UPDATED: “Is It La Palma Park or La Palma Shelter?”

Victor LaFontaineUPDATED: I’ve added a video clip of Mr. LaFontaine’s remarks at the end of the post.

I’m glad the Anaheim City Council acted with unanimity to enact the anti-camping ordinance. I was impressed by the testimony from the many residents who live near the park, who addressed the council last night. They spoke with plain and direct eloquence about their plight and without invective, and their comments cut through the fog of misplaced complaints about “criminalizing homelessness.”

One speaker, a Mr. Victor LaFontaine, was particularly effective, and I’d like to share what he had to say:

Dear Mayor and councilmembers:

My name is Victor LaFontaine. I’m an Anaheim resident and a property owner since August of 2008. I also work here in the city of Anaheim. I’m here to endorse the ordinance to ban camping at all hours in city parks. I live on Clementine Street directly across from La Palma Park.

As you already know, the camping of homeless people at La Palma Park has become quite the eyesore. I see it every morning at 6:00 a.m. when I go to work, and I see them camping till past 10:30 every night.

Let me start by quoting to you the definition of a park, as found in the Webster’s Dictionary: “A park is a piece of public land in or near a city that is kept free of houses, buildings and can be used for pleasure and exercise.”

The definition of a shelter: “A shelter: an establishment that provides temporary housing for the homeless people.”

So, is it La Palma Park or La Palma Shelter?

I do understand the sensitivity to homeless and civil rights. My father was homeless, for many years, but it was by choice. If he wanted to clean up, find help and get a job, there’s men’s homes, shelters and church organizations that he could go to.

I’m not saying every homeless person has bad intentions or is a criminal. I’m not saying they don’t deserve help. What I’m saying is they need to get help at a shelter, not at the park. 

Some argue it is a ticket targeting homelessness. So, is a street-sweeping ticket targeting home owners, or discriminating against social class? No – it’s to keep my streets clean and to provide law and order. That’s exactly what the ban on the camping will do: clean up the park and provide order. 

Mayor and city council, the homeless problem has turned La Palma Park pretty bad. It’s very unsanitary, unsafe and unwelcoming. I invite you, mayor, as well as the city council, to walk through La Palma Park. Don’t just drive by; walk through the park and see if this is how the park was to be used. 

Would you take your children or grandchildren there? The tents surround the playground area, making it very unusable and comfortable for kids, which the playground was designed for. There are tarps hanging from trees, litter and feces everywhere. 

The question has been raised: “Where will they sleep? they need a safe place to go.” The answer is: not La Palma Park. They need to go to a shelter, a halfway house, a campground (which tent camping is meant for), or maybe even the parking lots of some of the organizations that support them. 

It’s a park, not a shelter. 

If this ordinance does not pass, there will be a lot more tents in the park. When will it stop? When there are hundreds of tents? Would you allow these tents to exist in front of City Hall? Or any Anaheim Hills park?  Or even the beloved Farmers Park, for that matter? So why do you allow it at La Palma Park?  

I’m a homeowner who is proud to be a resident here, but I am ashamed to bring family and friends over because it is downright embarrassing. The crime rate in my neighborhood has become very bad over the last year, and I’m sure you are aware of this. I’m asking you to pass this ordinance to ban camping at La Palma park, as it is the only way to clean up the park. Other than this, what options do we have? 

I want my park back, I want my neighborhood back. Thank you for your time and consideration.

No shouting. No anger directed at the council, although he and other nearby residents certainly have sufficient cause for anger. Calm, reasonable but firm requests for the city to meets its primary obligation and enact an ordinance to secure a public park for the public, and remove a true nuisance from their lives.

UPDATE: Here’s a video clip of Mr. LaFontaine’s remarks:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r81OIYp2kdI&w=420&h=315]

23 comments

  1. I love love love this.

  2. Where will the money come from to pay for this new government program? You don’t expect the homeless to actually pay the fine, do you? Tell me, higher taxes or less services elsewhere? I wait patiently for your answer sir.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      What new government program?

