On Thursday, May 18, 2017, I took part in a homeless census in Buena Park, California. I have spent the past 5 days just compiling all the thoughts and emotions that ran through my head that day. I can tell you that my experience has lead me to believe that the plan I have for solving the homeless situation in Orange County truly is the best method possible. My plan directly addresses many of the issues I experienced or discussed with the Buena Park Police and City Net personnel while out in the field on Thursday night, May 18, 2017.
Three teams went out on the evening of May 18, 2017. Each was accompanied by an officer of the Buena Park Police Department. My officer was Sergeant Dieringer, the officer in charge of the Community Impact Team. What impressed me about Sgt. Dieringer is his intimate knowledge of who the homeless are and where they hang out. His compassion for the homeless people was also quite evident. Sgt. Dieringer explained that when he was a patrol officer they did not have the training they have today. He credits the training for a reduction in the homeless issue.
When I initially signed on to do this census I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The general public seems to paint the homeless as the scum of the earth. They paint the homeless as a group who just enjoy being wasted all the time and living on the streets. The picture I had was pretty scary. Reality was very different.
As we came in contact with homeless people with the idea of having them complete a very short questionnaire in exchange for a hygiene kit, I found people who truly appreciated that we were speaking with them. I found people who wanted help getting off the streets. I found people so desperate for shelter that they would stay in places that were less than ideal just to avoid having to sleep outside.
The big learning I had is the desire of the homeless for society to see them as human beings. It was quite apparent to me that the homeless feel the general population looks down on them and they are extremely bothered by it. I happen to agree 100% with the woman I spoke to who said “We are people too and we should be treated like people and not like animals.” Her comments struck me hard. I felt as though I had my heart ripped out while listening to her.
In future posts I will discuss some of the specifics of getting people off the streets and the bureaucracy that is in place to allegedly help the homeless, but ultimately winds up keeping people on the street. I have so many thoughts around both of these issues that they each need their own post.
I leave you with these thoughts. If you see a homeless person or a group of homeless people, please realize they are just like you and me. They are human beings who are down on their luck. Please treat them with the respect you would give to any other human being. I also want you to realize that your local city council and your local police department are not going to be the best fit for solving this problem long term. Only the Orange County Board of Supervisors can truly solve this problem and that is why I am seeking the 2nd District Supervisor’s seat. I want to help the homeless and ease the discomfort of the citizens who have anxiety as a result of the homeless. Let’s work together to fix this problem.