By TRILBY BERESFORD | Reporter
The Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness hosted a meeting at Palisades Branch Library on the evening of Monday, Sept. 25, to discuss “Safety on our Beach.”
Sharon Kilbride began the program by sharing some updates: 93 homeless individuals engaged with PPTFH are off the streets and 63 are permanently housed. Numerous individuals were engaged with over the past summer.
Kilbride emphasized the effectiveness of Palisadians in staging “massive cleanup efforts” of homeless encampments in the Bluffs and along the beach.
There has been a reduction in hazards such as encampment fires and an increase in positive conversations between homeless individuals and those who are trying to assist them, which includes LAPD Beach Patrol.
“Our strategy is to identify camps and offer relevant services,” Kilbride said matter-of-factly. She mentioned that there are three remaining encampments to clean up before the end of the year.
LAPD Officer Rusty Redican has been working with the task force for three years and approaches the homeless issue from a personal perspective, having dealt with a family member who was homeless for some time. He explained that he attempts to have productive conversations with homeless individuals, which is not always the default procedure of police officers.
“If they’re not predatory or under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, we usually have a pretty good conversation,” he said, adding that the typical problems tend to be homeless people attacking or robbing other homeless people. “What we can do as citizens is remain vigilant,” Redican stressed. “If you see something [concerning], say something.”
When considering the particular characteristics of the homeless community, Officer Jimmy Soliman said that many prefer to be identified as “travelers,” those who are simply moving from one location to another, with or without a final destination. Such specifics may affect how positively they engage with law enforcement or PPFTH members who approach to assess the situation.
Chief Erik Albertson from LA County Lifeguards clarified that the main reason for lifeguards to interact with homeless individuals is when medical care is needed. He said they strive to be mindful of the specific challenges of homeless people while honoring their primary mission of providing life safety to everybody. “We’re looking at what’s going on in daylight hours, and 80 percent of what we do is preventative: seeing incidents [in the water and sand] before they happen.”
Representing Beaches and Harbors, Chief Deputy Director Kerry Silverstrom shared their role—to ensure that the beaches are safe and clean and used for appropriate purposes. The organization cleans debris and hazardous trash on the sand during early morning hours, which often corresponds to an engagement with the homeless.
Another way in which Beaches and Harbors supports beach safety is with code enforcement officers who patrol the beach looking for signs of disturbance, though they rely on law enforcement officers to proceed with any legal matters. They also enforce an anti-loitering provision from midnight to 6 a.m. and no overnight camping or sleeping, which ensures that the beach remains fairly uninhabited in the evening.
However, the Coastal Commission wants to lift the beach curfew that is currently in place from 12 to 5 a.m. The effects of this would increase challenges for Beaches and Harbors as it would encourage illegal inhabitation and potentially increase crime and noise. Since the beachside bathrooms are not open 24 hours per day, human excrement on the sand would pose a specific public safety issue. LA City has not yet filed an application on this matter and CCC will have a hearing in the coming months.
With a clear view of the various challenges ahead, the PPTFH Volunteer Committee is in need of assistance to keep the machine turning. Kim Clary highlighted grant writing and newsletter articles as immediate areas to get involved in, and invited candidates to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Continued effort and attention to fine details will ensure that Pacific Palisades remains a model for other coastal cities to adopt when researching strategies for their own homeless populations.
Nonprofit Friends of the Jungle has launched a petition for the beach curfew at change.org/p/keep-the-beach-curfew-in-los-angeles. Emails can be sent to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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