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Homelessness: Santa Monica's Share of the Responsibility

March 27, 1994

A menacing woman defecating in full view of children on the lawn of an elementary school is an image one associates with some dismal, backwater town; a disease-ridden, war-torn place that one reads about; a symbol of a society decayed beyond repair. This act occurred on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, March, 1994.

Santa Monica, as most of us know, is a magnet for the homeless, and has been for many years. As the numbers swelled we have witnessed our parks, libraries, shops and restaurants become targets for displays of aberrant behavior, panhandling and, more recently, threats and aggression.

We have tolerated this antisocial behavior in the name of civil rights. Our children have civil rights too! They should be allowed to go to school without witnessing acts of behavior so horrible and base that even Hollywood would decline to immortalize them for the sake of a buck!

My plea is to all those who vote, create, interpret and enforce the laws in Southern California to find it morally incumbent upon themselves to accept as just the rationale for equitable sharing of the burden of the homeless. Santa Monica is only 8.3 square miles and the homeless are overrepresented here. Most people in Santa Monica are not millionaires living in luxury. Yes, there is affluence, but most residents of this community are renters. We, as a nation of people, are very giving and generous. A plan which takes into account economics, size, number of public parks and other parameters can be formulated but it must be kept simple and consistent. These details can be worked through if local governments are willing to abandon animosities, jealousies, egos and cowardice. I know that many communities are helping the homeless without suffering abuses. What can we learn, what can we share, what are they doing right, and what are we doing so wrong? Let us dilute the problem so no community will feel overburdened.

I hope we do not have to explain to our children that such base primitive behavior displayed at my 8-year-old's elementary school has recently become just another vicissitude of life.

CLAIRE OSOWKY

Santa Monica

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