To the Editor:

I am a very healthy and active 83-year-old woman who has been coming to Santa Monica regularly for 27 years – to my longtime hairdresser, movies, shopping at my regular stores etc. and I had a terribly disturbing experience on Saturday. I took a bus from my home in Beverly Hills to Santa Monica for my haircut appointment. I was early so I stopped into a local store in the heart of downtown. When leaving the store, someone behind me gave me an extremely hard punch in my back, yelling something I could not understand. It was shocking – I could hardly breathe.

A store employee saw the incident and came running up to me. It had been a disheveled man that appeared to be mentally unstable. He sauntered away and I spent time seated inside the store unable to fully catch my breath. The police and paramedics came and stayed with me and the store employee until I felt well enough to walk two blocks to my hairdresser. During that walk I must have looked behind me dozens of times, fearful that it could happen again. While grateful that the man did not have a knife and that I didn’t fall down the stairs, I felt terribly vulnerable. Instead of returning home by bus, I took a Lyft home. The thought of walking on Santa Monica streets was daunting. I am now fearful of walking from the bus stop to my appointments – my former sense of independence in Santa Monica has been terribly diminished.

I spent the rest of the day at home resting with an ice pack on my back.

Of course I shared this incident with my daughters who were horrified, and with all of my friends. We will no longer be coming into Santa Monica for our usual activities. It does not feel safe, and there are too many other areas in which we feel more secure, such as Brentwood, Century City and Beverly Hills.

I have always felt very sympathetic to homeless people and still do. However I cannot understand how Santa Monica cannot do something to keep mentally deranged people off the streets. It is not fair to the city’s residents or to your visitors, and will certainly impact your businesses.

It’s sad to know that my friends and I now feel vulnerable walking on the streets of such a favorite destination. I was Founding Associate Director of the UCLA Center on Aging, (now called The UCLA Longevity Center) and am well aware that certain abilities diminish with age. But to have one’s enjoyed activities diminished due to poor public policies is particularly disturbing.

Sincerely,

Audrey Stein

Beverly Hills