      • … Do you thinks magic elves will patrol, cite, impound, process, prosecute, defend, collect, incarcerate, appeal and all else required by this ordinance?

        • Matthew Cunningham

          That would be nice, Daniel, but unnecessary. Anaheim has police who, conveniently, are on patrol every day anyway.It’s not as though they would be taking down tents every day in a running battle with the homeless across the city. I think you are vastly overstating the cost of enforcement, and overlooking the existing cost to neighboring residents and park users of doing nothing about the homeless camp.

          • The cost of PD enforcement isn’t nill (not that you’re saying it is.) We can’t underestimate the cost of taking a handful of the best trained and highest compensated city employees (with big fat pensions) to write tickets for sleeping outside. I don’t think anyone can successfully argue that LEOs don’t have better things to do with their time.

            Just to extrapolate, Fullerton has FOUR Homeless Liaison officers. <– That's a front line cost of deferring responsibility of addressing a social crisis to law enforcement. They're the last line in public service and absent another (cheaper) agency addressing the issue, that's who's going to do it. That's a cool half-million a year on the low side.

            In this case, Matt– you bring up an excellent point regarding the cost to neighboring residents and park users. It's hard to quantify, nor should be attempt to quantify it in terms of dollars and cents. Cleaning up the park is ABSOLUTELY the right thing to do.

            To assume that this is some panacea with no cost to solve the problem is laughable. I don't think the council is doing that, but without substantial encouragement from community leaders, driving a holistic solution that actually addresses the demand (no airquotes Matt. It's a real demand) for housing, the problem isn't going to away. Maybe you'll have fewer homeless at LaPalma park, but they will be somewhere affecting someone's business or property value.

            Without the broader solution, this just turns into a sick money sucking cycle for Anaheim's budget. An expensive LEO writes a ticket to a homeless person who can't pay it, who doesn't show up in court, is issued a bench warrant for arrest, who eventually is cited again– arrested, taken to county lock up, stays at a cost of $120 a night, get's free food, medical, dental, then gets chucked back into Anaheim after settling for $25 only to begin the cycle all over again. Total bill to the taxpayer? Let's call it $500 per ticket after the lifecycle is taken into account.

            This shouldn't be framed as a case of doing nothing or just ticketing. It should be framed in discussing what limits the Anaheim Council should apply to a longer term solution. How does the council plan to define its role in balancing it's responsibility to protect the rights of citizens in its community?

            Fullerton seems unwilling or unable to address the problem. Perhaps Anaheim, with its significantly more extensive resource pool, can provide the leadership North County sorely needs.

            • you made some good points Ryan, and providing some inexpensive or no cost permanent housing would be a simple solution that no one seems to want to provide, even though the 25th Article of the Universal Declaration of Human rights written by the U.N states housing is a right for all, not a privelage for the few. Didn’t city leaders get the memo?

          • are those with money now the only ones who are “the public” , that have a right to be in a “Public” park?

      • I believe we need to be involved in confronting oppression and unjust laws from government. If we do not get involved in this, then we fail to obey Jeremiah 22:16 and other verses such as Proverbs 31:9 that tell us to defend the cause of the poor and needy. As James chapter 2 tells us, it is the rich that oppress us, and drag us before the judgement seats, and blaspheme that worthy name by which we are called. (James 2:6-7) Also in Psalms 2:10-11 GOD commands that all Kings and judges should serve the LORD with fear – if that be the case, then that would of course include Mayors, city councils, and all rulers. If they are to serve the LORD, then that would mean they are to help those in need, since this is a big part of what it means to serve the LORD. I believe scripturally that governments should not be oppressive, but should serve the LORD with fear and help those in need, and from what I have read we are to encourage them to do so. Also the 25th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights written by the U.N. states housing is a right, not a privelage, and the U.S. signed this as did other nations. Additionally, In Luke 16 the rich man went to Hell for all eternity because he ignored poor Lazarus layed at his gate. Those who have much are to share and not be greedy according to GOD, and who could possibly be a better judge then HIM! If people are guilty of crime then ofcourse they should be dealt with, but poverty is no crime, and JESUS said blessed are you poor, and Woe to you rich! I was a Math instructor called to sell all by GOD to live among the poor, and I have seen first hand the hypocrisy in courts by Judges and police who love money, not GOD, and as most everyone knows, JESUS said you can’t serve both GOD and money. My question is, who do you serve? Satan or GOD?

