Homelessness isn’t just a dilemma for Laguna Beach but the world outside. Nothing breaks one’s heart more than seeing a young girl begging for change — as I did on the side of a dusty road along the outskirts of Lima, Peru — or a grown man whom I saw sleeping on a cold slab of cardboard under a freeway in Santa Monica.
I couldn’t imagine for a second what it might be like to be homeless.
Quite possibly my first real encounter with a homeless person was at the ripe old age of 7 in London. A man had asked me for change while I was walking down the street with my mom, sister and grandmother. I obliged and handed the person some change that at this moment I want to call a shilling.
A quick thank you was given to me, with a smile of gratitude, and instantly a sharp tongue followed from my grandmother — a stern scolding that I can remember to this day. Sadly, it’s the only real memory I have of my grandmother, whom I met only once.
I’m assuming the mantra of showing compassion to the less fortunate wasn’t something she had been taught as a little girl growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Still, today there seems to be a certain resentment toward the homeless, and I will agree some will rub you more than the wrong way, but so will the average Joe. But that old stereotype that they choose to be homeless is something I will never fathom.
Why would anyone choose to be homeless?
It is the same ignorance that surrounds the ACLU lawsuit against Laguna Beach — because if there is one town that shows compassion for the less fortunate it is Laguna Beach.
Because in Laguna Beach being homeless is only one fire or landslide away; this is a town chock full of caring people who time and time again rally for one another and extend a helping hand.
This is a town that offers food, shelter and services to the less fortunate. In helping those who have fallen on hard times, it offers the opportunity to get off the streets. It’s a town that is more than compassionate toward the less fortunate — a town that, in short, is a sanctuary for the homeless. It’s too bad my grandmother isn’t around today, because I know she would think this lawsuit is just as ridiculous as I do.
Because I know some may say we already do too much.
JAMES PRIBRAM is a Laguna Beach native, professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing and ECOWarrior Surf.com. He can be reached at Jamo@Aloha SchoolofSurfing.com