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Above: a man tries to cover his face while being randomly photographed by Saving San Pedro user Mike Walker while Walker was driving. Posted in October of 2016.
A recent post in the Saving San Pedro Facebook group from member George Matthews read as excited as he presumedly was for having hauled away the belongings of a person experiencing homelessness: “…We kicked some homeless butt! As mentioned! Abandoned homeless shit? Gone with the wind! 19th and Pacific!”
You can view a screenshot of it here (and, throughout this article, links will be to screenshots of the group’s perturbing if not flat-out depressing posts).
In all frankness, it would be hard not to understand someone wanting to protect their neighborhood, at least reasonably.
It becomes a concern, for anyone with a heart, when an increase in homelessness, apparent upticks in drug use and crime, and unchecked mental illness runs astray. Any sane and caring person cares about these things—and surely, an odd insensitivity toward these issues are bound to occur here and there.
The group has succeeded in coalescing concerned folks and, outside of the way it addresses homelessness, supposedly achieved things like getting criminals arrested; achievements that are, if anything, overshadowed by their obsession with mockery.
These aren’t random quips of idiocy paired with an overall mission to better the lives of those at the bottom of the well; the aforementioned post isn’t the sole incident of the group celebrating “kicking homeless butt” or mocking and outright downsizing the lives of those most on the margin. The group has become an enclave whose administrators proudly proclaim to “Surround yourself with people who get it”—and by get it, the group is typically referring to an unabashed, non-permissive advertising of those experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, or both, all paired with a healthy dose of xenophobia, anti-infrastructure, blame on others, and fear mongering at its finest.
Perhaps one of the most perturbing aspects of the group is its unabashed photos of taking photos of folks that are either knowingly or unknowingly experiencing homelessness, of folks just suspect of being suspicious by, well, any member of the group. The photo has no caption in the group, no explanation, no contextualization. Just a photo of a person, pegged for being in the public.
Even its admins are unbothered, sharing pictures of unknowing humans within a private social media group, complete with life-affirming comments like, “Showing a little leg.”
The practice of randomly photographing people in public is so common in the group that it’s often done out of cars, even in inclement weather; in fact, one would think that the shitty weather they photograph these folks experiencing with no roofs would expound on their horrible situation but for some reason proves to further the photographer’s need for advertising their situation.
Nope. It goes on:
- They joke about them making reservations at a 7-11 while simultaneously calling them “four f-ing scumbags.”
- Proclaim they gotta get the “homeless buses packed!” after it was announced that Stockton would be testing a universal income program.
- Mock their mental illness as Halloween celebrating.
- Dismiss 5150 laws in favor of just “force situations like this off the street” after witnessing a woman violently shaking.
- Cheering the removal of their belongings.
- Bothered that Del Taco would allow a man to use the back sink to bathe.
- Expressing annoyance by a woman blowing bubbles.
- Jokingly tell folks to “try not to run them over.”
- Posting pictures just to mock what they’re wearing.
- Posting pictures just to mock their belongings, as if they are at an airport and awaiting arrival.
- Speculate on their arrival from DTLA or DTLB and where they should and shouldn’t go.
- Flat out just saying “they don’t belong here.”
After one man pleaded for a prayer for Skid Row for the evening, one woman theorized—much like the man from Orange County that couldn’t believe there was such a thing as homeless people—that they will be “coming to San Pedro soon” because there is nothing being done about the situation.
The group’s vitriol is so bad that a Saving San Pedro from Saving San Pedro group has been created, where members tell of why they were booted from the original group—usually for expressing concerns about compassion, sympathy, and concrete knowledge regarding the homeless crisis.
Here’s how Nick Hernandez broke down his perturbing experience:
There’s really not more to say other than we can be better, folks. Yes, there is a crisis—but that does not excuse torment, harassment, or outright hatred. There’s a better way to do this, especially if you’re really wanting to save a place.
Editor’s note: Mr. Randy Vernon claims his photo is of a thief suspect, not of someone experiencing homelessness.