I’m glad the Anaheim City Council acted with unanimity to enact the anti-camping ordinance. I was impressed by the testimony from the many residents who live near the park, who addressed the council last night. They spoke with plain and direct eloquence about their plight and without invective, and their comments cut through the fog of misplaced complaints about “criminalizing homelessness.”
One speaker, a Mr. Victor LaFontaine, was particularly effective, and I’d like to share what he had to say:
Dear Mayor and councilmembers:
My name is Victor LaFontaine. I’m an Anaheim resident and a property owner since August of 2008. I also work here in the city of Anaheim. I’m here to endorse the ordinance to ban camping at all hours in city parks. I live on Clementine Street directly across from La Palma Park.
As you already know, the camping of homeless people at La Palma Park has become quite the eyesore. I see it every morning at 6:00 a.m. when I go to work, and I see them camping till past 10:30 every night.
Let me start by quoting to you the definition of a park, as found in the Webster’s Dictionary: “A park is a piece of public land in or near a city that is kept free of houses, buildings and can be used for pleasure and exercise.”
The definition of a shelter: “A shelter: an establishment that provides temporary housing for the homeless people.”
So, is it La Palma Park or La Palma Shelter?
I do understand the sensitivity to homeless and civil rights. My father was homeless, for many years, but it was by choice. If he wanted to clean up, find help and get a job, there’s men’s homes, shelters and church organizations that he could go to.
I’m not saying every homeless person has bad intentions or is a criminal. I’m not saying they don’t deserve help. What I’m saying is they need to get help at a shelter, not at the park.
Some argue it is a ticket targeting homelessness. So, is a street-sweeping ticket targeting home owners, or discriminating against social class? No – it’s to keep my streets clean and to provide law and order. That’s exactly what the ban on the camping will do: clean up the park and provide order.
Mayor and city council, the homeless problem has turned La Palma Park pretty bad. It’s very unsanitary, unsafe and unwelcoming. I invite you, mayor, as well as the city council, to walk through La Palma Park. Don’t just drive by; walk through the park and see if this is how the park was to be used.
Would you take your children or grandchildren there? The tents surround the playground area, making it very unusable and comfortable for kids, which the playground was designed for. There are tarps hanging from trees, litter and feces everywhere.
The question has been raised: “Where will they sleep? they need a safe place to go.” The answer is: not La Palma Park. They need to go to a shelter, a halfway house, a campground (which tent camping is meant for), or maybe even the parking lots of some of the organizations that support them.
It’s a park, not a shelter.
If this ordinance does not pass, there will be a lot more tents in the park. When will it stop? When there are hundreds of tents? Would you allow these tents to exist in front of City Hall? Or any Anaheim Hills park? Or even the beloved Farmers Park, for that matter? So why do you allow it at La Palma Park?
I’m a homeowner who is proud to be a resident here, but I am ashamed to bring family and friends over because it is downright embarrassing. The crime rate in my neighborhood has become very bad over the last year, and I’m sure you are aware of this. I’m asking you to pass this ordinance to ban camping at La Palma park, as it is the only way to clean up the park. Other than this, what options do we have?
I want my park back, I want my neighborhood back. Thank you for your time and consideration.
No shouting. No anger directed at the council, although he and other nearby residents certainly have sufficient cause for anger. Calm, reasonable but firm requests for the city to meets its primary obligation and enact an ordinance to secure a public park for the public, and remove a true nuisance from their lives.
UPDATE: Here’s a video clip of Mr. LaFontaine’s remarks: