It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.
- Bill Clinton.
We are always striving for accuracy here so if we get something wrong, or maybe just a little off, we’re happy to oblige with a correction.
In our last blog post, we discussed the upcoming contract to be awarded Harbor Interfaith Services for homeless assistance and case management here in the beach cities. At that time, we paraphrased Councilperson Suzanne Hadley when we stated that "She feels enforcement of our anti-camping ordinance is not doable at present, due to the potential threat of litigation from the ACLU and other homeless advocates."
So, as we channel our inner Bill Clinton, we need to clarify what the meaning of the word 'enforcement' is.
As Suzanne reminded us, the above statement is only applicable to the issue of whether MBPD can enforce our anti-camping ordinance by issuing citations or, worst case scenario, arresting repeat violators which, as noted in previous blog posts, is prohibited because of the Federal 9th Circuit's Boise decision. That ruling says, when referencing a homeless person who is camped out in a public place, enforcement is not allowed unless the municipality can offer that person a shelter bed as an alternative and he/she refuses to accept it (see Potatoes and the Ninth Circuit).
But enforcement can also mean a police officer simply requests/suggests/orders a camped-out transient to move along and, to our knowledge, that is still being done to some degree.
And, of course, if other laws are being broken in the process, the police can take further action.
So, according to Suzanne (pictured here), enforcement of the City's anti-camping restrictions is available to and utilized by our police officers if, by enforcement, we mean our officers can request an 'urban camper' to pull up stakes and ease on down the road.
Having said that, nothing is cut-and-dried when discussing the enforcement of this ordinance.
Back in February, your author attended a League of Women voters panel discussion on homelessness, which included a representative of our police force, Lt Jason Knickerbocker. At that time, Lt. Knickerbocker said the police, with the assistance of a county mental health clinician, were more engaged in rapport building with the homeless and officers were hesitant to sacrifice that rapport over violations of ordinances such as bans on camping or smoking (and we know how Council feels about smoking - see No Cigar For Vince).
Fast forward to last Tuesday, October 15, when the City awarded $324,053 to Harbor Interfaith Services for homeless coordination, training and case management services for 16 months, starting November 1, throughout the beach cities (all funds to be reimbursed by LA County).
Councilperson Steve Napolitano immediately zeroed in on the issue of case management and whether this meant services would be provided in the street, so to speak - food, mobile showers, etc.
The answer from the City's Homeless Liaison, George Gabriel, was no, that the only role of the case manager was to interact with the homeless, to gain their trust and to ensure the proper documentation (California ID, Social Security Card, verification of homelessness, etc) is available when Harbor Interfaith refers them to a housing or treatment alternative.
Councilperson Richard Montgomery, pictured above, then asked George the logical follow-up, namely, what happens when the homeless person declines the referral?
Here, George defaulted to the rapport-building response we heard earlier this year from Lt Knickerbocker. He noted that often a case manager will interact with a homeless person on multiple occasions to try to get them to say yes to a referral.
What about enforcement? Are we now, in effect, turning over the whole homeless problem to Harbor Interfaith and their case managers?
Suzanne Hadley raised this with Police Chief Derrick Abell and Chief Abell assured everyone that "this is not a 'hands off' at all by the police department" and analogized Harbor Interfaith's case management to "another tool in the box."
But our ears really pricked up when Chief Abell (pictured here with a seated George Gabriel) mentioned the 'broken windows' theory of policing. As he put it, "we're not going to allow people to go out and just do whatever they want to do."
For years, liberal-progressives, particularly in California, have preached the exact opposite of broken windows. For those that don't know, broken windows theory argues that everyone is responsible for their own behavior and that if we permit low-level crimes, it will lead to a general breakdown in law and order.
Instead, liberal-progressive thinking follows their latest woke fad, called 'survival crime theory,' which deals with the same low-level crimes - property crimes, drug possession and public nuisances, including homeless setting up residence on public property like sidewalks - and argues that local governments should decriminalize these offenses because vulnerable individuals have been compelled by social conditions to commit them.
One need only look to San Francisco and Los Angeles - two major California cities that are governed by non-judgmental, liberal progressive 'compassionistas' - to see how the whole survival crime theory is working out. They preach the mantra of decriminalizing homelessness and decriminalizing poverty and end up decriminalizing crime.
In fact, elements of survival crime theory have even been enacted into state law via Prop 47, another 'success' story (where's that sarcasm emoji?).
So when Chief Abell throws out a term like 'broken windows', we pay close attention.
The tape of the October 15 City Council meeting can be viewed here with a discussion of Agenda Item #4 (the awarding of the contract to Harbor Interfaith and the disbanding of the Homelessness Task Force) beginning at the 23-minute mark.
At the end of the day, we believe our Chief, along with our city's homeless liaison George Gabriel (and, now, Harbor Interfaith Services as well) are trying to strike a balance between enforcement and outreach (during open session, George referred to it as the "carrot and stick" approach).
And, at present, that approach seems to be working in our tiny, seaside hamlet.
Meanwhile, we wanted to share another expertly-realized photograph of one of our local homeless.
The gent in the lead photo above is Dave and his pensive countenance set against an amazing late afternoon cloud formation was captured by an accomplished local photographer we've featured here in the past. While this photo was taken some months ago, I think I share the sentiment with the photographer that should Dave still be around, he might be someone that could benefit from Harbor Interfaith's outreach and case management.
While our homeless documentarian prefers to remain in the background, some of her work can be seen on Instagram at @xmauigirl.