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two tourists with black umbrellas, Pecos Pueblo

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Down and out

This is a tough post to write. Because now I get to sound like an asshole and certain people are not going to like it. Here goes anyway...

I have lived in Fallbrook for thirty nine years. We have of course always had street people in Fallbrook but for the first thirty seven years or so it was one or two of them at a time in town at most. Pud, Stick, Caesar, Dave, the bearded guy who walked from Bonsall every day, these poor down and outs were very recognizable and really pretty harmless overall.

Two or three years ago things started changing. There were more and more of them around suddenly and they started taking over parts of town. Guys were completely zonked out. Many people no longer felt safe walking on the Pico Promenade and other places. A guy started living in a dead space behind my building that my neighbor had to fill up with concrete. Bums started claiming territory, leaving their bedrolls and cardboard behind, sleeping everywhere, including the parking lot behind the art center and taking up permanent locations begging, e.g., the guy in front of Bank of America.

Let me preface this by saying it is one thing to find yourself flat on your ass due to a job loss or tragedy. There is no shame in that and it could happen to any and all of us very easily. I have nothing but empathy and love for those people. Will do whatever I can. But it is another thing entirely if you are a whacked out twenty or thirty something on alcohol, meth or heroin and looking for a cushy landing. I have much less sympathy for someone who digs their own hole. And refuses to even try to dig out. Unfortunately there's people that travel past a point that can be fixed. Neural network obliterated by tweak, now living off their limbic systems like reptiles.

I drove up to my parking space behind the building I own a couple weeks ago. The one with the big mortgage. A latino man holding a paper bag with a tall beverage in it was sitting on my wall. I figured he was working for the neighbor, who was standing there. "Is he with you?" I asked.  "Nope." I asked the guy what he was doing and if he was drinking alcohol and he started yelling at me that this was his country first and didn't I know that prohibition was over? Guy was plainly soused. I asked him to leave and he finally split. By the way, I am getting awfully tired of picking up malt liquor cans and broken bottles behind my shop.

A few weeks ago we got word that some well meaning individuals were trying to buy a lot near the coffee shop for a new homeless shelter. A block off Main Ave. That is, in my opinion a very bad idea. A nail in the coffin. Downtown is already hurting, business is slow and way down for all the merchants I know and we are now confronted with gangs of homeless people on a daily basis, many of them in a constant state of inebriation, living on our streets and in front, behind and on top of our buildings. I quick counted eight between the Arco station and Alvarado the other morning and I am sure that I missed some. We have even watched a few get very violent and engage in unprovoked aggression.

I was sitting at coffee recently when a woman I know drove up in her spotless Bentley, with a driver no less, and announced to my klatch that she had written a fat check to the new county supervisor, with an extracted promise from him that he would help her build a new shelter, she says in Oceanside. "Didn't we care about the poor?" asked the lady with five houses. The irony was shocking and not lost on any of us. She said that she had been homeless as a kid and knew what poor was. I didn't want to get in an argument with her, but wanted to tell her that many of us had experienced poverty in our life. It was not an abstract concept.  Perhaps she wanted to assuage the enormous guilt she obviously felt with her current prosperity?

Homeless people are wreaking a little havoc around these parts, seemingly unchecked. It is getting worse every week. They have dragged mattresses up to two merchants roofs to sleep on that I know of and I know three merchants who have had their exterior cameras stolen recently, I imagine to keep furtive night time movements unrecorded. Our places of business are getting littered with cardboard and refuse. We have someone living nightly at the Wells Fargo, Mahr's Texaco and McDonalds amongst many other places. Many are acting out and getting crazy, threatening people at places like Starbucks. Someone reported getting rolled by vagrants behind Harry's the other night. Said that they are never coming back. We are getting more and more break ins to businesses. Some women I know are scared of walking alone to their cars at night. The town is going to shit before our eyes.

The sheriffs do nothing. Word has it that there is a new laissez faire policy in the county. Is this a byproduct of our wealthy doyenne? I don't know. The local food bank enables the behavior or should I say life style with their generous dole outs and I have heard anecdotal stories of free food being traded for alcohol. Get fed. Sleep at the Pico Promenade. No worries. A pretty cush life style. With a few smokes, what else do you need? They are also entering establishments and openly panhandling in people's businesses. Many seem mentally ill.

How did so many suddenly make it to Fallbrook? Is it true, as some say, that other cities in the county are purposefully shipping them here?  Go to Fallbrook, you will get a soft landing. And soon we will have a repurposed hospital acting as a mental health ward here as well. There goes our friendly little village.

