin, not the sinner.

Certainly having an opposing point of view is not intolerance, unless the point of view is based upon ignorance.

Remember, as long as we are talking, we are not fighting.

Peace, Jack


Goatskull June 17, 2010 at 9:16 am

No worries. I don’t consider our disagreement fighting. I just feel that people shouldn’t automatically bash on those who express issues with the abundance of homeless. I don’t think it’s fair to call them hate mongers and accuse them of being full of vitriol just they express concerns about the large presence of homeless. Something about that just crawls under my skin. On another note read my post towards the bottom. If there is one thing I believe The Black thought about with the stickers is that we’d all be “discussing” this. Controversy sells. I bet the all calls for a boycott of The Black will only make the stickers more popular. I know this because I’m an old (48) punk rocker who used to enjoy offending people for the sake of offending.


Jack June 17, 2010 at 11:50 am


Perhaps I have should have been more accurate in points. There were a couple of posts which refered to the homeless as “scumbags” and wanted to run them out of town with pitch forks…that is hate speech, and that is vitriol.

I for one believe conflict is good. It is the only way we can understand what someone else believes. It is the manner in which we go about resolving conflict that is either good or bad.

As for an aging punk rocker…if I do not have at least one CD in the ride without the Clash or Joe Strummer at all times, it has been determined to be one of the signs of the apocalypse. It is, for real…I read it on the internet.



Goatskull June 17, 2010 at 2:26 pm

No worries again. I didn’t read all the posts but i can concure with calling them scumbags and such. That IS hate speach.

Ahh The Clash. Funny you said that. I’m listening to them right now at work and getting strange looks from the young uns.


bodysurferbob June 16, 2010 at 10:24 pm

the photo you used in this article perfectly captures the essence of the dilemma about ob’s homeless. Here’s the presumptive homeless guy with a can of beer in his bag walking across the front of hodads on a busy day where everyone at the counter is stuffing their mouths, and they all look a little overweight. how irconic (combo of ironic and iconic) …


just sayin' June 16, 2010 at 10:56 pm

i was gonna mention the dudes 40 oz. incidentally, as long as you can stand at a 40 degree angle when at the register, that store next door will sell you one.


Goatskull June 16, 2010 at 10:30 pm

One simple thing to consider. The more controversy these stickers create the more they will sell. The very fact that so many are offended by them will only prompt others to purchase them. Controversy and being offensive can be good for business. And isn’t that always kind of what the Black was about?


Goatskull June 16, 2010 at 10:40 pm

I also love Pizza Port (off topic I know). Those of you who don’t like it are closed minded and if you really think it brings PB culture to OB then you obviously have not spent a lot of time in PB (can’t say I blame you). It’s a San Diego creation so it’s not an evil corporate chain and has become renowned for their beer which is sold on tap at quite a few OB bars. I remember going there for its grand opening and talking to some dude who was complaining and compiling about it and how much better Newport pizza and ale house it (I like that place too). He had lived in OB for 20 years but somehow and never heard of Pizza Port. I guess he must have lived in an OB cave. Then of course it turns out he’s a MIchigan transplant. He goes on and on about how none of the customers in there were OB locals which of course was bullshit. Pretty much all of the people I talked to in there were very much OB residents. What a whiner.


BillRayDrums June 17, 2010 at 11:26 am

Pizza Port is a Solana Beach creation and pretty much is to PB what OB is to MB. But A/B is BS BTW. :D


