Homelessness is fast becoming a very serious issue in San Leandro and is something that the city needs to look into how to handle.
I live literally across the street from city hall and the police station and have had several incidents in the past few months with homeless people. The issues ranged from a man loitering around neighbors' homes and peeking into their windows to a shoeless person sleeping on the ground around the barbershop across from the police station.
This issue with the sleeping man was particularly interesting in that we had to call twice in the course of the day, with the issue finally seeing resolution when my father happened upon an officer while driving in the street and flagged him down.
How the man could be asleep on the ground across the street from the police station and not be noticed for hours is one thing, but having to get the police to go three times within the span of 24 hours is even more boggling.
Aggressive panhandlers dot the landscape of our shopping locales, from Washington Square Plaza to Palma Plaza and everywhere in between. Some are so regular that when you call to notify the authorities they acknowledge knowing them, as though they were frequent patrons at a diner.
I've seen homeless people go into restaurants and stores and panhandle within them, even steal. Some go so far as to bang on people's cars to get attention. I've spoken with and know many people who will avoid shopping or eating here in San Leandro just because of this growing situation with the homeless.
BART and AC Transit commuters also have regular contact with the homeless, with many taking up residence in the nooks and corners of the stations for as long as they can avoid being noticed. Anyone who's waited for the 97 bus at Bayfair can tell you how overpowering the stench of urine coming from the spot of dirt and brush right next to the bus stop can be.
I sympathize with a great many of the homeless people we've all seen hanging around the city. At the same time, there needs to be some sort of logical response to the situation that involves more than just shunting them along.
What makes our troubles with the homeless even more complicated is that a lot of them are mentally unhinged. This presents a danger to both the homeless person and those that interact with them. An addled person, be it from drugs, mental illness, alcohol, or all three, is not someone you want camping in front of the Popeyes where your kids go after school to grab a bite to eat.
Where we go from here is tricky. These are human beings we're talking about, people with nowhere to go. While our resources for dealing with the homeless and mentally ill are just as limited as everyone else's in this country since the 80's, that doesn't mean we should just throw our hands up in defeat.
A lot of these people genuinely need help, and some are so far gone that they will never be able to help themselves. Giving them your spare change or a buck is a nice gesture, but in reality it's not doing anything to really help them or our city.
I think those in city hall can be doing more to make business owners and citizens aware of their rights and how to help with this situation, as well as be more diligent about having officers keep an eye out for these regular panhandlers and homeless people. Particularly the inebriated homeless, as an officer should be able to identify when someone is a danger to himself or so far gone mentally that they shouldn't be out on the streets.
In the interim, we all have to do our part to be aware of our surroundings and look ot for one another.
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