Providing assistance to Isla Vista’s homeless may not be a solution to homelessness, if there is such a solution, and it may not be cheap, but it is the decent thing to do.
Right now, about a dozen homeless people are camping in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park at night. They’re protesting a county ordinance that bans sleeping in public places between sunset and 6 a.m. The homeless in Anisq’ Oyo’ know they’re being watched by the police and have kept out troublemakers and drunks. Their protest has been orderly, clean and quiet.
The I.V. Foot Patrol has issued only one ticket, even though everyone camping in the park is breaking the law. The police are doing the right thing. The homeless in Anisq’ Oyo’ are peacefully protesting a law that makes it a crime for them to get a night’s sleep. In this case, not enforcing the law is the best kind of law enforcement.
The protesters in Anisq’ Oyo’ are demanding a permanent campground, which is unreasonable. I.V.’s parks belong to everyone and were purchased as public spaces and not as squatters’ camps. The last permanent campground in I.V. was Tipi Village – torn down in ’79. Tipi Village was a mess, lacking adequate plumbing or any plumbing at all.
A permanent homeless shelter in I.V. is best – somewhere that offers a night or two in a warm bed, long-term beds to those who’ll undergo job training, and a free breakfast program and basic health services. Given Isla Vistans’ track record, the shelter would be well-staffed with volunteers. It may not be possible to find a home and a job for every homeless person, but that’s not the point. They’re people and they deserve a little kindness. Even if someone doesn’t get off the street, it doesn’t mean the kindness was wasted.
Opposition to an I.V. homeless shelter makes two arguments: One, it’s too expensive, and two, the homeless can go to the downtown shelters. As for the cost, the Isla Vista Master Plan is currently being drawn up and a homeless shelter would be a fine addition. If that means certain harebrained trolley schemes have to be left out in favor of the shelter, well, at least the money will be well spent.
One can’t expect the homeless to go to the downtown shelters, which are already burdened. Besides, Santa Barbara has harsher anti-homeless laws, as demonstrated by the recent fight about overnight parking, and that’s for people with cars. More than that, I.V.’s homeless don’t live in Santa Barbara. They live in I.V.
Many of the homeless in Isla Vista have been here longer than current students or, say, UCSB’s chancellor. Having lived in I.V. for decades, they don’t lack a home – they’re a part of this town.
It would be nice if Isla Vista remembered that.