By Jeeni Criscenzo
My name is Richard Maccabe, I have a Bachelors Degree from University of Washington in Sociology…My approach is the TOUGH APPROACH! Anyone camping on public property – arrest them. They get a choice – go to jail, a vouchered hotel or go to my concentration camp, 75 miles east of here in (?) California with a fence and armed guards. The way to get them there is on the San Diego Imperial Valley Railroad in a box car with armed guards. You provide the three basics, food, shelter and toilet facilities and that’s it. That’s my approach and that will work because there will be no homeless on our streets. Last public comment at the Homeless Town Hall, October 26, 2016. (He was applauded!)
How do I write about a wrong without shutting down respectful communication with those who hold the power to block all efforts to find a humane solution to the growing number of people who are homeless in our region?
The way I found out about the Homeless Town Hall held on October 26 at Town & Country Resort and Convention Center should have been a clue that this wasn’t a serious effort to find solutions. It wasn’t announced through the usual channels that would reach those who are working every day for solutions to homelessness. There was a mention on the Facebook post of Homeless News San Diego, from Michael McConnell, a highly respected local advocate, who was one of the early leaders in the 25 Cities Campaign to End Homelessness, who had been asked to be part of the forum.
It took some digging to find details of the event on Facebook, where a subtitle called it, “A balanced approach for San Diego.” That should have been my clue – like FOX news, “balanced” has taken on a whole new meaning about expressing alternates to the truth not necessarily based on reality.
Other than McConnell, there were none of the usual names listed for the event. Their absence was as strange as the list of those who were attending: San Diego City Councilmembers Lori Zap, Mark Kersey, Chris Cate and County Supervisor Ron Roberts. None of them have supported any efforts to provide compassionate relief to those experiencing homelessness. So I just had to hear what they had to say.
I wish I could say I was surprised. I had secretly hoped that somehow these business-centric folks had a melting of the heart and were going to deliver on their promise of starting a dialogue and coming up with a unified plan to fight homelessness. Dialogue – yes, albeit very lopsided. Plan? Other than my suggestion during public comment to build tiny home pocket communities as a meantime solution, the only one to actually offer a plan of action was the Nazi quoted at the top of this article.
How the hell can you have a forum on homelessness without mentioning the one thing that makes a difference between being housed and not? The serious lack of affordable housing?
The first to speak and set the tone of the evening was Councilmember Lori Zapf. After acknowledging that this is a multi-layered problem and bemoaning that even communities such as Pt. Loma and La Jolla are being impacted by it now, she went right to the point – “This is a whole new, what we call, aggressive transient”. She went on to describe the scary people living on our streets, crazed drug addicts who have been released from prison due to Prop 47.
Prop 47 was the big bad boogeyman at this event. This ballot initiative, which was passed by 60% of voters in 2014, was intended to reduce overcrowding in prisons by reducing certain drug possession felonies and petty theft to misdemeanors. The general consensus of this crowd was that not locking up drug offenders was the reason we had so many crazed and dangerous addicts prowling our streets making life unsafe for moms to walk their children to the library.
“This is a whole new, what we call, aggressive transient”. She [Zapf] went on to describe the scary people living on our streets, crazed drug addicts who have been released from prison due to Prop 47.
Lara Easton from the City Attorney’s office complained that Prop 47 was supposed to provide $100 to $300 million to deal with the impact, but so far no funding has been provided. Citizens just don’t feel safe! What’s more, according to Joe Terzi of the San Diego Tourism Authority, tourists don’t feel safe! Nobody once mentioned that the people who no longer have a place to live, don’t feel safe – until I had my chance to speak.
Another word that was never mentioned until I said it: housing. How the hell can you have a forum on homelessness without mentioning the one thing that makes a difference between being housed and not? The serious lack of affordable housing? 2% vacancy rate? Outrageous rents and low wages? The fact that 22,000 school children are reported homeless in San Diego County? None of this was mentioned.
So as I said earlier, I really don’t know how to write about this without alienating the very people I need to go begging to for permission to implement real solutions. This crowd thinks the way to end homelessness is to put everyone who finds themselves without a place to live in prison…or worse.
Video of Town Hall Meeting