For decades, La Palma Park has been known as home for many homeless citizens of Fullerton and Anaheim. Most of the park was covered with makeshift communities. After dark, you can find approximately 100 displaced souls with no where else to lay their heads.
On March 7, the city of Anaheim followed through with the idea to open a new dog park, giving the city a reason to put up a six-foot tall gate around the northeast corner of the park and keeping the homeless from camping there.
The northeast end of La Palma Park, next to Glover Stadium, is where a sizable number of Anaheim’s homeless used to pitch enough tents to form an encampment.
“I stayed there many times in one too many tents,” said Johnston, a local homeless man.
The sight was deemed blight by residents and an anti-homeless ordinance banning camping at all hours in public areas followed in late 2013.
Earlier that year, Anaheim’s Community Service Department held a meeting in which they discussed the idea of converting that area into a dog park, in an effort to push out the homeless. That didn’t happen, as the homeless had to set up an encampment next to that area.
After the ordinance and construction of the dog park, homeless people are taking to the adjacent alleys by the Salvation Army at night to sleep on hard, uneven pavement.
“I’ve stayed there many times too,” Johnston said. “Cops come through everyday, check and ransack everything.”
It’s a sad sight to see. If you have ever driven by while watching the cops go through everything these people own, it makes you wish you could do something to help them.
So why spend money on a dog park?
Why couldn’t Anaheim spend that money on helping these displaced individuals? What they did was make the problem worse. Now the homeless just wander the streets, shack up next to businesses and eventually find themselves in the surrounding neighborhoods with nowhere to go.
“In central Anaheim, it’s an optimal location,” said Terry Lowe, community services director regarding the dog park.
As for the homeless?
“Through the city’s partnership with City Net, we continue to seek opportunities to work with the homeless population to provide needed services, a safe location for their belongings and in the future a year-round homeless shelter,” he added. “That is still a top priority for us and we hope that will be accomplished soon.”
A top priority. If it were a priority, something would have been done by now. This park has housed the ever growing homeless population now for over 20 years, yet the city has done nothing but attempt to dispose of the situation, turn the other cheek and let these people suffer.
Communities only prosper when we help each other. There must be a way to help. Many communities have partnered with #LoveFullerton and the surrounding churches to assist the homeless with job placement, food and shelter.
This is the answer.
A dog park was not the answer. Putting up six-foot tall gates was not the answer. Leaving these people with no where to go was not the answer.
As human beings, we were created to love and help one another in times of need.
One hand to receive and the other hand to give.