        Reply .October 25, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        rjoshuacollins

        JESUS said you can’t serve GOD and money, and the rich man of Luke 16 went to Hell for not taking care of poor Lazarus layed at his gate. Proverbs 31:9 says to defend the cause of the poor and needy. Ofcourse we should not allow crime, but poverty is no crime, and JESUS said blessed are you poor, and Woe to you rich! Also the 25th Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created by the U.N. and signed by the U.S. states housing is a right, not a privelage. Why does Anaheim ignore this human right? The Rich have a responsibility to the poor according to GOD, and if they reject this truth they will pay a high price according to the Bible. Hell fire and brimstone!! Be humble, show mercy, and walk humbly before CHRIST JESUS the LORD!!

        Reply .October 25, 2013 at 1:59 pm

        rjoshuacollins

        Many who are not homeless go to parks to sin in various ways, and it seems many (typically the rich) want to blame the homeless for every sin committed in the parks. I know many non-homeless high-school kids and adults have premarital sex in parks and certainly do drugs at times, and continually use all kinds of foul language. This town needs a serious spiritual awakening, and we must be careful not to judge every homeless person the same. I am homeless due to my calling to follow CHRIST JESUS, and there are no needle tracks in my arms.

    • you made some good points Daniel (and it was great to meet you at city council recently!), and Providing some inexpensive or no cost permanent housing would be a simple solution that no one seems to want to provide, even though the 25th Article of the Universal Declaration of Human rights written by the U.N states housing is a right for all, not a privelage for the few. Didn’t city leaders get the memo?

  3. Did we suddenly lose our police department Daniel?

  4. The politics of parks are really something. Most cities use parkland for a ribbon cutting and then forget about it, leaving it to whatever may come. I’m glad to see Anaheim stepping up to the challenge of actually maintaining their park space for safe and enjoyable recreation. Other cities (Los Angles) should take note.

  5. … This is so my last comment here, I tried. Good luck Matt.

  6. I believe we need to be involved in confronting oppression and unjust laws from government. If we do not get involved in this, then we fail to obey Jeremiah 22:16 and other verses such as Proverbs 31:9 that tell us to defend the cause of the poor and needy. As James chapter 2 tells us, it is the rich that oppress us, and drag us before the judgement seats, and blaspheme that worthy name by which we are called. (James 2:6-7) Also in Psalms 2:10-11 GOD commands that all Kings and judges should serve the LORD with fear – if that be the case, then that would of course include Mayors, city councils, and all rulers. If they are to serve the LORD, then that would mean they are to help those in need, since this is a big part of what it means to serve the LORD. I believe scripturally that governments should not be oppressive, but should serve the LORD with fear and help those in need, and from what I have read we are to encourage them to do so. Also the 25th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights written by the U.N. states housing is a right, not a privelage, and the U.S. signed this as did other nations. Additionally, In Luke 16 the rich man went to Hell for all eternity because he ignored poor Lazarus layed at his gate. Those who have much are to share and not be greedy according to GOD, and who could possibly be a better judge then HIM! If people are guilty of crime then ofcourse they should be dealt with, but poverty is no crime, and JESUS said blessed are you poor, and Woe to you rich! I was a Math instructor called to sell all by GOD to live among the poor, and I have seen first hand the hypocrisy in courts by Judges and police who love money, not GOD, and as most everyone knows, JESUS said you can’t serve both GOD and money. My question is, who do you serve? Satan or GOD?

