(Editor’s note: LAPD Officer John “Rusty” Redican has worked with the Pacific Palisades Beach Patrol, the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness and with various homeless individuials since 2016. He shared the following thoughts about Councilman Mike Bonin’s motion to house the homeless on the Will Rogers State Beach parking lot.)
Will Rogers State Beach, and really anywhere in the 24.6-sq.-mile, mostly single-residence, mostly residential area of Pacific Palisades, are NOT viable places for these resources and encampments.
Some in government may take issue with my level of honesty, and willingness to put myself out there and be transparent. But again… At the end of the day, I work for all of you and that includes working for our fellow citizens experiencing homelessness. Many times, they don’t have a legitimate voice.
This crisis didn’t happen overnight and will not be fixed overnight. But every day we defer, the problem and despair becomes worse and worse.
I am not only a police officer, but I too have a family member who has battled addiction, depression and homelessness. So I see that person in every single person I interact with who is experiencing homelessness.
It is not compassionate to continue to ignore and allow those who are sick and addicted to slowly die on the streets.
Solutions focusing on correcting the course on homelessness are not one-size-fits-all.
While working in the Palisades daily, and with the PPTFH (Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness), TPC (The People Concern), and LA Beaches and Harbors, I have had to think outside the box, and take an unorthodox approach from the Law Enforcement portion of our efforts.
Sometimes the leverage of enforcement is enough to get someone to accept help. Sometimes that leverage is lifesaving.
In the Palisades Task Force, we have a model that works. The City could simply change out the volunteers that are used here, and hire additional social workers, and the LAPD could be properly funded and adjust to the type of “enforcement” model that I have applied here in the Palisades – and you’d have a model for the City.
Fuse those resources with corrected Mental Health Legislation, Prop HHH Housing, and a compassionate approach from Law Enforcement and lives can be saved.
Building trust and relationships with people who are experiencing homelessness, while building up their self-esteem, can be very difficult, and takes patience and empathy. Many times, the individual says they don’t want help. And it often takes tenacity, and many conversations, for them to take the help.
Many times there is a breach in the flow of the service pipeline, due to the transitory nature of homelessness. First and foremost, before we can take advantage of the money set aside for Prop HHH Housing (in most cases), we need to address the mental illness, narcotics addiction and alcoholism that must be compassionately addressed prior to housing. In order to do that we need to get legislators to make changes to existing, antiquated and broken mental health legislation.
Change the antiquated and broken Mental Illness legislation that has steadily declined since the late 1950s. It picked up speed from the passing of the Community Mental Health Act of 1963, signed into law by JFK. The National Institute of Mental Health (created in 1946) needs to get with Congress and immediately have updated Legislation passed.
There are countless City buildings, property and parking lots where legitimate wrap-around services could be set up. The City should immediately identify all of these properties and begin the conversion process.
Changes will not happen without law enforcement, and ensuring the areas around the sites identified by the City aren’t overrun with crime and squalid encampments is necessary.
As a start, the City, County and State should focus on these changes:
* Update Mental Health Legislation (first and foremost) – Thresholds for Holds – Increase minimum hold/observation times for realistic observations (a true 72 hours, 6 weeks, depending on mental illness severity) – LPS Conservatorship – Probate Conservatorship.
* Rescind and change Prop. 47 and Prop. 57, with respect to mandatory, secure rehabilitation, counseling, job training for hardcore narcotics related offenses.
* Immediately identify all City, County and State buildings, property and parking lots (for safe parking programs) not being used, and reconfigure for housing, safe parking and all applicable wrap around services.
*Drastically increase Social Services involving counseling for the homeless who are in the pipeline to get off the streets. Rebuilding self-esteem is vital.
* Enforce all No-Loitering and No-Camping laws and infractions.
* Create a City-run program to help people get back home to their families in other states, if that is feasible.
* More Job Corps programs to train, retrain or assist our fellow citizens in getting back into the workforce (this is especially vital in helping those recently homeless, who are living in their vehicles, trying desperately to keep their noses above water.)
As a police officer, I have taken a firm yet compassionate and unorthodox approach. The PPTFH, along with the help and information my partners and I get from the citizens of the Palisades, has ensured people get the help.
It’s not compassionate to allow people to die on the streets. Everyone, not just the homeless, deserves to be protected and saved from the depravity, destruction, despair, squalid conditions, crime and outright decaying of quality of life.
US Semper Fidelis,