Catherine June 17, 2010 at 7:37 am

Thanks Jack for taking the time to put all your thoughts here. Very thought provoking. This is one of those problems that can really seem hopeless, particularly in a budget-stricken city/county/state, where social service programs like homeless shelters and treatment centers are among the first to go. I know the churches seem to be the core providers in this area for the homeless. We have a big debate every year about where to put a city homeless shelter. Could we get a homeless shelter here in OB? What about residential treatment or sober living homes for folks trying to turn their lives around? I work with a lady who has done a lot of work on expanding access to treatment in residential areas. I could ask her for some input. Do we already have sober living homes here already? What about working with the organizers of the AA meeting spot on Bacon? I know there has been a teen shelter. Is it still here in some form. I work in the prevention field focusing on addressing community conditions that contribute to binge and underage drinking and drug abuse. Having an abundance of alcohol licenses is certainly a factor in chronic public intoxication problems, particularly for anyone struggling with addiction. I’d be interested to know whether the liquor store really sells to people who are intoxicated or under age. They seem pretty vigilant about clearing their sidewalk area (which they and all alcohol licensees are required to do as part of their license conditions). On the other hand, the front of their store is dedicated to cheap single serve products that facilitate drinking in public and in excess (99 cent minis, 2.50 flasks, Joose, etc.). Maybe the community could get together and reach out to them and other liquor stores and ask them to change that or at least reduce it. There’s a great model for this in other cities called a “Corner Store Conversion” and it’s designed to make liquor stores more of an asset to the community than a source of problems. Honestly, I cross the street when I approach that corner at night when a full day of drinking results in a rowdy group on that corner. Like Seth, I recognize that simply allowing homelessness to persist will inevitably have real and negative consequences for the quality of life in a community. I’m not talking about driving the homeless out of town. Seems to me that there needs to be some data collection to find out what the real issues are and who are the people living on the streets in OB. The goal being to identify what resources they need or what’s missing. Jack, since the churches seem to be doing the most, maybe we need a forum where we bring together the folks who lead those programs and ask them what they think? Or get a group together to interview them individually which can sometimes be more productive and less overwhelming for them. We could survey the homeless population to see what kind of services they would use. We need to talk separately with business owners to find out what exactly is going on that is so problematic for them and see if there aren’t some changes that could be made to address them. Due to above mentioned products, I don’t think it’s a mystery why so many homeless hang outside of the liquor store. Recognizing the difficulty of doing so, I think the goal should be getting people off the street and into a more stable situation. Because as much as we may want to tolerate and understand the homeless or those who just want to live a little differently, I don’t think living on the street is healthy for anyone or our community.

On a separate note, don’t trash Pizza Port. It’s awesome. I live here and I go there regularly as do several of my neighbors. There’s always a table. I’ve never seen a lot of drunk people pouring out of there, as compared to several other spots I could mention. And it’s one of the few bar/restaurants in the hood for people with kids. Otherwise, if people with kids want to go to dinner and have a beer, options are limited.


tj June 17, 2010 at 9:17 am

The term “Bum” is judgemental & implys the superiority of the accuser.


Abby June 17, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Where I come from it means “The Dodgers”!


BillRayDrums June 17, 2010 at 10:37 am

Awesome article!

I’ve thought about this quite a bit lately and know what? Every level of life has it’s share of bums. There’s the guy in the Armani suit who bums cigs off other smokers. There’s that chick at the bar who gets free drinks by batting her eyelashes and leading on the military guys. There’s the guy constantly calling and asking “How do I concatenate strings in a SQL statement?” The neighbor who is always asking to borrow your lawn mower. There’s that guy who always wants to come over and smoke a bowl. Like every day. We all know “that guy”. And we all secretly wish he would change. But we all know that unless someone tells him that he never will.

Here at the OB Pier, there’s the people during special events who “bum” the lawn where we live as if it’s their own private park. (…and inevitably leaving their trash, cig butts, and beer cans for us to clean…) Wonder how they would feel if someone did that in their backyards. The phrase I keep repeating here on the OB Rag (if not for my own personal mantra) is “be a steward, not a warden”…Stewards….not janitors…LOL!

Bums leave garbage. Bums ask you for things that they don’t have. Bums feel entitled to what is not theirs. Bums can walk the pier and keep walking til they get to Hawaii. Bums know who they are. Bums lack self-respect, the drive to better oneself, they set bad examples for others who follow them. Bums take up space. Bums are “that guy”.

Homeless is an entirely different paradigm. One can be homeless and still a functional member of the community. That guy Donnie who was the sweeper? Finally made enough $$$ to get back to Ohio to be with his kid. That’s freakin’ AWESOME. He did SOMETHING. And while his road to decline may have been long and tumultuous, he swung back with equal velocity and really “hit one out of the park”. And several merchants on Newport have actually said they miss him. Bum? Not hardly!

When I was younger and left home at 17 to go on the road with bands… barely surviving, a common tactic was to hit 7-11 and try to talk the people out of the heatlamp chicken because we were so poor. Had gas been any more expensive we’d have been stranded! If we couldn’t get the sympathies of the night clerk then we’d raid the dumpster when we saw him pitch it at shift change. Yeah, I’ve been there and never want to go back to that. I can sorta relate to the lifestyle that they endure on the accommodations end of things. And that’s where the contrast lies.