Many merchants are barely hanging on. Are we destined to be the next homeless wave ourselves if a shelter is placed a block and a half from the major downtown intersection? I have seen the phenomenon in Santa Barbara, Seattle, Santa Monica and other places. Make it easy and the word gets out, Fallbrook is a soft touch, a magnet, weather is nice and you even get fed. You'll be swimming in guacamole. Doesn't take long...

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great diatribe! Your going to be in trouble with the lib’s and little Gavey Newson with your blog outburst. . You need to suck it up like the city of SFO.
FYI, We move the hobos from Encinitas to Fallbrook. Nicer area!!

B

Blue Heron said...

The reality is that Fallbrook is more and more a retirement refuge for those that no longer have to make a living. They don't really need a downtown.

Roy Cohen said...

It’s inevitable — we get so comfortable we forget that others aren’t. Welcome to the GOP. Have fun doing the goose step down Main Avenue...

Max Hall said...

Very sad Robert. It's systemic in our society now. We have a population of 2.2 million behind bars. The county jail system has an endless flow of inmates that are cycling in and out of incarceration. It's much worse than civilized law abiding citizens realize. What we're witnessing is a breakdown in families and communities. The criminal justice system is a beast that needs to be fed, so once an individual is on the radar, their chances of recidivism is much greater. I don't have an answer to the problem, as most of the people in the jail/prison system will not change and are awaiting there discharge with their next crime already planned before they are released. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Warren Bishop said...

I live in Hillcrest and we are absolutely inundated with homeless people."Quantity transforms Qualtyinwhat changing an aberrational issue subject to personal human kindness has become a little a literal scourge to our societal failure. There must be a structured and funded response that also respects and protects the rights and and amenities
Of those who may be effected/affected.

Blue Heron said...

So now I'm a nazi, Roy?

Kent Borsch said...

I feel your pain Robert. Oceanside has a large homeless population as well. The perfect storm of court mandated prison reform, inability to hold and hospitalize mentally ill, and high cost of housing have all contributed to this blight. I’m afraid tax payers are going to have to open checkbooks and provide additional resources.

Sanoguy said...

I agree with Kent.... I worked as a firefighter for many years in an area near south LA... middle to lower middle class to poor area... we saw a big increase in homeless when Reagan started closing down mental health facilities. Most homeless seem to have mental or drug problems. Much work needs to be done in those areas.

Jon Harwood said...

There sure isn't a very simple answer. I am not so sure now but in the day the homeless were about 1/3 mentally ill. You also get a good group of drug abusers and some folks who just don't like rules and being told what to do. Better to prevent homelessness as it is quite challenging to get people rehabbed and off the streets once they are homeless. It does seem that there are more such homeless folks around Fallbrook. This is a personal opinion but it appears that the human services agencies want to have successful programs and it seems that there may be a bias toward promoting these successful programs potentially at the expense of the less desirable programs and clients. When you work with a high risk population that is not good at cooperating with their "benefactors" you get (surprise!) a low success rate and (predictably) greater trouble getting support for your program next year. It is tough out there on the streets, especially for the homeless.

Blue Heron said...

My great friend Isak, who lives in the Castro, wrote me a long and heartfelt story of four homeless stories from his neighborhood. Unfortunately it never came through and was not even in a spam filter. Sorry I missed it,much appreciate the effort.

Anonymous said...

You know all your comments are great- but as a commercial property owner- when the steal your property, Dede are, do and deal drugs and destroy your property, empathy is not the answer! Enforcing the law is. It is so sad, when people creating crime are treated as the victims and landowners are portrayed as “rich and you got it coming”.... hmmmmm

Roy Cohen said...

No. Just me being glib. I do think that the problem is more complex than how it seems on the surface. I spend a part of my day, everyday on the Pico Trail with at least some of these people. The things that lead them there are not as simple as it might seem, and it’s always on my mind that I’m just one bad day away from being there myself.

wcgypsy said...

We lived in Fallbrook for about 32 years...long story short, I retired and we decided to leave, tired of fires, tired of high summer water bills. Moved to Crescent City, 3 blocks from the ocean, Redwoods, plenty of rain...what could go wrong? Lots and lots of crime, meth, homelessness....and people would say, "But it's like this everywhere..." and we would say, "Not in Fallbrook...."...and I would get that feeling from the husband that he would leave and I'd then tell him that we'd been out of touch, it may be like this everywhere now. So.....I'm sorry for you guys for what's been happening there now, but also sorry to say that I feel better....It IS everywhere, not just here......