I am not sure what has generated more passion over the years for local San Pedrans: the redevelopment of Ports O’ Call or the homeless crisis. One thing is true, our town has no issue about expressing its frustration with both.
Even when progress is finally being made, when nobody truly believed it would actually happen, like the redevelopment of Ports O’ Call, locals continue to vent their frustration about it in general. Regardless, in this particular case, progress is moving forward as the remaining demolition of Ports O’ Call will be completed by year’s end and the pathway for the waterfront promenade development will begin in 2019.
The homeless crisis, on the other hand, is next in line of issues we must face and resolve as a community. Each day, we see the homeless walking in certain parts of San Pedro, asking for a handout, defecating on our streets, and digging in the trash, while encampments are popping up in the most random locations. It used to be that these encampments were limited to certain locations, but now you can find encampments across San Pedro and Greater Los Angeles as a whole. This crisis is not going away.
This is not the first time San Pedro fought back regarding a homeless shelter or homeless housing. The first time was back in 1994 when the Navy housing on Western Avenue across from Green Hills, the former Ponte Vista Site, became available. Once Navy surplus housing becomes available, it can be offered up to support the homeless. Back then, the plan was to use this site to house 880 homeless but met resistance from the San Pedro community and was defeated.
Today, almost 25 years later, this location is still dirt.
The perception of homelessness is far from what our reality was when we were growing up, and the numbers have more than doubled. Breaking down homelessness in cause categories of substance abuses, mental illness, single parent families, veterans, high rents, lack of jobs, etc., only complicates the issues. In a lot of cases, many homeless are actually people who hold jobs and have children but have to live in their car because they cannot afford rent or a mortgage.
The A Bridge Home initiative is the latest of many approaches to help solve the homeless crisis. This program is to provide temporary shelter in all 15 Council Districts in the City of Los Angeles, and to bring necessary services to the homeless and help guide them into the next phase of getting off the streets. The location that has been approved is just off the freeway at Harbor Boulevard on Beacon Street. This is a far cry from the homeless shelter storage facility that was proposed on Pacific Ave. near Barton Hill Elementary School, and ten times less than the 880 homeless shelter proposed in 1994.
Like many, I am skeptical that this will work, but hopeful that it will. In the end, I believe the main issue here is trust. Do we trust that this will truly be temporary? Do we trust that it will enable the homeless to find their next step to recovery? Do we trust that this location will be safe, well maintained, and secure? Do we trust that this approach will not filter into the adjacent neighborhoods, waterfront development, and local schools? Do we trust the City of Los Angeles to enforce the law on vagrants who do not seek the homeless services that will be in this local area to help them?
There is much distrust to be shared, but as I see it, the times today in San Pedro are much different from the past. We have many who will hold the City and Council Office accountable to meet the intent of this local A Bridge Home location, to keep it clean, safe, and most importantly, to work. One thing we can no longer do is to turn a blind eye to this crisis. We are called by our faith, compassion, and community to do so, and to do nothing will not make this crisis heal.
Anthony Pirozzi is a Los Angeles Harbor Commissioner. He can be contacted at email@example.com.