    Reply .October 25, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    rjoshuacollins

    JESUS said you can’t serve GOD and money, and the rich man of Luke 16 went to Hell for not taking care of poor Lazarus layed at his gate. Proverbs 31:9 says to defend the cause of the poor and needy. Ofcourse we should not allow crime, but poverty is no crime, and JESUS said blessed are you poor, and Woe to you rich! Also the 25th Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created by the U.N. and signed by the U.S. states housing is a right, not a privelage. Why does Anaheim ignore this human right? The Rich have a responsibility to the poor according to GOD, and if they reject this truth they will pay a high price according to the Bible. Hell fire and brimstone!! Be humble, show mercy, and walk humbly before CHRIST JESUS the LORD!!

    Reply .October 25, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    rjoshuacollins

    Many who are not homeless go to parks to sin in various ways, and it seems many (typically the rich) want to blame the homeless for every sin committed in the parks. I know many non-homeless high-school kids and adults have premarital sex in parks and certainly do drugs at times, and continually use all kinds of foul language. This town needs a serious spiritual awakening, and we must be careful not to judge every homeless person the same. I am homeless due to my calling to follow CHRIST JESUS, and there are no needle tracks in my arms.

  7. whats more important for a city to provide, more parks and recreation for the rich Americans who have houses and cars, or basic shelter and housing for those Americans (including vets) who are homeless and in need? Is recreation for the rich now more important than survival for the poor?

    • You cannot help a person that is not desirous of it. If they want the help, it is there! That is NOT who is at our parks. If you feel that they are need of help, offer them your home!

      • If I had a home and could afford it I would invite some homeless people in. I have done it before, and why would you think all homeless people don’t want help? I have met many homeless people that want help.

      • Housing is a right according to the U.N.’s 25th article of the Universal Declaration of Human rights that the U.S. signed – have you ever seen this document?

        • Ok… I’ll post again (I’m a sucker for interesting topics). I noticed you cited the UN UDHR at the meeting. International Agreements are complicated with respect to their status as law in the United States. Generally, they are not “self-executing” meaning, that after the agreement is made, its substance must nonetheless be passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.
          Of course, the U.N.’s UDHR has powerful moral authority. But lets take a step back and consider our audience, no on the City Council knows what it is, so its moral authority is… minimal.
          Further, arguing we should do something because the UN says so, though I know that is not exactly what you are saying, is never going to be a wining argument in this country.
          The most power argument made against the ordinance was represented by the stories of individuals, along side the fact that OC does not have a year around shelter. All people are capable of compassion, but they often need a face and a story presented to them. Its hard to deny what is staring at you in the face, and what is staring you in the face, is the moral issue.

          Thanks for all that do for those most in need of help. It is the the highest calling god has to offer.

          • David you stated the city council does not know about this document from the U.N, but the truth is that I told them about it in a previous city council meeting, therefore as you stated this document has, “powerful moral authority.” Wether or not they listen to morality is on them.

  8. The problem is not whether homeless people camp or not; the problem is the availability of shelters in Anaheim, Fullerton, and Santa Ana. What do these three areas have in common? A lack of shelters, discrimination (especially Fullerton), and a lack of empathy and understanding that homelessness is not treated by handing a homeless person with a ticket! Where the heck will they attain the money to pay the fee? The three areas mentioned above are linked to providing a temporary stay, however, if a homeless person is rejected because a place is overcrowded, then in one he/she moves to another, and so on. Another problem is affordable housing, families that go into low-income to homelessness is not rare. Mental care is another issue that is correlated to homelessness. Prisoners who are released cannot get jobs because of their criminal backgrounds, no matter how minor the offense might have been. Wages in Anaheim are terrible; if we look at the number one employer, Disneyland Resorts, their pay is not sufficient to afford housing. Section 8 vouchers are limited. So homelessness is an outcome of many other problems. These are social issues that need to be called to the attention of not just the Police Department but of the agencies and departments of Anaheim.
    Yes, some homeless people are homeless by choice but this does not apply to all, so please no generalization. Closed-minded people who have not been educated in this subject think very much like this. Please, take into consideration the structural components that come with homelessness.

  9. Does anyone have Mr. Victor LaFontaine email? I want to interview him for my essay from Fullerton College

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