This past Sunday I was out with my friend Anne. We were walking our respective dogs and as we look across the street there is a homeless man, middle of the day, dropping his pants to leave an odious substance in the street. Now I’m a pretty forgiving person, I understand people have needs, and some people make choices to live a non-traditional lifestyle. Sometimes those choices are driven by mental illness, or just plain old rebelliousness to the rules of society.
But there’s a limit to my tolerance, and this is it.
As I walk my dog, I have to clean up after him. I’ve been accosted by people who think that I am some irresponsible pet owner when I am not cleaning up quick enough for them. I had one neighbor march across the street yelling at me, as I was calmly on the phone, waiting for my dog to finish before I pulled out a plastic bag. This neighbor was ready to call the police on me, so he said, waving a plastic bag as he berated me. When he was within 5 feet of me, I calmly reached into my pocket, pulled out my own bag, and said “thanks but I got it.” Did I receive an apology, or a thank you? Nope. Nada.
I point this out because the level of social pressure on me to clean up after my dog, to be a responsible pet owner is enormous, and I don’t mind. I think it comes with the territory.
What I do mind, is the lack of social pressure on individuals to act in a hygienic way. I do mind that a person can spit on the sidewalk in front of a police officer and not be cited. I mind that our city’s police force is selective in their enforcement of laws, seemingly based on social status. If I were to be caught driving while texting or holding my phone, I can be (and have been) cited. This is not something that your average homeless person will encounter. Why does the police force enforce no cellphone while driving, but not the hygiene laws?
This is not some ‘high horse’ I’m on. There’s an epidemic of Hepatitis A going on in San Diego and if we’re not proactive, it could be just as bad here. We have a huge homeless population, and if they’re not using bathrooms on a regular basis it could become a health hazard for our city.
I know that port-a-potties are unsightly and expensive. But good lord we have to do something to address these health issues that we are facing. We pay a huge amount of money in social support to services like Samoshel, and Ocean Park Community Center to provide services to the homeless and they need to tapped for solutions.
One would think that the businesses in town would be demanding that the Chamber of Commerce act in accordance with the Business Interest Districts and the Conventions and Visitors Bureau to alleviate this problem. The last thing we need is a lot of bad publicity about a Hepatitis A outbreak souring our reputation.
I know that we have regular street cleaning – I get the parking tickets regularly thank you! But is that enough? Shouldn’t we be doing something more proactive to alleviate the homeless populations needs?
We have to do something to address this issue before it becomes a much bigger and more dangerous and costly problem for us to confront. After all, if I have to be responsible for my dog, shouldn’t the homeless be responsible for themselves? Shouldn’t we provide access to more public toilets? It seems to me that it’s not just a health issue, it’s also a human decency issue.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra