I wholeheartedly agree with County Supervisor Adam Hill on most of the points he made about homelessness in his Nov. 24 viewpoint. However, I am continually concerned about the misperception — perpetrated by business associations and city officials — that homelessness is a public safety issue in downtown SLO. Supervisor Hill doesn’t help by validating the public’s perception that the homeless commit “violent crimes” thereby causing some to be “frightened” by their presence.
Permit me to allay these fears by citing two studies, one done by Snow, Baker and Anderson on the homeless in Austin, Texas and the other by Johns Hopkins University on the homeless in Baltimore. The Austin study indicated that the crimes the homeless were charged with were primarily nonviolent. The Baltimore study also found that homeless were less likely to commit crimes against person or property.
On the other hand, I think we would all agree that intoxicated male college students are more likely, as compared to the general population, to commit crimes against persons or property. So why aren’t we frightened by their over-concentrated presence in our downtown? Sadly, I would suggest that this is because they spend money.
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