CORD BAUER, San Clemente
Sometimes, the small stories explain issues we face in society better than discussions about laws brought before the Supreme Court or state-wide ballots. The camping site on Avenida Pico has one of those stories.
A few weeks ago, about 20 residents got together to help a woman who was living in the Pico campsite. She is a drug addict, has children who are now with child protective services, and lives with an abusive husband at the campsite. There are reports of physical abuse and prostitution in order to get drug money, but Barbara (not her real name) refuses to press charges.
The residents went into action after Barbara expressed a desire to get clean. This small group pulled her out of the camp and set her up in a safe motel. Dozens of phone calls were made so she could be put in a detox program to get healthy again. Once clean, she’d get on a path to getting her kids back. Nearly every call was a dead end.
A program was finally found, but it required Barbara to take a drug test. It would be three long days from test to entering the program. Even with all the residents spending time and money for food, clothes and shelter, the wait was too long and the pull of drugs too great. The chance of getting her children back and starting a new life was not enough to keep Barbara from going back to the campsite.
There are some hard truths to be learned from this story. First, the people who were desperate to help Barbara—who gave money and took work days off—are the same people who did not want the tents at North Beach and do not want a shelter in town. Why? Because the shelters Orange County wants us to open don’t work. It’s a cruel kind of help that only perpetuates the problem, similar to giving addicts food so that they can spend more money on drugs.
Barbara went back to the camp and weeks later was hospitalized after being severely beaten. Injuries included a broken arm. Amazingly, her husband was last seen on a supervised visit with their children. Barbara never filed assault charges, so this nightmare continues.
Saddest of all, Barbara may now be pregnant. California’s laws have created this scenario. We have decriminalized felonies, antisocial behavior, and invited every addict in the country to enjoy our weather and consequence-free drug use. This is not a homeless problem.
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