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Hundreds Turn Up At San Pedro Forum To Discuss Homelessness

SAN PEDRO ( — Hundreds of local residents turned out in San Pedro to participate in a forum on homelessness in the port community.

"We have a community here that's concerned. Quite frankly, outraged knowing that our quality of life has been disrupted," City Councilman Joe Buscaino said.

As Buscaino indicated, the homeless issue in San Pedro mirrors the problem throughout the city, especially at a time when the number of transients in Los Angeles exceeds 80,000 on any given night.

On Thursday night, San Pedro residents filled most of the 1,400-seat theater where the meeting was held and included many current and former transients, like Heather Lara.

"I've been in some situations in Portland where I was sleeping underneath the bridge and nonstop rain," she said.

Many locals in the tight-knit community feel that their quality of life is being affected.

"You go all over almost any block and you see it. You know, there's leftover piles of trash, any street smells. You go to any kind of store and you have them sitting out there," said Sarah Yarnall, a San Pedro resident.

A recent short-term approach to provide tiny houses to the homeless parked in the streets did not go over well with the community.

"We're trying to get people off the streets, not keep them on the streets with these wooden shacks," Buscaino said.

Buscaino says there are a lot of good programs and organizations in San Pedro which are working hard to get the homeless off the streets by addressing problems like housing, mental health, and drug abuse.

But some who attended the forum left the building just as frustrated as when they entered.

"They kept the people silent because people wanted to express how they felt but here again it was a controlled environment so they couldn't speak," said John Smith, a San Pedro resident.

At the meeting, Buscaino announced that several homeless programs will be expanded, including the emergency response team and a mental health street team. An additional downtown foot-patrol will also be on duty.

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