Opinion » Shredder

What a system!

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I'm sure some folks in Los Osos are thinking, "No good deed goes unpunished."

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To mitigate homelessness in the early COVID-19 days, SLO County established a safe parking program at the Los Osos Library for unhoused people, providing access to showers and toilets. They ended the program three months later, citing lack of funding, but instead of the unhoused leaving the Palisades Avenue area, some stayed put and more came.

Well, here we go again playing Whac-A-Mole with the county's unhoused residents, most recently with the proposal to "relocate" folks living in vehicles and camping around Palisades Avenue to the bucolic splendor of El Chorro Regional Park campground.

I guess at the campground off Highway 1, they'd be "campers," not "homeless people," right? Ta-da! What's the next trick? Ending opioid addiction by giving users a prescription for heroin?

The El Chorro idea is the brainchild of Los Osos residents Becky McFarland and Pat West, who want their community hub back. The community park, community center, and library have become the de facto spot for the unhoused, and residents have reported seeing drug deals, finding used syringes, and generally feeling unsafe in the area.

Homelessness sucks, and not just for the homeless, but can we agree that it sucks more for them? I feel your pain, Los Osos, but do you actually feel the pain of your unhoused neighbors?

McFarland and West are calling for the county to turn the 61-spot El Chorro campground into a 24/7 staffed, sanctioned space providing necessary services for unhoused county residents to park or camp.

I applaud the idea of having an actual place to move the unhoused to rather than just driving them out of one area to have them pop back up in another, but in what world is this feasible?

County Parks and Recreation Director Nick Franco, who oversees El Chorro, noted that the park has a federal deed restriction for recreational use only. Then there's the matter of the "few thousand" camping reservations booked over the next year. Oh, and let's not forget large events like Live Oak Music Festival that reserve the campground and surrounding area for annual events. I can't imagine the SLO Botanical Garden and Dairy Creek Golf Course are excited by the prospect of their potential new neighbors. And water? Let's remember that Dairy Creek reduced the size of its course because it didn't have sufficient water to maintain it.

Some unhoused people in cars and RVs might take the county up on the option of moving to El Chorro, but that's a long haul from Los Osos, and a lot of the people living along Palisades Avenue don't want be shuffled off to some remote corner of the county—out of sight, out of mind.

Unhoused advocate Yael Korin, chair of the Unhoused Residents Committee at the Los Osos Community Advisory Council, is skeptical of the El Chorro proposal.

"How are [services] going to materialize [at El Chorro] if they don't materialize here?" she asked.

That's an excellent point. Remember, funds for the safe parking program ran dry in three months.

Korin is advocating for sanctioned encampments closer to town and pursuing permanent solutions like a tiny home village, but NIMBYism is as strong in Los Osos as anywhere else. Until we address the root of homelessness, which is a social safety "net" so full of holes nearly 600,000 Americans slip through it on a given night, we're going to have homeless people living on the streets. Hiding them in El Chorro doesn't change the statistic.

And speaking of actuary tables and terrible segues, can you think of anything more boring and byzantine than medical insurance and billing? When you bring up our health care system, it's easy to want to mentally check out, but something really ugly is happening in SLO County that seems to be part of a growing trend that will make accessing health care even harder than it already is, even for the insured.

"Wait," some of you are saying, "America has the greatest health care system in the world!" Um, false. We have the most expensive, inefficient, broken system in the developed world, and what do we get for all that money wasted? Poor health outcomes.

In case you haven't heard, Dignity Health—which runs French Hospital and has a nearly monopolistic chokehold on South SLO County's health care system—and Anthem Blue Cross, which insures a sizable portion of SLO County residents, are having a spat over money, and the losers are us. If you're insured by Anthem, good luck accessing health care now that Dignity is "out of network."

"Yeah, well it's better than socialized medicine. What about wait times and rationed care?"

Sigh. When you call your primary care doctor, how soon can you get in to see her? Two months? Six? For most insured people, when we get sick, we go to a doc-in-the-box like Med Stop. It's not like we can call and see our actual doctor immediately. And rationing? We the insured do that to ourselves! We worry about meeting our deductibles, copays, and whether we can afford our prescriptions.

Getting sick sucks, finding a good doctor is difficult, and Dignity and Anthem grubbing over money is bullshit. Raise your hand if you want Medicare for all. Δ

The Shredder believes access to health care is a human right. Send reactionary anti-socialist fearmongering rants to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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