The concept of self-advancement kept a fire at my backside and I kept walking towards a goal of creating a life for myself that I can enjoy while “not working for the man”. What you see is 100% self-employed. IRS thinks I’m worth something because they keep sending me these wonderfully worded letters that I reply to with a love note of my own on a numbered piece of paper and a signature and an admonishment for them to “have a very beautiful day” in true genuine earnest. Where did all that lead? To a higher sense of self-respect for oneself. I care not where “my tax dollars” go because I really don’t want to think of the damage they are causing. Not just abroad in other countries, but to the people who “live off the fat of the land”.

I’m not generalizing here, so read carefully. When I see certain “travelers” on the streets begging for $$ and not even offering to provide something in return, I lose a little more respect for the entire lot of their “bracket”…youngish, prodigy of Pigpen (the peanuts character…not the Grateful Dead keyboardist..), got a dog (and perhaps a woman) latched on…what are they doing? Where are they headed? Methinks that without some “friendly counseling” many of these kids will end up multiplying, showing up with babies and little kids. Then what? What will the constant enabling of slackness and bum mentality produce? A rough life for a bunch of little ones, more divisiveness in the community between the so-called “haves” and “have-nots”? Tax dollars at work…..

I’ve sat and talked to one or two of them, who seemed disinterested in conversation and logic, opting more towards feeding the next buzz, or “where’s the next party” or whatever they deem important. Maybe I’ve talked to the wrong ones, or their normal preface greeting is “Hey man can you spare some change?”. Meh.

Most of us realize that there’s crossroads in life and we have all been standing there at some point. But at what point do you just want to say “Uh hey….life….yer doin’ it wrong”? “Hey “that guy”….stop being “that guy”…”

Then again, what is “wrong”? According to “the experts” making a living playing a musicial instrument is a bad, nee’ terrible choice of “sole occupations”. But what else could I do? Were it not for hitting things with sticks I shudder at the possibilities….cage fighter….professional stuntman….I’ll stop there. :D

Indeed, it’s not the greatest paying job in the world but money isn’t everything. I’d rather my wealth be measured in experiences and deeds rather than how much green stuff is stored away in the vault err…computer spreadsheet of some corporation that funds offshore oil disasters, congressional lobbyists, small shadow governments and puppet regimes.

So all that being said…the strapping 20-something with the incredible tattoos (good ink ain’t cheap) on his legs that asked me specifically “do you have $2.50?” as I walked down Newport the other day…to which I replied ”Sorry dude, I just spend it all on this nifty sticker”.

Bum is a mentality, not a person.


BillRayDrums June 17, 2010 at 10:46 am

Two more things: My sister was a “tumbleweed” in OB for years. Her final residence in OB was a tree at Robb Field. She died 3 years ago from the lifestyle.

A website Sarah and I built to raise money for homeless youth. Don’t think I’m too judgmental against anyone. Giving handouts of cash is not going to fix anything.


Jack June 17, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Wow, I could have not asked for more thoughtful or insightful responses. And as I think everyone is starting to see, this is a multi-faceted issue. I am not going away, but trying to distill everyone’s thoughts here, even those who do not necessarily agree with my position or outlook. The most important thing which has occurred is to give me the incentive to begin to move forward.

Next Tuesday, I have been invited to attend an ecumenical meeting with several of the local churches to discuss ways to address at least some of the issues. Afterward, I would like to set up a community forum to discuss concerns, and startegies. What we can do as a community, and what we as a community will need as help from other sources.

At this point, we do not really have a common goal….but we are in the beginning stages of process which may very well lead to some positive changes. Thank you all for your input, and thank you for showing me OB is still the place of my childhood.


justmy2cents June 17, 2010 at 3:40 pm

This isuse has been beat to death. it was beat to death 4 months ago and lots of statements were made then about helping. Just curious what was ever done?


Jack June 17, 2010 at 4:04 pm


Well, I have a meeting on Tuesday to hear from the church community about working together in a more integrated format. Once I have an opportunity to determine where they are coming from and what resources they bring to the table, then I plan on facilitating a community forum….well publicized, everyone with an opinion would be invited, perhaps have the SDPD come an sit as observers (they are part of the executive branch and this a legislative branch sort of thing…in other words, we should be giving them marching orders and not the other way around), perhaps some other from community programs….then from there, the Ocean is the limit….


Frank Gormlie June 17, 2010 at 7:03 pm

I’ll tell you what’s happened since:
*a bunch of folks, residents and homeless spoke at a meeting of the OB Town Council. The number one plea from the homeless there was public restrooms.
* Anti-homeless fliers appear.
* Meanwhile, a Christian women who was feeding the homeless every Monday was forced out of the park by police – to find refuge in a local church’s parking lot where she continues to feed some of them.
* A local head-shop started selling anti-homeless stickers and making a small profit off the anti-homeless attitude of some.
* Worst economy since Great Depression continues; local OB merchants are struggling (except Hodads, Pizza Port)
* Warm weather arrives in OB (June Gloom included)
* Local blog voices indignation over anti-homeless sticker and ignites online discussion.


