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Response from Councilman Kellar

Posted: April 12, 2009 12:28 a.m.
Updated: April 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Sunday’s (April 5) Signal contained an article titled “Afraid of the homeless?” authored by Tim Myers. Tim is a well-respected member of our community who has written his opinion on matters for many years.

This particular opinion article begs a response.

Tim, in his writing, described a new Senate Bill (SB2) that requires each city in the state of California to designate a zone or zones within its jurisdiction where homeless shelters are allowed as a matter of right.

Cities that do not come into compliance with this mandate are required to allow homeless shelters to be located anywhere in their city, including residential areas.

With the help of a Community Task Force, the city of Santa Clarita has adopted an option that would fulfill the requirements of SB2 and prevent homeless shelters from being placed in any neighborhood.

In addition, the city adopted development standards that would prohibit a homeless shelter from being located within 300 feet of a school or public park and require security personnel during hours of operation.

Tim Myers is correct when he asked if I am afraid of the homeless. I have stated my reasons for concern many times in the past during council meetings.

Perhaps I can again provide my reasons why. I do wish to differentiate between the homeless as we have known them over the years compared to so many of our citizens and families now displaced due to the current economic down turn.

For openers, my 25 years with the Los Angeles Police Department and working the Skid Row areas certainly have given me cause for concern. Many well-intentioned people fail to recognize that many homeless persons have serious issues.

A disproportionate number have mental disorders, criminal backgrounds and health issues that are dangerous to our children and families.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Authority’s 2007 homeless count, of the total projected number of homeless in L.A. County, it is estimated that a third of the homeless population is mentally ill or has substance-abuse problems.

Almost always, if law enforcement makes a sweep of a homeless shelter, they will make arrests for various outstanding criminal warrants, drugs and you name it.

Once a permanent homeless shelter, in contrast to a temporary one, is established, you can bet you’re going to see an influx of homeless in the area.

Many communities around America have had to live with the ongoing problems of the homeless who live on the streets, in doorways of businesses, and in the parks due to the shelter being filled to capacity.

You may want to step over them on our sidewalks, walk your children around them and no longer permit your children to sit on park benches due to lice and other health concerns, but I don’t.

I put the health, safety and well-being of our families ahead of homeless people, many of whom have made a conscious decision to live their lives in that manner.

I vividly recall my discussion with the chief of police of Vero Beach, Fla., a couple of years ago. He said their town did not have a homeless problem per se. They had a town drunk or two that everyone knew, but no real problem.

Then someone on the city council said we need a permanent homeless shelter. The chief went on to say, “Well, we have a problem now.

“Vero Beach is on the homeless circuit; we have them all over our streets and parks.” he said. “Business owners constantly complain to no avail, and no one uses our parks anymore for family activities as they once did.”

Think about this senate bill that would permit a homeless shelter to be anywhere in our city, including a residential zone. A 300-foot buffer from schools and parks is a joke, in my opinion.

From years on the police department, I assure you that you better have security working, because it is only a matter of time until they will be needed.

In his column, Tim mentions an incident involving a possible partner of mine while on the police department who was attacked by a homeless person with a knife. The circumstance was as follows — and when I describe it maybe you will also see I am not the heartless person some may think I am.

I took over the Reserve Officer Training Program at the Police Academy in 1981. Soon after, to help give recognition to the reserve officers and do something good for society, I started the “Care and Share” program, in which the reserve officers collected used but serviceable clothing and distributed it to the homeless at the Union Rescue Mission just prior to Christmas.

The first year we gave out clothing to 350 homeless men. When I retired in 1993 the program had grown substantially. We arrived at the mission with two semi trucks loaded with clothes for men, women and children.

We also obtained confiscated new clothing from U.S. Customs. The last year we supplied clothing not to just to downtown homeless, but to all 18 geographic divisions of the LAPD.

On the final year of operation, 1992, we helped more than 3,000 people.

The supervisor who replaced me stopped the program when I retired. I learned a lot about the homeless during this time period, but also knew of potential dangers with some.

We had an occasion in which a homeless man pulled a knife on another man while in line to get clothes.

We always had about 20 reserve officers working security during the all-day giveaway program. The man with the knife was taken to jail.

Tim also mentioned my military service. Thank you; I am proud of it. The truth is I was in the Army from June 1965 through June 1967.

I was in D Company of the 7th Special Forces and discharged as a Sergeant E5, never having been sent to Vietnam.

I care very much about my fellow citizens; I also believe we must use a great deal of common sense when it comes to protecting our families all across this great nation and in this city.

Thank you, Tim, for the opportunity to explain myself.


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