I’d like to give my two cents on open questions in the minds of some locals.
The police department does indeed continue to ticket homeless persons for sleeping in public. In calendar year 2013, by my count, the number of tickets issued to homeless persons for sleeping was approximately 113. Depressingly, as an aside, just over 20% were issued for sleeping on church property.
According to the police department’s homeless outreach officer, the average nightly homeless population of Laguna is 65 to 70 persons. While I do not understand his methodology, I agree with the conclusion based on counts made by homeless advocates, including, especially, those made on the occasions that the Laguna Cold Weather Shelter was in operation as well as the ASL.
The police regularly evict homeless persons at night from the parking area at the ASL. This occurs after it is determined who will not be able to sleep inside the facility. This is done despite the fact that this displacement requires the dispossessed to take to the bush or hazard the canyon in the dark. It seems clear that there are heightened risks associated with both options.
The police also regularly harass and ticket the same homeless persons who have been evicted from the grounds of the ASL for sleeping elsewhere than inside the ASL; this despite the fact that these same police know that the ASL is full. The impact of this policy is that every night 20 to 25 homeless persons are not permitted to sleep in our city limits. Illegal sleeping! As you should know, this practice gives rise to constitutional objection.
The conclusion that “they will come,” meaning that services offered to homeless in Laguna will serve to attract more homeless to our city, is unsupportable. First, it is contrary to the study that was cited in a public meeting on homelessness some years ago, I think by either Barbara MacMurray or Pastor Beu. More importantly, it is contrary to the very local evidence cited in the recent Friendship Shelter presentation.
When the county’s cold weather shelters were shutdown in April, and the ASL became again the only shelter in South County, there was no uptick in our homeless population numbers. None.
There are fewer persons currently seeking services at the ASL than there were when it opened.
James Keegan, Laguna Beach