The Mayor and Council are right in trying to ban certain types of overnight stays during these unprecedented drought conditions. The government’s primary responsibility is to protect its citizens, and the risk of fire from overnight camping, whether by homeless or recreational campers, poses a significant threat to our city. However, our homeless should not be weeded out. No one should be allowed to camp overnight in areas of high fire risk during severe drought, as only a campfire can wreak havoc.
We need to understand that clearing the arid hills of homeless camps can be a challenge as many people could move from the hills to our streets. Unfortunately, some in our community see our homeless people as free riders, lazy people playing the system. The sad fact is that many, if not most, of our homeless neighbors suffer from mental disorders, addictions, traumatic histories, etc. and contrary to widespread misinformation, most of them do not prefer to live in a homeless state.
At a council meeting earlier this year, Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Silverstein stated that we should only care for our local homeless population and that the rest should go back to where they came from. Of course that won’t happen. Silverstein called those who wanted to help our vulnerable homeless “bleeding hearts”. The fact is, we cannot build a wall to keep people out, nor can we tackle this complex problem only through enforcement.
A few months ago, Paul Davis, representative of the Malibu City Homelessness Working Group, presented our council with a tried and tested, constructive approach to addressing the current issues Situation – specifically an alternative sleeping place (ASL) based on the model of the successful program in Laguna Beach. The ASL would provide 30 to 40 local homeless people ready to receive support services, provide short-term temporary housing, and work towards permanent housing across LA County. This approach deserves careful consideration by our community and, if carried out, may well give us legal powers to enforce the prohibition of dangerous camps.
The city is currently funding a successful program from The People Concern, a social services agency specializing in helping homeless people find and stay permanent shelter. They currently have two full-time employees connecting the Malibu homeless with a range of services that lead to family reunification and supportive permanent housing for the many.
The facts speak for the success of these efforts: The latest official census shows that homelessness in Malibu has fallen from 239 to 157 people. Even so, this number is still too high.
The ban on many camps coupled with the continued work of our outreach team and a possible alternative sleeping place could significantly reduce the number of people living on our streets, beaches and hills. let us Making our city safer while helping our most vulnerable residents transition to permanent, supportive housing.