Letter to the Editor: Mental Health Issues Need to be Addressed, Not Discussed

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Letter to the Editor:

Burbank Chamber

About a month ago my friend David Donahue wrote a letter to this publication describing the disgust he felt witnessing a homeless man and women copulating on the sidewalk of Magnolia Blvd. in the middle of the day.  Well, last week while I was walking my dog, Bridget, past the bus stop at Buena Vista and Olive at eight o’clock in the morning I was assaulted by a deranged homeless man that chased after me and tried to kick my dog.

Now, like everyone that lives in Los Angeles County I’m used to interacting with deranged homeless people on a regular basis.  I see the crazy meth heads strolling past my office on Magnolia Blvd. several times a day.  I know the routine… we all do.  Pretend like that crazy person doesn’t exist, don’t make eye contact, hope they abide by that uneasy tension that we all feel, and go on with their lives without making a scene. 

Well, this particular homeless man at the bus stop broke that tension and came out screaming and cussing, pounding and raging, arms whaling, feet kicking.  This man was absolutely deranged and beside himself.  His eyes were as big as saucers, and it was clear he was completely detached from reality.  He obviously hadn’t taken his meds, or, maybe, he’d taken too many of them.

Having broken the social contract of ignoring each other I felt obligated to call the police.  I never call the police on homeless people, but I felt genuinely fearful for my safety (and Bridget’s as well) while on my morning stroll.  Like I said, I’m used to being around homeless people… I often work Downtown Los Angeles, and in the past year I’ve hopscotched my way past feces and needles in the Bay Area, Seattle, and Portland.  No assaults on me in those beautiful cities.  Rather, I had the pleasure of enjoying a raving lunatic assaulting me in my own neighborhood.

As I mentioned, I called the police and because it was a non-emergency call it took them 10-15 minutes to show up.  But by that time, the homeless man had already boarded a Burbank Bus, put on his clothes while the driver patiently waited (oh yeah, I forgot to mention he was mostly naked), and rode down Olive Blvd. to find some other residents to accost later that day.  When the police did finally show up, they asked for a description of the homeless man and if he had physically hurt me or had weapon.  No, he did not physically hurt me because I ran away from him, but he did chase me and attempted to kick my dog is what I told them.  No, I did not see a weapon but is that a prerequisite for an assault?  The police officers were very nice as they explained that they have limited resources in addressing this situation (read between the lines – Gascon), apologized for the inconvenience and wished me a good day.  

The response I received sharing stories of my encounter with this homeless man were very illuminating.  It seems everyone in Burbank has their own horror story of some assault; including a neighbor who was nearly stabbed by a homeless man in Ralph Foy Park while she was walking her dog.  I couldn’t help but think about my wife and children and how traumatizing and potentially dangerous the same encounter with this deranged homeless man would have been for them.

At last nights City Council Candidate Forum put on by Leadership Burbank and the Chamber of Commerce I heard a lot of platitudes from the candidates about how they are going to address the homeless issue in our city.  I heard a lot of promises to provide more housing to address the situation, but I think there is a giant disconnect happening here.  The homeless man who assaulted me was not suffering from a lack of affordable housing alternatives.  No, he was obviously suffering from severe mental health and/or substance abuse issues.  He was not “unhoused” he was “unhinged.”  I feel empathy for this man.  He needs help.  He needs our help.  He needs our society’s help.  And our society should help this man, and others like him, by not turning a blind eye to violence, drug abuse, property theft, and apparently having sex on the sidewalk.  We need stopping telling the lie that all homelessness is a housing issue because it’s not.

City Council candidate Carmenita Helligar almost got it right when she said we need to recognize different elements of the homeless population as subsets like homeless vets, working poor, foster youth, etc.… She’s almost right, we do need to recognize these subsets, especially those dealing with transitional homelessness.  I support local organizations like Home Again LA, BTAC, and the Burbank Housing Corporation in this endeavor.  However, we must also recognize that there is a large subset of chronically homeless people that are dealing with severe mental health issues and drug problems.  City Council candidate Zizette Mullins hit the nail on the head when she said homelessness is a quality-of-life issue.  Ding, ding, ding… she’s absolutely right, I’m sure the quality of life for that homeless man left much to be desired, but, his behavior, and the behavior and acts of those like him, diminish the quality of life for all of the rest of us.

I moved to Burbank 16 years ago to get away from Los Angeles.  Sadly, I see the quality of life in our city slowly being degraded as we morph into Los Angeles light.  And I know you see it too.  The people in this City need to wake up and start demanding more from their elected officials. We need to pay closer attention to the candidates we elect; so that we elect only those individuals that will advocate for the residents’ best interests instead of adhering to failing woke political ideologies. 

I’m not denigrating all homeless people.  I am only concerned with those homeless individuals that assault residents, commit property theft, have sex in public, and try to stab my neighbors.  These people are breaking laws left and right with abandon and it’s due to no fault of the police that laws are not being enforced.  The fault lies with feckless elected officials (i.e., Burbank City Council) that won’t stand up to fight other elected officials (see LA County District Attorney) to make sure that laws are being enforced and order restored in our community.             

Paul Herman
Burbank

UMe Schools

1 COMMENT

  1. Well said Paul.
    We already have Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz who can’t wait to do more for the homeless (as if we are not doing enough already).
    Now, with two or most likely three more that will be elected already stating they are in favor of things like tiny houses and free handouts to the homeless in every conceivable way – do you think our homeless population will increase or decrease?
    We will have a council majority that thinks money grows on trees. Get ready for more taxes, get ready for way more spending, and get ready for way more crime.
    When you get more crime, you get more victims, and the victims are going to be you and I.
    The council members forget that we are the ones who vote, and we are the ones who pay taxes and we are the ones who need protection. Paul, you would think the elected officials would be working for us, and you would be wrong. The majority are already salivating and dreaming up new ways to put out the welcome wagon for the people without. Tough love never enters their minds.
    As if property owners are not being punished enough already, rent control will be one of the first things to be enacted punishing the people who have worked to actually invest in our city. This is the new Socialism, the new Burbank way. As Anthony likes to say over and over, “TAX THE RICH” (the rich is anyone who has one dollar more than he does) With this slate of candidates, his plan has come to fruition.
    Handouts, freebies in every conceivable way is what is on the horizon for Burbank. We will have an explosion of the unwanted here because of our socialist council majority.
    And don’t forget, this element most likely does not even vote.

    Don’t get me wrong, we as a society should be helping the downtrodden and the Federal Government, the State of California, and the County of Los Angeles already do in a major way. For the majority this help has switched from something temporary to the norm: a way of life. Why work, why be productive when government gives you everything for free? (NOTHING is free, OUR taxes pay for the handouts)

    The Burbank City Council wants to enable people to be able to ride in the cart, leaving folks like you and I to pull and push the cart. I’m tired of pulling and pushing, are you?

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