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Time to restart conversation on homelessness

Whatever you think about the homeless situation in the Jewel, there’s one thing about it that can’t be denied: It’s not going away.

For a time, the beautification committee of La Jolla Town Council was making great strides in starting a community dialogue on the growing problem of homelessness in La Jolla. Unfortunately, that effort has been in hiatus the past couple of years.

It’s time to revive it and put the issue of homelessness back on the front burner. Complaints are increasing about the high-profile visibility of La Jolla’s homeless. The latest complaint from businesses is that the homeless are monopolizing space on memorial benches located throughout the community. There’s talk of having volunteers occupy bench space to discourage the homeless presence there.

Homelessness is a serious social problem. It’s also a difficult issue to resolve. Should homeless people be shown the exits? Should steps be taken to minimize their presence and visibility? Or is it society’s responsibility to try and find a way to rehabilitate those who have fallen through society’s safety net? Are we our brother’s keeper?

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Undeniably, the site of homeless people out on the street tarnishes a community’s image. More importantly, it’s a visible reminder that there are people in need in our community, people who, for whatever reason, have become disenfranchised.

It’s also undeniable that these are human beings who need - and deserve - our help. It’s been said that the homeless population can be broken down into three main categories. One part is made up of people who consciously choose not to work or be rooted. Another part is made up of people brought low by drug and/or alcohol abuse. And the final part is made up of people who are mentally ill, who ought to be receiving treatment but are out on the streets because there’s no money to provide treatment.

The homeless problem will not be solved by ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t exist. We need to start communicating, in a meaningful way, start brainstorming solutions about what could - and should - be done to combat homelessness in our community.

It’s a mark of shame that there are people living on our streets who are in need and little is being done about it.

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Let’s resume the dialogue about homelessness once again. Let’s starting meeting face-to-face with the homeless in a respectful way and talking about what we can do to help them out and resolve the problems and issues which have emerged due to their presence. Let’s start doing it right now.