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SLO has a homeless problem

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I spent two lovely days in San Luis Obispo last week visiting my daughter who is a senior at Cal Poly. I am from Massachusetts. The weather and surroundings were beautiful. You have a lovely city.

However, my last day there was ruined by an unprovoked verbal assault from one of your homeless citizens. After a breakfast at the Blackhorse Espresso and Bakery, my daughter and I were walking home and having a nice conversation, when a homeless man approached us from behind and for no reason whatsoever, started yelling racist and homophobic epithets at me. He seemed to think I was a homosexual from the Southeast because he kept calling me a “redneck faggot,” using the F-word repeatedly. At first I thought he might be talking to himself but when I turned toward him, he became even more abusive and loud and was clearly directing his insults at me. This was completely uncalled for, as we had done nothing to provoke him.

We both felt threatened by and fearful of this assault. I was prepared to defend us if he had moved closer in a threatening manner, but I was worried that he may have had a knife. Fortunately, he moved on while continuing to insult me. Later, I learned from my daughter and her three roommates that this was not uncommon. They had witnessed four homeless men physically assaulting two businessmen in broad daylight and had been sexually harassed by similar types outside a downtown bar/cafe.

I find all of this shocking. I have traveled widely. This has never happened to me in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Paris, Munich, Prague, Santa Barbara, or anywhere. Only in SLO.

SLO, you have a problem that needs to be fixed. Homeless status is not an excuse for racist, homophobic, or sexual, verbal, or physical assaults. You need to get these people off the streets and keep them away from residents and visitors who support your town and university in productive and meaningful ways. Your reputation, tuition, and tourist dollars are at stake.

-- Sam Washburn - Andover, Mass.

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