High School Senior Says: ‘Something Needs to Be Done About OB’s Homeless, But Talking Bad About Them Is Not the Answer.’

by on April 9, 2021 · 9 comments

in Homelessness, Ocean Beach

Editordude: The following post about homelessness in Ocean Beach was written and sent to us by Eliana Phillips, who is a senior at High Tech High International. For her class’ final project they had to write about an issue they care about and she chose to write about homelessness in OB.  The final part of their project was to send their of writing to a local newspaper so she chose to send it to the OB Rag – and we’re so glad she did. Check it out.

By Eliana Phillips

Homelessness in Ocean Beach has been a long standing issue but it has recently been getting more attention.

Local news boards criticize these people and discredit their situations. “The stench by the wall is overwhelming. I barely go that way anymore. So unfair to the actual residents! Come on SDPD-DO SOMETHING,” said one Ocean Beach local.

“All the trash and sketchy/ drugged out/ aggressive people discourage me from going to the wall and surrounding area…I’ve lived in OB for 10 years and it has never been this bad. I actively report things and communicate with the police, and it’s just disheartening to see the state our great town is in. I don’t understand why the police can’t make it less comfortable for them so the actual citizens can enjoy the beach, parks and town.”

This is an excerpt from a local news article. And while I agree something needs to be done, talking bad about these people is not the answer.

As someone who lives in Ocean Beach myself I have had first hand experience with the people living along the wall and they are no menace to society. They are simply trying to survive.

Especially with covid it makes living much more difficult. And the tourists do not make it easier on them.

Many of these people suffer from mental illnesses.

On any given night in the United States, an estimated 600,000 people are homeless. Of those, approximately 200,000 suffer from serious mental illness. A Gallup poll reported last year that although most Americans feel compassion for homeless men and women they encounter on the street, many are puzzled, not knowing how to react to this growing problem that seemed to emerge out of nowhere.

Some cities have dealt with their homeless populations by jailing individuals for sitting on the streets or sleeping in parks. Other cities, citing public health concerns, have bulldozed encampments and shanty towns built under city bridges.

Unable to find a simple, inexpensive solution to the problem, many individuals and communities prefer to pretend that it does not exist.

While there is no single solution for this problem, some responses have been more successful than others. I do not believe punishing these people for simply existing in Ocean Beach without a home is not a solution at all.

I think we need to help them and offer our support as a community. I believe through proper education on mental health issues we can start to improve the well-being of our homeless population. Proper funding to homeless shelters would also be extremely beneficial.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Scott April 9, 2021 at 12:51 pm

Thank you Eliana!

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Avatar AMEN April 9, 2021 at 3:55 pm

It’s a very difficult situation Eliana. The majority of people do not want them arrested, unless they do harm. They don’t want the Police involved and they are now sending out a task force the Mayor started to address these people, which is also dangerous to them! It’s really complicated. They are in shelters downtown, single men on one side at Golden Hall and woman and children on the other. They give them service providers, case workers…many don’t want to stay there and want to be on the street and drink and do drugs. You can’t force someone to go to rehab! Perhaps you can start a volunteer network to work on this. There is a whole Mayoral committee dedicate to them and constantly working on this. Some do have low cost apartments. They offer support. You can’t drag someone to a mental health assessment appointment! Some countries give them tiny homes to live in and they police themselves in their community and it works out well. You can’t tell them they have to do this. They have to want to do it. I work downtown and see it everyday. I’ve also seen things no one should see! I’ve been chased and told I was going to be stabbed because I just walked out of my building to go to lunch! Very complicated! There are services and many do not want them. Check out the City of SD website homeless services. They have government grants to help with this too.

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Avatar Emily Dotson April 10, 2021 at 9:44 am

Eliana,
I live in Bird Rock, La Jolla, come visit La Jolla and you can count the number of homeless on one hand, we do not tolerate them here, Ocean Beach not only tolerates the homeless, they actively encourage them to visit and stay and do drugs and commit crimes, police involvement in OB is discouraged because the police are tired of being told, why are you harassing the homeless,and being filmed and yelled at by OB’acons, we on the other hand respect,support and encourage police patrols of our neighborhood, your interest in homeless solutions is encouraged, but misguided when truly your community supports ands encourages them to “camp” there,
///
Emily

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Avatar sal April 10, 2021 at 3:35 pm

This response is frankly a crock. No one is actively encouraging anyone to “visit, stay, do drugs and commit crimes”. Compassion for homeless folks does not equal that, at all. Hard to imagine how you typed this with your head so far up your butt.

