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HOMELESS ARE ONLY L.A.'S NEW 'CAMPERS'.

Byline: DOUG McINTYRE

IT'S time once again to break out our Politician-to-English dictionaries, because the Statesmen of Spring Street have done it again -- boldly taking language where even George Orwell dared not tread.

The latest assault on sanity is Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry's negotiation with Ramona Ripston and the American Civil Liberties Union over Skid Row sidewalk encampments.

While the entire issue has devolved into a Rubik's Cube of nuttiness, the L.A. Language Police have put a chokehold on English by redefining the homeless as "urban campers."

And where are the campsites? Right in front of your home.

That's right, your city elders actually negotiated the right for the homeless to sleep anywhere in the city.

Anywhere! Skid Row, Hancock Park, Encino, Woodland Hills, Mount Washington, maybe even right on the sidewalk at 1616 Beverly Blvd., the L.A. headquarters for the ACLU.

In its infinite wisdom, the City Council has legalized vagrancy, torpedoed quality of life, created a public health hazard and once again punished the citizens of the city because council members don't have any answers.

So what do they do? They rewrite the English language. Presto! The homeless are now campers.

Why stop there? Let's really go for it and start calling them Nobel laureates. "Welcome to Los Angeles, home of 80,000 Nobel Prize winners!" Take that, New York.

It has to be a great solace for the down-and-out to know they're no longer homeless, they're ... outdoorsmen!

But this is L.A., and you can't have a dumb government action without discovering it was done willfully and with punitive intent. The outrage cherry atop the stupid sundae comes courtesy of Perry, who wouldn't sign off on the settlement unless the right to "camp" applied to the entire city, not just her district, which includes Skid Row. Perry wants to spread the pain and actually convinced her colleagues to go along with this craziness.

So when you discover panhandlers sacked out in front of your home, squatting with the Sunday crossword puzzle in your pachysandra, give a big "attaboy" to Greig Smith, Dennis Zine, Wendy Gruel, Tom LaBonge, et al. This is the kind of outside-the-refrigerator-box thinking we've come to expect from City Hall.

There are as many reasons for homelessness as there are homeless people. Everyone on the street got there on a different path. There are common traits: booze, drugs, mental illness and abuse. But the sad truth is, in a nation of 300 million-plus, some people go feral.

We increase homelessness by accommodating it. Even San Francisco is feeling the backlash against the libertine attitude of their Board of Nitwits who turned the "City by the Bay" into Flopsylvania.

It's labor-intensive to reclaim a single lost life. It's a good fight, an honorable fight, and we should help the folks at the Midnight Mission and others who are doing God's work. But the answer to homelessness won't come by pretending they're, "just like you and I." That we're all "just one paycheck away."

The homeless are very different from you and I. They're alienated not only from their families and friends, but from every other human relationship. What city, county, state or federal program is going to undo that damage? Rebuilding Arrowhead or post-Katrina New Orleans is a lay-up compared to picking up the wreckage of a single human being.

L.A. won't be shocked into caring by exporting homelessness from Skid Row to Sherman Oaks. It is not the role of government to deliberately lower quality of life for the functional, even if you think you're helping the dysfunctional. This settlement doesn't help anybody.

The ACLU says we can enforce vagrancy laws if we pony up 1,250 units of low-cost housing. This is the same failed policy we've followed for four decades -- it's a guilt tax.

Nobody has the guts to do what really works -- a massive expansion of mental health facilities, exponential increases in drug and alcohol programs, and an aggressive police policy like the one LAPD Chief Bratton had been using in Skid Row. Arrest vagrants until they seek help or take their act someplace else.

L.A. is not a public toilet. Ventura Boulevard is not Will Rogers State Park. The homeless are not urban campers. The sidewalks shouldn't be a bed-and-breakfast, and the truth should not be negotiable.

Sadly, in Los Angeles, it often is.

Are homeowners required to leave a mint on the sidewalk?
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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 28, 2007
Words:740
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