We Would Not Act Like Irvine
Since “Asians in Irvine score political victory,” appeared in The Los Angeles Times on April 1, I thought it might have been an April Fool’s joke. But it was not.
The article reported the hostile reaction to county officials considering placing emergency homeless shelters in Irvine and, possibly, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach. Irvine residents, predominately Asian Americans, came in busloads to the Orange County Hall of Administration to demand a halt to this plan. They were successful as the Orange County Board of Supervisors overturned the shelter proposal.
Ah, Irvine, the city my wife and I escaped from nearly 20 years ago, so proud as the article said, of its, ”famously clean, safe, family oriented planned community.” But the comments of some of the protesters suggest an insular and intolerant bent.
One said, “I really don’t know where they can go. But Irvine is beautiful, and we don’t want it to get destroyed.” Destroyed? The proposed plan called for the site in Irvine to have a capacity of 200. This is hardly like the Visigoths descending on the gates of Rome. Another said, “Did you see how we created a presence to keep our neighborhoods safe?…It was like Chinese New Year.” Yes, quite a time for celebration.
Who are the homeless in the United States? Ten percent are veterans, whose debt we are in, 15 percent are women who have been the victims of domestic violence. Many of the homeless have been forced into this situation due to the lack of affordable housing. According to a Harvard University study, one quarter of renters pay over 50 percent of their income in rent. This is not a sustainable situation for many Americans. Yes, there are homeless with mental health issues, but should a good society not do its best to help these people?
We live in Laguna Beach, a city that has a reputation for tolerance and inclusion. To give a hand to those in need, we find within our city the Friendship Shelter as well as the Laguna Beach Alternative Sleeping Location in the canyon. Somehow, I still feel safe with these facilities in our town. And our town is still beautiful.
As far as I know Irvine has nothing like the day laborer site in the canyon, maintained by the city and the South County Crosscultural Council. Its mission is to “maintain a location in Laguna Beach to provide for the most effective job site to implement the Council’s mission: helping neighbors bridge cultural differences to benefit the entire community.” I have a feeling the residents of Irvine would find such a place a threat to their well-ordered community.
If county officials had put Laguna Beach on the list of cities to have temporary tent cities for the homeless, I am pretty sure our residents would not have chartered buses to protest in front of the Orange County Hall of Administration.
Since the article about this demonstration appeared on April 1, which also happened to be Easter, let me remind Christians about what Jesus said in the Book of Matthew: “Truly, I say to you as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
Since the demonstration had so many Chinese American organizers, perhaps I should also quote Confucius who said, “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”
This issue is not settled because a federal judge has demanded that the county do whatever it takes to find more shelter spaces. Let us hope that there are other cities less hostile than Irvine.
James Utt notes that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was at the protest and said he joined ”the outrage that we are assuming responsibility for homeless people, taking care of their basic needs and elongating their agony.”