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Avatar OB Resident April 10, 2021 at 3:47 pm

Hi Emily,
Here is a link to good article published in the La Jolla Light about homelessness: https://www.lajollalight.com/sdljl-lajolla-town-council-homelessness-2015mar17-story.html

I think your “we do not tolerate them here” comment is interesting. Can you please explain what actions the Bird Rock community takes to “not tolerate” homelessness?

Thank you

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Avatar Geoff Page April 11, 2021 at 1:06 pm

So enlighten us all, what does “we do not tolerate them here” mean? How are you dealing with them? Are you using the carrot or the stick, I suspect the latter from the tone of your post. Sal said it best but I’ll add you know nothing of OB lady.

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Avatar Debbie April 10, 2021 at 10:44 am
Avatar Jimmy Jimmerino April 10, 2021 at 1:36 pm

The biggest problem with “homelessness” and “the homeless” is the vocabulary we use to talk about it. Until we dispel ourselves of the idea that we can solve “homelessness” no progress will be made to help those who need it and we will never address the problems that offend many of the rest of us. If you’ve ever been to a community meeting on The Homeless Issue or whatever it ends up being called, you can see the problem: no one is talking about the same thing.

I usually break it down into three broad categories, the incidentally homeless, the mentally ill, and the rest.

The incidentally homeless are people who used to have a home but something happened that they lost it. It could be a rent increase, debt, job loss, or anything else that can happen to any one of us. These people have been put in a bad situation and are trying to get off the street. They may have jobs or they may be looking for jobs or they may be trying to get out of town to somewhere they can find shelter but they are currently stuck and out of luck. In my opinion these people deserve every opportunity we can offer to help their situation and get them back on track and back to being the productive members of society they want to be. There is a place for these people in society and we need to help them find it.

The mentally ill are those who are incapable of taking care of themselves. These people need our help and should receive it even when they are incapable of asking for it. We like to call ourselves The Greatest Country in the World well then we should be willing and able to take care of those of us who cannot. It is heartbreaking to watch someone fighting, right in front of you, the invisible demons that have stolen their lives and knowing that the only number you can call to try and rescue them might get them killed. Our society has failed by not having a way to care for these people.

Then there are those who are just fine with being homeless. There are a significant number of people who have decided that living on the street is how they want to live and they don’t want to change. They like the freedom, the rebelliousness, lack of responsibility. They like hanging out all day and not having a boss and being able to go whenever they want whenever they want and crashing wherever they end up. They don’t have any desire to be “productive members of society” and they look at the rest of us with disdain and label us all chumps for going to work and being under the thumb of The Man. They will live off of us but they feel no obligation to contribute and consider us suckers if we give them something or marks when they just take it.

The problem is that that third group offends the charity and compassion we feel for the first two. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to help the incidentally homeless and the mentally ill. I also know a lot of people who have been the victims of petty crimes and aggressive panhandling or other relatively minor offenses and have just decided to give up and leave the area. Although I have never been homeless, I have lived in PB and OB for more than 30 years, have known and worked with many homeless people, and have gone to dozens of community meetings and workshops to discuss problems people have with the homeless and I have seen very little change in the intensity of the issue. Almost every meeting I have gone to regarding the issue of homelessness are full of people who want to help and others who want something done to stop some guy from shitting on their front porch. The problem is that they shouldn’t be dealt with in the same meeting like they’re the same kind of thing.

In my opinion, until we stop talking about homelessness or the homeless as if it’s not a combination of issues, we don’t have a chance of changing anything.

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Avatar Dr. Jack Hammer April 11, 2021 at 1:54 pm

America does not address causes to problems (Homelessness, War on Drugs, immigration, terrorism, etc…). Instead, America prefers to try and limit the effects. Can also be looked at as supply and demand. Example… it would be more effective to reduce the demand for cocaine, as opposed to the supply. But not in America…

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