Goatskull June 17, 2010 at 8:48 pm

“* Worst economy since Great Depression continues; local OB merchants are struggling (except Hodads, Pizza Port)* Worst economy since Great Depression continues; local OB merchants are struggling (except Hodads, Pizza Port)”

And South Coast.


Kenloc June 18, 2010 at 11:28 am

and Starbucks.Always a crowd in there!


justmy2cents June 17, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Yeah I was at that meeting. I heard a lot of people speak about helping, being a mentor, opening up homes for the homeless, and a variety of other ways to help the urban travlers…..I had not heard or seen anything coming from it….Did I miss a post/blog or something ???
All the things mentioned above are of a negative nature…..Something positive must have happened from several hundreds responses on this site concerning the tumbleweed kids from 4-5 months ago ….
Jack I will look forward to your update.


Catherine June 18, 2010 at 8:18 am

So, because an intractable problem like homelessness hasn’t been resolved after one meeting 4-5 months ago, it’s a waste of time to discuss it further or strive for solutions? Sometimes, actually, pretty much always, positive change requires time, ideas and plenty of healthy conflict to achieve. And even then we’re talking modest, incremental change. I appreciate your point of view, but think your expectations are unrealistic.


Jack June 18, 2010 at 9:00 am

Good morning Catherine

Thank you for your input. I believe you have put a realistic spin on otherwise altruistic efforts. But I do not believe JustMy2Cents (I am going to call him or her “Bob” from now on) is lambasting those who have tried with no effect nor is suggesting we simply throw in the towel. In fact his final line about interest for an update speaks volumes.

One of the recurring themes I am seeing regardless of point of view is varying degrees of frustration with the situation. And perhaps we should start from that point as one of the aspects of our conflict. I have quit using the phrase “conflict resolution” as an identifier for what I do, and have opted for the phrase “conflict transformation.” I believe it is healthier and realistic. We are in the first stages “Bob” and Catherine, but we are recognizing the issues and willing to work together.

Now I truly need some more coffee….Peace,


justmy2cents June 19, 2010 at 8:57 pm

5 months and no positive remarks about anything being done……ok keep me posted.


justmy2cents June 20, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I guess you think I said ” resolved” I did not . I simply asked for one positive thing that has happened from all the dialog. I can’t see that it has gotten any better maybe worse.
Has even one group of the travlers been helped in any way, shape or form ? Has any of them laid off the weed or booze ? Have any of them offered time or effort to the community? Has any of them formed a clean up team to walk Newport on occassion and pick up trash?
I just think there has been a lot of talk about helping them help themselves but see no positive end result.
I will be anxious to see what the next few weeks brings.


Patty Jones June 20, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Sorry, didn’t see where you used the word “positive”…


Jim Grant September 28, 2011 at 10:34 am

Just curious as to how the battle is going with the homeless in Ocean Beach. This topic was very heated for months but nothing seems to have happened. Unless I missed it. And that may be I moved to La Costa a few months ago. Has a local effort been made to home the street kids ?


Frank Gormlie September 29, 2011 at 11:21 am

Jim, while you were away, all the homeless were made honorary members of the OB Town Council, and now they sit on boards of restaurant owners and bars trying to figure out how to squeeze even more beer fests into OB’s shrinking social calendar.


Jack September 29, 2011 at 11:52 am

Is it me, or does Jim Grant sound an awful lot like that “justmy2cents” guy/gal. You know the one who is always whining about nothing getting done, but he/she never does or says anything positive. Well now you have La Costa (sounds like your proud of your relocation to the upper crust), and perhaps you can be just as negative with all those folk up north.

As for what was accomplished….

1) A summer of violence was averted;
2) The inter-faith community has been coming together to develop joint community solutions;
3) The “Bum” stickers have all but disappeared;
4) The community of OB came together and small groups are working on practical solutions during a time of economic downturn;
5) And Jim Grant moved to La Costa.

That seems to me a pretty good start….


Kenloc September 29, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Actually,the homeless sticker hasnt gone away.The Tshirt shop up the street from theBlack ( The one that was selling tshirts with the migrant crossing sign on it) has taken to selling a white t shirt with the bums logo on it.They even display the shirt out on the side walk.I noticed it at the Farmers Market Yesterday.


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