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...