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Al Martinez

We must provide the same luxuries that have lured the intellectually homeless to Southern California. : Calling Home the Homeless

January 28, 1988|Al Martinez

The latest question making the rounds in the People's Republic of Santa Monica is: How do we keep the homeless from leaving town?

It is being asked mainly by liberals on the City Council and their camp followers who are concerned that police tactics are chasing the vagrants away.

God knows, we don't want that to happen. A city without its homeless is like a hot dog without mustard. There just isn't any tang.

Someone, therefore, ought to come up with a plan to keep the drifters on our streets and on our benches and under our piers and in our doorways before they abandon us completely.

I happen to have just such a plan.

But first, the problem. During cold weather, homeless people go to the Police Department to pick up vouchers for free overnight motel stays.

Before handing out the vouchers, however, the officers in charge insist on running warrant checks, suspicious that some of them might be wanted for crimes somewhere.

This has outraged the liberals. How dare they!

My attitude at first was more tolerant. Cops are cops. They're always running checks on something. Only recently, I was stopped for a traffic violation and checked to see if I was wanted for child pornography in the Midwest. I am pleased to say I was not.

But routine checks often expose the most desperate criminals among us, and it didn't seem a violation of anyone's civil rights to do what appears to enhance public safety.

I was therefore ready to write in favor of the warrant checks until the liberals spoke up and made me aware of the dangers implicit in the process.

Liberals are very good at Warning Of The Dangers Implicit In.

Councilman David Finkel warned that use of a law enforcement agency for the purpose of law enforcement is liable to frighten away the homeless who have already taken up residence here.

And Mayor James Conn warned that rumors might spread to the homeless elsewhere that if they come to Santa Monica they will be arrested.

They would therefore stay away in droves and deprive liberal hobbyists of a creative and invigorating pastime.

My response first of all, I am ashamed to admit, was so what? But as I thought about it, I could see where Conn and Finkel had a point.

Using cops as cops would certainly create a negative impact on the image of Santa Monica as a haven for those with no place else to go.

I mean, why bother to be homeless in a city where the police are going to hassle you by wanting to know if you are wanted for murder in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.? That's no fun.

Cops argue that they're just doing what they always do and, in fact, have been asked by the motel owners to evaluate the homeless before issuing vouchers in order to weed out the felons among them.

But what the police do not understand is what they're doing in regard to the homeless just isn't . . . well . . . popular anymore and they have to adjust to new priorities.

Therefore, the practice of pre-voucher checking must be stopped immediately.

We will just have to adopt a liberal's faith that the droopy-eyed guy in rags who smells of urine and Night Train wine is a decent citizen who is temporarily down on his luck and would never harm a flea. Probably.

But simply ceasing an unpopular practice isn't enough. What can we do, I hear you cry, to actually encourage the homeless to remain in Santa Monica and to urge others to join them at the seaside?

I thought at first in terms of basic human requirements, such as food, lodging, sex and clothing.

But while that might be enough to lure the less ambitious among the homeless to the People's Republic, it hardly offers anything extra.

What we need to make available are the same kinds of luxuries that have lured the intellectually homeless to Southern California for years.

Not just food, lodging, sex and clothing, but styling gel,

French mineral water, lip-liner, aerobics classes, a nice white wine, Cajun chicken wings, sushi and all the pasta primavera they can eat.

I realize that some of the homeless will be uncomfortable with the luxuries. Therefore, lodging, for instance, will have to be built in the form of doorways and beds in the shape of park benches.

The better wines can be wrapped in paper bags and the better clothing retailored in a fashion of downward chic that will inevitably become known as "the homeless look." Designer rags, for instance.

I discussed it with friends who also suggested city-supported trance channeling, but I think that might be excessive and offend those who have never benefited from subsidized psychic self-improvement.

Those measures ought to be enough anyhow to keep our homeless in town and perhaps even lure others to Santa Monica. If nothing else, it will keep the liberals busy and off the streets too.

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