On San Diego Homeless Awareness Day, the Peninsula Beacon Missed the Point

by on September 7, 2016 · 1 comment

in California, Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Homelessness, Life Events, Media, Ocean Beach, San Diego

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Local Newspaper Sends Out Mixed Message About Homeless

About 3 weeks ago, August 17th was the “San Diego Homeless Awareness Day” – a day set up by various media sources around San Diego to bring a new awareness of those less fortunate and who live on the streets and in the shelters.

And about 20 of San Diego’s media sources carried or ran or printed or published 40 or so articles and posts about the homeless and homelessness today.

The OB Rag – along with our sister publication, the San Diego Free Press – joined this effort to highlight the plight of our area’s citizens who have no home, other than the streets, and we both posted a series of articles from the writers of the SDFP and OB Rag. (For other articles from the publications on the homeless, visit the SD Homeless Aware website.)

Many of the articles and posts painted and reflected compassionate understandings of the homeless and their plight, with efforts to examine the underlying reasons for so many homeless in one of the richest nations on earth. This day of awareness followed – by a little over a month – a serial murderer who preyed on sleeping homeless men in San Diego.

So, there was a sense among media sources here in town that the press had not done enough to bring a more enlightened attitude among the citizenry of the houseless.

One of the OB Rag’s neighboring publications, the Peninsula Beacon, also joined – or tried to join – this collaborative media spotlight on the homeless, in an article by Dave Schwab published around August 17th, titled, “Peninsula residents upset with homeless population“.

In perhaps an attempt to find balance, Schwab instead sent out a very mixed message in his article, a message that we believe missed the whole point of San Diego’s Homeless Awareness Day.

In the article, Schwab recounts his interviews with three “Peninsula community leaders” – two of whom have decent ideas and understandings about the homeless. It was the third interview, with a former head of the Point Loma Association, that we found most disturbing – giving the article a sour aftertaste.

This community leader – whom Schwab quotes at length – has such farfetched ideas of homeless people – especially those who panhandle from the medians – that we wonder why Schwab gave him so much press. Was it to point out just ignorant some people are? Or was it to shower these panhandlers with so much disgust that we’ll never give change out to those along the road?

At any rate, this community leader told Schwab that the older type of homeless people in Point Loma were being replaced by” traveling kids”, and said:

“These are your soul-searching, hybrid hippies. A lot of them have very bad attitudes and are very disrespectful and sometimes combative – which is disturbing.”

And Schwab reports on this community leader’s one-time observation of a group of panhandlers counting their donations after “begging” at a Point Loma bar-restaurant.

“They would work the Rosecrans-Nimitz corner, and they’d come into the bar-restaurant afterward and would be buying filet mignons and expensive pitchers of beer and shooting pool,” after gathering “more than $800” according to the community leader.

And supposedly, one panhandler told this community leader – and now we have 3 levels of hearsay (this is Schwab reporting on what the community leader was told by a homeless guy):

“We can do this every day. Why would we want to go to a homeless place where you have strict rules, have a 5 p.m. curfew and are expected to go out and get a job?”

Schwab is just giving this community leader – who it turns out is a Point Loma realtor – more line and recounts him saying:

“If you got $850 a day standing on the corner seven days a week, you’d be doing as good than most professionals. I was kind of speechless. It was really unbelievable to see the potential of what they could really do.”

“There’s a whole encampment of them sleeping over there and working the medians.”

Then reporter Schwab allows his community leader even more slack, and actually has him quoting some friend of his who lives up the hill above Sabatini’s Liquor Delicatessen on Rosecrans for an enlightened view of how homeless men and women interact. So now we have Schwab quoting the community leader quoting his friend (3 levels of hearsay):

“He told me they have women in the mix, who have much more potential, especially if they’re younger.”

Okay, now we have to ask: how is re-quoting this supposed community leader’s ridiculous observations and opinions on the homeless – a view he came to hold after watching this homeless group “once” – help us in a new awareness of the homeless?

Yes, the other two interviewed had much more reasonable and stable views – go read them (although one of them wants people to stop giving dollars to median panhandlers).

So did a lot of San Diego’s media sources – but why did the Beacon feel it necessary to print this piece that works to undermine any compassion for those without roofs over their heads? (Did not even mention the photo that accompanied the article – a very unsympathetic photo of a young homeless guy sleeping on the OB Wall with stupid signs next to him, with the overall result leaving the viewer not in a very compassionate mood about the homeless.)

We showed the Beacon article to our colleagues at the San Diego Free Press – particularly those who have written about the region’s homeless. Here are some of their reactions. Jeeni Criscenzo – who has done extensive work on behalf of the homeless and who advocates the tiny homes sent us this comment:

Kinda doesn’t help my case for tiny home shelters when he pushes the idea at the end, after spouting off uninformed nonsense about homeless folks earning $800 a day panhandling and ordering filet mignon. Grrrrr

Another one of our editors was more to the point, in referring to the quoted community leader:

The motherfucker with the $850 a day needs to be called out. What restaurant did he see this in? When? Can we go see this happening? Why won’t he take us?

One of our writers on the underlying basis for homelessness, John Lawrence, told us this:

Until there is widespread agreement that homelessness is a societal phenomenon that needs a comprehensive solution that much taxpayer money needs to be devoted to, the problem will continue to grow and fester. Until then most people will just be in denial and try to sweep the problem under the rug when they are not denouncing the homeless for crapping up their back yard.

Writer Bob Dorn advised:

Somebody quoted in the link pointed out that $800 of donations in a day adds up to $292,000/year (enough to buy a North Park bungalow after two and a half years). Humor would be good in this case.

At any rate, here we are – not quite a month since San Diego’s Homeless Awareness Day – and of course, we still have homeless people. Nothing has changed … or has it? Is there now more awareness of this group of our fellow Americans – a third of them veterans – then there was a month ago?

My sense is that if folks who complain about the homeless spent as much time pressuring our elected leaders to do something substantial about the homeless as they do complaining, we may not have as many homeless citizens.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Avatar Dave Schwab September 8, 2016 at 3:52 pm

As a newspaper reporter, it is my job to be fair, impartial and objective. Just like Star Trek, there is a sort of non-interference directive involved there. Journalists are observers, not players participating.

The views of people quoted in stories we write are THEIRS, not necessarily ours. Just like there are lots of different types of homeless, from those who are totally victims of circumstances to those who are entirely responsible for how and where they are, i.e. serial inebriates.

There seemingly is a panhandler on every corner. Are all of these people truly down and out, or are they just doing this as an easy way to survive while avoiding working? I have heard police testify, from personal experience, that panhandlers are working in shifts on corners, spelling one another then sharing the proceeds at the end.

Meanwhile, East Village downtown is an entire neighborhood comprised of people living on the street in pup tents without even decent sanitation. Why don’t people complain about THAT.

And why doesn’t local government do something about it, like providing porta potties?

And concerning the new, younger type of homeless, essentially itinerant youth passing through, you could go to OB any day of the week and see them in full view. Typically, it’s a couple with a guitar and a dog in tow. It’s high time society stopped “talking” about the homeless situation, and actually started “doing” something about it.

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