I saw someone looking at me.
And I'm down and out, down and out,
Well, I'm down, so down, down and out.
˜ "Down & Out" by Ringo Starr
Homelessness in Manhattan Beach has reared its head as a significant community concern, just as it has in Hermosa and Redondo.
Everyone knows the dangerous, chaotic situation in San Francisco and, to a similar extent, in our nearby beach cities like Santa Monica and Venice, where out-of-control homelessness, and the related problems of mental illness, overt drug use and public excretion have taken hold in a big way (the lead photo above is from NBC San Francisco).
For a while, it seemed that Manhattan Beach would be spared this creeping urban blight. The homeless count in Manhattan Beach for 2017 was just six. However, it appears this count seriously underestimated the scope of the problem as data released late July show that, in fact, the current homeless population is 41, including 17 living on the street or in makeshift shelters and 24 living in their cars.
The concern is not with one or two harmless, down-on-their-luck individuals like the fellow pictured here catching some z's on an August Sunday morning in Metlox Plaza. Rather, the concern is an influx of homeless, like we've seen in other urban areas, and the resulting problems this can create.
No better example exists than San Francisco, a once beautiful city now plagued by homeless junkies shooting up in public (and discarding their needles on the ground), aggressive panhandlers, garbage everywhere and an average of 65 calls per day from residents reporting feces on public property and sidewalks. In fact, San Francisco budgeted $60.1 million for "Street Environmental Services" in 2016-17 and now has a specialized new unit affectionately referred to as the "Poop Patrol", where, it is said, anyone can apply for a job if you don't mind starting at the bottom (okay, we thought injecting some humor was warranted).
Is Manhattan Beach headed down the road of needle exchange programs, fecal clean-up details and homeless encampments? Let's hope not.
Currently being circulated down at City Hall is a draft of a proposal entitled “Five Year Plan to Address Homelessness In Our Community.” This is an outgrowth of Measure H, the $355 million sales tax measure passed by LA County voters in 2017 intended to address homelessness. Manhattan Beach is one of 47 cities in the county engaged in drafting plans to tackle the county’s burgeoning homeless problem.
Yet initial reactions from some residents was that the draft proposal, by providing increased services for the homeless, could actually make Manhattan Beach a magnet for attracting more homeless to the city.
It's also a bit discouraging that the original draft proposal was entitled "Three Year Plan to End Homelessness." But Councilmember Steve Napolitan, who previously worked as a deputy to former LA County Supervisor Don Knabe, said he’s seen many plans to end homelessness come and go. He suggested changing the title of the Manhattan Beach proposal from “ending” to “addressing” homelessness (and, in the process, it went from a 3-year to a 5-year plan).
“It’s obvious we have a homeless population in Manhattan Beach and that there’s going to be some folks we can reach and some folks we can’t,” Napolitano said. “What we are not doing is increasing homelessness in Manhattan Beach. We are trying to address it, without saying we are going to end it.”
Napolitano's statement may be a reasonably accurate statement of reality but it is also seems to smack of either fecklessness or possibly ineffectiveness borne of political correctness at City Hall where the issue is sure to come up as to why the draft plan and the comments by city officials seem to put virtually no emphasis on enforcement of city ordinances such as
- 4.56.06 - Prohibits anyone from sitting or lying on public walkways and blocking usage by pedestrians
- 12.48.020 - Prohibits anyone from using the parks except during normal hours of operation.
- 14.36.16 - Prohibits anyone from using a vehicle for habitation on public property between 10 pm and 6:00 am