It is time for San Luis Obispo to do something about the homeless taking over downtown. I am a mother of two young children, a local business owner, and a residence in Pismo Beach. I visit downtown San Luis Obispo a few times a week to shop and/or eat. I am usually with my children and it is usually in the afternoon. In the past year I have had multiple instances where I am concerned with my safety or my children’s safety due to the increasing homeless population taking over the beautiful downtown SLO. I would like to share three such instances to highlight how the homeless is a safety concern to citizens and visitors in downtown.
Instance #1. This occurred today and was the most disturbing to me. As I was waiting to cross the street at the corner of Higuera and Chorro I heard a man’s voice over my shoulder say, “That’s a cute baby.” I turned around expecting a familiar face because of the proximity of the voice and how it was said. I was surprised to see a young homeless man. He continued to ask me my baby’s name and said a few more things. I rushed off as soon as the signal changed because I felt he was either interested in stealing my wallet or my child. When I was done visiting a couple shops and heading back to my car, I passed the strange man. I proceeded to rush to my car that was parked in front of Cold Stone. As I am hurrying to unload my stroller since I was concerned about the man, I see he followed me back to my car. He then says again “that’s a cute baby” and asks his name. He then noticed I have a double stroller with a toddler in front and says something about my daughter. I brush him off to make sure he knows I am not interested in speaking with him and hurry to unload my stroller and get both my children in the car. I then notice he is five feet away staring at me. Next he walked past me and sat down at a table in front of Cold Stone and continued to watch me. I finally get everything and everyone into my car and he starts walking toward me. I was fearful that he was going to try to jump in so I drove off as quick as I could, very shaken up. He appeared to be on drugs and I am afraid he may have been interested in stealing one of my children.
Instance #2. I was walking on the sidewalk outside of GAP. This time I am alone but pregnant and hurrying to meet my husband for lunch. There is a couple walking ahead of me and they are dressed nicely like they are well-off. A homeless man is walking toward us. He appears to be schizophrenic or on drugs. As he passes the couple, he screams in the woman’s face some non-sense about them being rich and able to afford things he can’t. It made me we feel very uncomfortable and I was so thankful he did not lash out at me as well.
Instance #3. I am standing on the sidewalk along Chorro with my toddler in a stroller while I wait for my husband. I was approached multiple times by the same young female asking for change. She appeared to be on drugs since each time she didn’t realize she had already asked me. She was extremely aggressive and didn’t want to take no for answer. I was waiting for about 20 minutes and saw her approach multiple people between the Mission and Higuera. My toddler was restless so I decided to see about letting her walk around at Mission Plaza. When I reached the plaza I noticed the young homeless lady congregated with a group of fellow homeless people in the Mission. I realized that Mission Plaza is frequented by the homeless population and it is not a safe environment for my family.
San Luis Obispo does not appear to be doing much to regulate the amount or location of homeless, or even what the homeless is allowed to be doing. I have seen a severe increase in the young homeless population, especially those appearing to be involved with drugs. Our downtown, which was known for its charm and small town feel, is now becoming something that is not family friendly and unsafe. It is due time for the city to hinder the homeless from being a nuisance to citizens that are contributing to our community. I urge you to implement and regulate policies against panhandling and loitering in downtown San Luis Obispo. In order to continue frequenting downtown San Luis Obispo with my family I need to feel that my family is safe.