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Local non-profit won't stop feeding the homeless in Ocean Beach

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By Natasha Sweatte

In recent months, Ocean Beach residents said they’ve noticed the homeless population becoming more aggressive.

“It’s almost threatening; they won’t take no for an answer when they want money,” said Brett Worthington, who has lived in OB for 26 years.

Worthington said the majority of the homeless he has seen simply expect a hand-out.

 “Some of these people who are getting the help, that’s their lifestyle now,” he explained. 

Lorraine Goerke has lived in Ocean Beach for 23 years and said she has noticed people on the streets being more destructive.

“They’re sleeping in their doorways, and then they’re urinating there; I’ve seen a lot of that which is kind of a bummer and also throwing up,” Goerke said.

Goerke said she had mixed feelings when it comes to people feeding the homeless.

“I think it’s a good gesture, but does it encourage them to stay? Maybe,” Goerke contemplated.

Urban Street Angels is a local non-profit that comes out to the Ocean beach sea wall every Friday doing just that; giving those who do without a free meal.

“We want to help people get off the street,” said Eric Lovett, Executive Director of Urban Street Angels.

Lovett said their service is widely misunderstood.  He said they help put people into programs once they’re ready.  Until then, it’s a lot of compassion and a little bit of food.

San Diego 6: “Were you specifically asked to stop feeding the homeless?”

Lovett:  “They have asked.  We’ve told them we’re not going anywhere; we want to work with you, and so we want to try and consistently work with the City.”

OB Town Council President Gretchen Newsom described their weekly meals as “sporadic feedings that only cause frustration for local residents and businesses.”  She said in addition to making a “mess,” it only creates a “band-aid effect for people on the streets.”

Councilman Ed Harris was a San Diego County Lifeguard Sergeant for 25 years and for the majority of the time, he worked in Ocean Beach.  He said he adamantly opposes groups like urban street angels feeding the homeless.

“When you feed them, they tend to congregate,” Harris said.  “I applaud that they’re providing food to people that are hungry, we just ask that they do it in a different way,” he explained.

Harris said he will work to provide direction to those who are open to it and said for those who don’t want to get off the streets still must abide by the law.

“It’s not illegal to be homeless, but it is illegal to defecate to urinate to throw your trash everywhere,” Harris said.

Harris will hosting a forum at the Point Loma library Thursday evening at seven to discuss possible solutions for the growing homeless problem in Ocean Beach and surrounding coastal areas.

For more information on Urban Street Angels click here: www.urbanstreetangels.org

 

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