The holidays are upon us. Many still struggle with last minute shopping or writing those last holiday cards. On the other hand, some of our poorest neighbors – 80% of whom are, according to the City, disabled – struggle with what most of us assume is a third world problem, finding a safe place to sleep.
For these, our poorest citizens, there is a conflict between the biological necessity of sleep and the City’s characterization of roofless sleep as criminal. Laguna provides indoor space for 45 of our unhoused but, at least for the past ten years or so, on any given night there are about 70 persons needing such space. Everyone involved in the decision to accommodate only 45 persons was aware that the decision would also establish a criminal subclass. Anyone care to explain?
Having consciously decided to create the situation, the City continues its crusade to root out this most human conduct by having the police issue citations to the self indulgent souls who give in to their biological need. In some sort of indirect recognition of the apparent cruelty of this enforcement program, the City absolves itself by noting that – despite the impact on mental health – the poor can simply stay awake all night and sleep during the day when sleeping is not illegal.
In the pending lawsuit brought by some locals experiencing homelessness, the trial judge wrote back in February that a “community’s moral and ethical values may be best reflected in how it treats its most vulnerable.”‘ Which sentiment embarrasses you: that expressed by the trial judge or that demonstrated by the City’s enforcement?
If a further hint is sought, isn’t the kind treatment of the vulnerable a value recognized by all of the religious and philosophical systems that contributed to Western ethics?
In closing, thanks St. Mary’s for finding room in the inn for some of our poor on two recent nasty nights. I hope that the City will take inspiration from your example and end its obscene enforcement campaign.
James Keegan, Laguna Beach