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Homelessness is a difficult issue

Nextdoor currently has some posts praising the County’s HOT Team for “cleaning up” Alta Arden between Watt and Howe. Residents and businesses along Alta Arden have been concerned about the trash and sanitation problems associated with homeless people camping along the sides of the roadway. They are understandably glad that the County finally did something about those issues. For the time being, that is.

But “clamping down” on homeless camping is a little like squeezing a balloon. When you squeeze a balloon, the air doesn’t leave, it just moves to another part of the balloon. There are so many homeless people living alongside our community’s roads that “clamping down” in one place just moves the campers to a different place. Given time, a piecemeal approach won’t succeed. Homeless camping on Alta Arden is not really any different than homeless camping on another street.

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Homeless residents of Cooper Way at Fulton by the closed Eggie’s restaurant.

Please know that this post is in no way condoning or encouraging cruelty towards homeless people. There are far too many unfortunate people in our community who have no place to call home. Some have jobs. Some are students at our local schools. And, yes, a few of them have drug dependencies or mental health issues. But beyond needing a roof over their head and nutritional food, they require access to services to help them get education and training, find living-wage jobs, and address their counseling and health care needs. The situation is complicated by Covid’s stay-in-place orders and a court decision that stipulated no removal unless a shelter was available. Our community comes up short on most of those aspects and our transportation system - that might enable access to services - is, frankly, miserable.

Even more complications flow from concerns about improper use of private property and misuse of public property, communication problems, lack of shelters, and so on. So while businesses and residents of homes, condos and apartments along Alta Arden are justifiably relieved that their street has been “cleaned up”, people in other parts of the community remain concerned about the impacts of homeless camping on their neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the homeless right-of-way occupants of Alta Arden have had their lives disrupted and myriad other residents of our community remain unsheltered. Our new County Supervisor, Rich Desmond, focused his campaign on dealing with homelessness. We wish him well, as we do the impacted neighborhoods and the people with nowhere else to go.

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