Saturday, November 16, 2013

Latest Homeless Violence Incident at Sunland McDonalds Shows S-T Residents Have Had Enough of Flawed Homeless Policy

Sign of the Times
While many of us certainly feel compassion for those who are down on their luck and faced with the cycle of homeless, the fact that a large percentage of the homeless population are mentally ill, drug addled and violent offenders creates a huge public safety issue for the residents, families and children of our community. With an establishment, local police force and local government that is seemingly unwilling and/or incapable of dealing with the problem - and in fact may actually intentionally be excaberating it - it is time for the community to take action on it's own.

Information, contact details and an upcoming neighborhood watch meeting is listed at the end of this article. 
Read the following story posted by one of our readers at our Foothills Observed Facebook page:

Tonight I reached my threshold. Done and done.
I’m sharing this post not to start a debate or heated discussion. I share it because tonight, I got first hand experience seeing why things have gotten so out of hand with the homeless population and the effects it’s had on our community and everyone's safety.
I was at McDonald’s tonight on Foothill in Sunland having my child’s parent teacher conference.

A homeless woman obviously high on some sort of narcotic, chased a man and his toddler in the parking lot, kicking him and his car. He ran inside telling the staff to call 911. She followed him in screaming obscenities and yelling about heroine. The situation got extremely heated, the manager called 911, and my daughter’s teacher and I decided it was time to get out of there. I exited the front door only to have the woman follow me and attempt to get into my passenger side door. Thankfully, I was able to hit lock before she could open it. She then went to the rear of my SUV and started pounding on my car calling me names and screaming about heroine. I started my car and she walked across the parking lot to her shopping cart and got a metal baseball bat, banging it on the ground, and came toward my vehicle again. I threw it in reverse and sped off before she got to back to my car. 

I drove back to McDonalds moments later and didn’t see her so I went in to wait with the gentleman who was assaulted, so that I could offer a witness report. The person on the line asked the manager if anyone was hurt. When he said no, but they needed an officer to respond, he was told to ignore the woman and she would go away. We waited… no response. The staff at McDonalds told me that they have to call 911 often because there are homeless people who come in often threatening them with rocks, boulders, and other makeshift weapons, for food and money. 9 out of 10 times, there is no police response to their calls. Some of them are scared to even go to work. The kids eating their dinner in the dining room looked terrified. I left the parking lot once again telling myself, I’ve had it with this place. Wishing I didn’t feel that way.

I came home and called the Foothill Division to express my disappointment at the lack of response. I spoke to an Officer Carlin who blew me off, and told me that if I wasn’t hurt and if it was resolved there was nothing he could do. He then told me that they were too busy for my phone call, and that if I wanted to say something I could drive down to the station. He became more helpful when I asked him for his name, badge number , and supervisor. 

His supervisor Officer Kennedy came on the line and heard me out, apologized and told me that he would send a car out as soon as possible and that he was aware that McDonalds had frequent episodes of this nature. That they do all they can but there is only ONE patrol car assigned to patrol Tujunga regularly. I found that disappointing too. But even the supervisor didn’t ask for my name or contact info in case he wanted to follow up with me or have me offer a formal statement of any kind. 

There are people who’ve said that we should embrace this epidemic and be more understanding. But the situation I witnessed tonight is just one of many, it’s happening more and more and it’s ignored.

Part of me got home and felt like just moving on, that calling wouldn’t make a difference. But after hearing the officer at the field office be so cocky and uninterested I was glad I did, even if I had to hold for 20 minutes to talk to his supervisor. Maybe that is what it will take… people calling and pursuing action all the time, every time.

At the root of much of this appears to be the secret machinations of the so-called "Sunland-Tujunga
The word in Spanish is "BASTA (enough)!"
Homeless Working Group," an organization made up of representatives of the Sunland-Tujunga Neighbohrood Council, Council District 7 staff and other organizations. This was the group who recently held a "homeless resources fair" at Sunland Park, previously home for 50 years to our Watermelon Festival, enticing local homeless as well as those bused in from other communities to receive public assistance, housing, ID cards (paid for by STNC) and free food. Following this event, locals noticed an increase in homeless in the park, dumping of trash and a proliferation of shopping carts.

As writer/blogger Joseph Maiilander noted, the Homeless Working Group does not invite public participation and it's meetings are considered confidential, inclusion is at the whim of CD7 Council Member Felipe Fuentes: 

After three months of pressing the Council office, it has finally been determined: The Sunland-Tujunga Homeless Issues Working Group meets PRIVATELY, by invite of Councilmember Felipe Fuentes ONLY, and the public is NOT invited.

When such meetings that so dramatically affect the future of the community are conducted in private, completely out of community view, with no public review whatsoever--and the Neighborhood Council does not even register any protest that they should be conducted in public--can anyone really still believe that this happens because the Council office, the developer of Day Street, or the people in the group are working in the best interests of the community of Sunland-Tujunga?

