Letter: One Key Caveat

Letter to the Editor

Because of a legal decision, Martin v. Boise, that says a municipality can’t criminalize sleeping on public land if a person has no other option, the suggestion is being made that if we have a shelter in Malibu and a homeless person is offered but refuses to sleep there, the city can therefore enforce a “no camping” law. The problem in my mind is that I have asked at three city council meetings what that actually means and haven’t gotten an answer. That is: how, if at all, can a homeless person who refuses help be induced to leave the city? I think those refusing help are most likely to be the dangerous people among the homeless, whose presence here is most detrimental to citizens.

Homeless people who accept the help of a shelter would be required to and would be helped in seeking a permanent living situation; I’m inclined to feel, with a caveat, that Malibu should create a shelter as a necessary part of helping those who want help, if we specifically affirm that there are such people among Malibu’s homeless. To be unwillingly homeless would be untenable, and it would be seemingly impossible to help oneself from that situation.

The caveat is that our local government should not solve one problem while creating another, through unintended consequences. If Malibu creates a shelter it must ensure it will create zero new risk to citizens, such as potentially bringing a criminal element of homeless people close to anyone’s neighborhood. Any shelter should be secured and distant from residences.

The worst outcome would be if the city council allowed this issue to divide us, as residents. For example, if the city put out a questionnaire asking people if the city should put a homeless shelter in the Civic Center and everyone far from the Civic Center said “yes” and everyone living in the Civic Center area said “no,” and then the council voted to do that. The question should be, do you support a shelter near your home, and if everyone says “no,” then it needs to be in a remote location.

Lynn Norton