The issue of a shelter for Isla Vista’s homeless has been getting a lot of attention. To say that the issue is a new one would be a lie. To say that something needs to be done is an understatement. But how would a campground work out?
Let’s rewind the tape here back to May of 1995 for a view as to how homeless individuals handle a living situation given to them free of charge.
It all started when the landlord of an apartment complex on Sueno Road got locked up in jail for some schizophrenia-induced violent acts. This left the property unattended and open to occupation – and occupied it became.
I came home from a road trip up north to find one individual pitching a tent in my driveway as his cohorts threw out all of the landlord’s belongings on to the front lawn.
This created a series of garbage piles that would extend to the backyard and eventually take a major effort by the county to remove. This was only the beginning of hell.
Soon enough we would come to see what it would be like to live next to a homeless encampment. If they were peaceful and respectful I’m sure we wouldn’t have paid any attention. But these folks were anything but peaceful or respectful, considering the precariousness of their living situation.
The day would start with either one or a couple of the occupants across the way puking off the balcony from the previous night’s festivities. Their drunken friends would come over, have a few too many drinks and drive away, hitting our fence and/or cars along the way, neighbors were harassed and accosted, and syringes were found around the property. This was just the tip of the iceberg.
Every night there would be fights over the simplest of things, these being beer, cigarettes or other simple pleasures this lifestyle has to offer.
Let’s not forget to mention the garbage piles on the front lawn. These got bigger by the day and soon were occupied by rats bigger than the average feline.
The police constantly came by and warrant sweeps would end up with a handful of our new “neighbors” taken away for either parole violations or outstanding warrants.
You’d think the police would’ve been able to kick them off the property, but the landlord, suffering from schizophrenic delusions, would not sign a complaint.
Welcome to what we jokingly referred to as “Camp Sueno Homeless Shelter.” But this wasn’t a joke. It was a harsh reality that, given a situation in which to live in a civilized manner, these individuals didn’t.
Eventually the landlord passed away, the property went into probate and the county took over said property and kicked all of the occupants out. Goodbye, good riddance.
And now homeless people want the I.V. Recreation and Parks District to give them a campground. This was attempted once before at the Red Barn on Estero Road, but they literally burned that opportunity to the ground when someone overlooked the simple fact of kindling temperature and placed a Hibachi with hot coals in the wooden shelves behind the Red Barn, thus starting a fire and evicting them from those premises.
The IVRPD has tried to help the homeless community many times before in the past, but all attempts were met with failure.
So what can be done? So far all I’ve presented here are the problems based on past history, but no real solution to the question of housing the homeless. Is there really a viable solution? I can’t say without bias from my past experience interfering.
I sound bitter and many will say “what an asshole” without even discussing in detail what occurred during that nasty period on Sueno Road.
If so, then so be it. But I say, as will anyone who endured that occupation, that a campground will only bring about the same problems as those across the driveway from me.
If this campground were to become a reality, the only way it could possibly work is with proper policing and rehabilitation or treatment for many of its occupants. But the homeless see these as violations of their freedoms. What about the freedoms of others?
The “protest” we saw at Anisq’ Oyo’ Park has been civil and orderly. But the question must be asked: If the homeless community gets a campground and the public eye focuses elsewhere, how long will it take to go from civil and orderly to chaos and squalor? Not long at all, judging by what my neighbors and I saw back in May of 1995.
It was a nightmare come true and I’m glad it’s over – well, for now, at least.
Henry Sarria is a longtime Isla Vista resident and frequent contributor to the Daily Nexus.