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Find a balance in tackling homelessness

BY JAMES P. RUDOLPH

A homeless individual, according to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, is defined as someone “who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence or a person who resides in a shelter, welfare hotel, transitional program or place not ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodations, such as streets, cars, movie theaters, abandoned buildings, etc.”

As Mr. Elliot Schubert points out in his recent opinion piece, the homeless, who have legal and constitutional rights, are deserving of compassion and respect. That should be a given in the debate over what to do with the burgeoning homeless population in La Jolla and elsewhere.

But there is, as always, another side to the story.

Having just moved back to La Jolla from Washington, D.C., I’ve noticed a lot of homeless people wandering the streets, accosting people and asking for money. La Jolla, as we all know, is a strikingly beautiful place with a temperate climate, but it’s also an affluent place to which many homeless people are naturally attracted. That, of course, is another given.

What’s not always acknowledged, though, is that shopkeepers, the economic heart and soul of La Jolla, also have rights. They have the right to conduct business without the distraction of having to deal with people who congregate or loiter in front of their businesses; they have the right to ask these individuals to leave; they have the right to call the police if they feel threatened in any way; and they have the right to maintain the beauty and charm of this unique town.

Homelessness is an economic and social problem requiring a response from the community in which it exists. But like most levelheaded solutions, the difficulty lies in striking the right balance between the rights of the homeless and the rights of business owners. This is never easy, so here’s hoping that the town of La Jolla and the city of San Diego, working in concert, can tackle this seemingly intractable problem.

James P. Rudolph, Esq., is a La Jolla attorney.