When the Neighborhood Council swallows such a private arrangement so gladly, can anyone believe your Neighborhood Council is working in the interest of your community?
You as a community are entirely cut out of that dialog--a dialog that directly affects your community's future, a dialog that is establishing your community as the homeless destination of the Northeast Valley. And yet your Neighborhood Council only seems fine with this relationship, and doesn't even care that these meetings are private!

That's the kind of playing along that government officials just love to hand out certificates for.

As our local officials have failed us, it is time for the community to speak out. It is highly suggested that you contact LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and demand he conduct a full investigation of the Sunland-Tujunga Homeless Working Group and a full review of all policies/actions dealing with the homeless in our community:

500 West Temple Street, Room 869
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 974-5555
(213) 974-1010 FAX
You can send the Supervisor an email at this link.

Additionally, please contact Council Member Felipe Fuentes to demand he open the Homeless Working Group and all records of it's decisions to the public:

7747 Foothill Blvd.
Tujunga, CA 91042
Tel: (818) 352-3287 | Fax: (818) 352-8563
You can reach Wesly Hernandez, Area Director at wesly.hernandez@lacity.org

You can also speak up at an upcoming Neighborhood Watch Meeting, this coming Tuesday, November 19th, at 7 pm at North Valley City Hall. 

7747 Foothill Blvd.
Tujunga, CA 91042

Reaching out to these elected officials and attending these meetings will not immediately change things. But the more people who speak up, bug the hell out of these elected officials and step up more often to resist the status quo will begin to make a change.

4 comments:

Rita-of-Sunland said...

I will be there to demand public access to the S-T Homeless Issues Twerking Group (and it's illegal for exclusionary groups to meet in public facilities, like they've been doing), to inquire why GANG CRIME is not included in crime stats, why illegal street vendors are tolerated, as well as answers as to why the LAPD have been dragging their heels for MONTHS in cleaning out the wash, and often take the side of the homeless, crazy criminals who are quickly destroying our quality of life. WE pay the cops' salaries--- NOT the non-taxpayers. We deserve not only answers, but MAJOR CHANGE.

Kimmie Wallace said...

What so sad about all this is that they don't do anything about the crazy druggies on the streets of neighborhood that can hurt are children, but they pull over my husband and treat him like a criminal. They take there sweet ass time investigating him, when he didn't even do anything wrong to begin with. The cop couldn't even give him a reason why he pulled him over. The cop didn't even use any protocal. He didn't ask for drivers license or any info. He just pulled him out of the car and searched him like a criminal. So after like 10 min of stupid questions and writing down all his info and making notes of his tattoos and piercing. They finally let him go. So ridiculous. They could of been doing something to better the community. There areall these people in plain site on sooo many drugs.. and doing things that are against t he law.. but they dont do anything. It is such bs.I called and complained but that dosent matter i just wish the cops these days would actually take pride in there jobs and get off the power trip. You took this job to help people. So do it.. or find another job. It is so sad that my daughter thinks nothing good of a police officer and trying to explain to her that they are not all bad is so hard when all she sees is the ones that are on a powertrip and think they be pricks just cause they have a badge.. I hope something changes for the better of our community. They need to go to a mannerisms school and learn how to treat people. I am normally on the cops side but the rookies are horriable and need to tought how to act like a person our kids can look up to..

arspoetica said...

For over 30 years I have volunteered (on and off) with various religious, community and not-for-profit groups on behalf of the homeless. The problems you describe so effectively are the lasting product of the closure of state mental hospitals and the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill. An effective homeless solution must include viable, humane and permanent mental health facilities and care. As this requires state funding and operation, any "local" solution will prove woefully inadequate. That the state taxpayer-funded homeless services have been co-opted by developers and dubious not-for-profits (such as L.A. Family Housing, whose "CEO" earns in excess of $200,000 a year), resulting in such debacles as the $14 million Day Street shelter for 44, should sound an alarm rather than engendering the self-congratulatory pronouncements of success coming from our local leaders.

Concerned Resident of Tujunga said...

I'm so upset about this issue as well. One thing we can all continue to do is call 1877 ASK LAPD, since this is not an emergency situation, and report if you see a tranient on public streets, camped or resting by his/her shopping cart. Foothill is starting to smell like urine, sick to my stomach that I can't take a walk with my kids anymore! We need to force the police and councilman to work for us, and if you see an abandoned cart, call the sanitation department and have them schedule a pick up. Lastly, make sure to make many phone calls to property managers of McDonald's and Smart&Final, to ask for security guards, so that transients don't gather during the morning and evening hours, scaring us into our homes... Rediculous!!!