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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: I am homeless. Fear keeps me out of shelters and in my car

Homeless and living in a car
A couple who lives in their car beds down for the night at the West Los Angeles VA campus on May 9, 2018.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: As a homeless “car camper” and a woman alone, I can tell you that the most valid reason for someone to refuse shelter is fear. (“Will L.A. finally stop shooing homeless off the sidewalks and focus on housing them?” editorial, Dec. 17)

Several years ago I went into a shelter for a couple of weeks, and when other down-and-outs found out I had a running vehicle, I was expected to drive them around for free. The one time I refused, I feared for my life. My food was stolen from my assigned section of the shelter pantry, and there was no enforcement of curfew rules and therefore no sleep for those of us who were trying to work regular jobs.

I learned that many of the other folks were on parole, so I left the shelter system and learned to keep to myself. My current vehicle suits most of my needs just fine, and with the help of one very special friend, I can afford to run it legally -- for now. Local police know I’m just trying to live and not drinking or using drugs. As long as I can find a toilet when I need one, all is well.

But I keep my doors locked and my phone charged and within easy reach. I never sleep deeply. Fear wins, every time.

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Catherine Gordon, Fullerton

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To the editor: While the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Martin vs. City of Boise stands in the nine western states, municipalities in the 41 other states are free to enforce “no sleeping on the sidewalk” ordinances.

Failure to grant certiorari is not a ruling on the merits of an appeal. Actually, the court said nothing at all, and any interpretation amounts to reading of tea leaves. The court may simply be waiting for an appeal from another circuit or for one that has a clearer delineation of the issues.

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Further, there is nothing in the court’s action that precludes cities in the 9th Circuit from adopting limits on where sleeping on public property is acceptable, such as banning sidewalk encampments within 300 feet of residences.

Mark Ryavec, Venice

The writer is president of the Venice Stakeholders Assn.

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To the editor: It is important to remember that homelessness is only a symptom of a larger problem: the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the lowest masses. As long as political and economic forces exacerbate this concentration, homelessness will persist and worsen.

One solution seems simple to me: Open L.A.'s many private country clubs to campers with portable toilet services. This seems like a reasonable redistribution of wealth to me.

At a minimum, I think homeless encampments should be allowed at city-owned golf courses.

Andrew Tilles, Studio City

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To the editor: I have experienced homelessness within my family, with its often associated substance abuse issues. My question is not meant to be flip or make light of the problem.

I would like to know, since the recent court decision allowing people to sleep in public spaces was allowed to stand, can I now show up at the beach anytime I like and set up camp?

Right now it takes a lot of luck and six months’ advanced planning to be lucky enough to reserve a campsite. It sure would be nice to have free camping.

Shelley Upton, Greenspot, Calif.


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