Sherman Oaks business owner: 'It is literally a psych ward' on the sidewalk every day

I have watched a lot of local news clips about homelessness over the past few years and this might be one of the best I’ve ever seen. In a little over 7 minutes you get a very up close view of everything that’s going wrong in our cities with the homeless and some insight into why these problems persist despite the pleas of residents for something to change.

This particular clip was created by Fox 11 LA and focuses in on a street in Sherman Oaks. For those not familiar with LA geography, Sherman Oaks is a nice suburban area which is a couple miles north of Beverly Hills in the San Fernando Valley. The San Fernando Valley became sort of infamous in the 1980s for the stereotype known as the valley girl.

Like everywhere else in LA, Sherman Oaks is now home to a significant number of chronically homeless people. These are not folks who just lost an apartment and are struggling to get back on their feet. These are people with mental problems, drug problems, alcohol problems, etc. who have been on the street for years and have no chance of helping themselves to get off it. They live on the sidewalk and the sidewalk is their bedroom and their bathroom.

Paul Scrivano owns the Blue Dog Beer Tavern on Saugus Ave. He showed Fox 11’s Gina Silva video of one man going to the bathroom in a plastic bag and then throwing feces at his car. “Every single morning I’m wiping that off my property before I have to do business,” he said. “Every day is like another adventure of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It is like a—literally a psych ward,” he added.

Gina Silva actually confronted the man who threw feces at Scrivano asking him why he did it. The shirtless man replied with a series of ailments. But when asked if he needed and wanted help from the city he replied, “You’re bothering me. I don’t need help, he needs help.”

This moment passes by in an instant in the clip below but it’s pretty remarkable if you stop and think about it. A homeless man who is clearly in distress and who is causing distress for everyone around him is telling someone offering to help to stop bothering him. In the imaginary world in which he lives, he’s not the problem it’s the people complaining about him defecating on the street who are the problem.

Asked what should be done about the situation, Paul Scrivano has a clear answer. Pointing to a man sleeping on the sidewalk he said “That person who thinks he works for the FBI and who terrorizes my neighborhood is given the choice as to whether he wants housing or not.” In other words, it shouldn’t be a choice for people who are this far gone. They should be incarcerated or committed to some facility that can help them, not left on the street to pursue their own self destruction.

If the Fox 11 clip stopped there it would already be excellent but it keeps going by pointing out that the LA City Councilwoman who represents Sherman Oaks has been ducking the calls of business owners begging for her help. Nithya Raman also ducked interview requests from Fox 11 so reporter Gina Silva tracked her down at a public event and asked the obvious question: “How would you like it if someone threw feces at you?” “I obviously would not like it,” Raman replied.

But she’s clearly not interested in doing anything about it. Her plan, if you can even call it that, is to fix the root causes of homelessness. “The reality is that people who are experiencing homelessness are still individuals who are there on the streets because they don’t have a home,” Raman said. In other words, we should feel compassion for the people throwing feces and starting fights and making threats, no matter how they behave.

That’s pretty easy to say when you’re not the person being asked to clean up after them day after day. How long would this same homeless man be allowed to camp out in front of Nithya Raman’s house in Silver Lake? My guess is that within 24 hours she’d be using her rank as an elected official to have police move the problem somewhere else. Solving the root causes of homelessness is good enough for her constituents but you can bet that when it came to her home and the safety of her family she’d want swift and immediate action.

And that in a nutshell is how you get every city up and down the west coast facing these same problems. The people actually dealing with it are screaming for help and a lot of local news outlets are reporting on it weekly, but progressive elected officials have decided there’s no point rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The only solutions they care about are ones like creating more affordable housing, i.e. solutions that a) have little to do with the actual problems of the chronic homeless (drugs, alcohol, mental health) and b) probably won’t happen any time soon, if ever. By pushing the solutions to root causes off into the future, no one has to do much of anything about the problems right now.

This clip makes me realize how similar the problem of chronic homelessness is to the chronic problems at the border. There too you have people dealing with the problem who are begging for help. But their elected officials are stuck talking about root causes in countries a thousand miles away. And we’ve all seen what happens the minute the actual problems associated with the border turn up on the doorstep of the elected officials who’ve been passing the buck or the sanctuary cities who’ve been encouraging it. Suddenly it’s a real problem and they don’t like that at all.

This clip is more than seven minutes long and if I could I’d make every city council person on the west coast watch it in full.

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