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For many years, Boyd Long has been the public face of the San Diego Police Department’s approach to homelessness — the one at meetings of frustrated condo-dwellers in East Village, the one at press conferences touting the city’s resource day.
Long has risen through the ranks in his 28 years with the department and is now assistant chief, but he’s leaving his post this week to become a vice president at Valley View Casino.
We sat down Friday afternoon to talk about homelessness. I’ve included some of what he said, in his own words, below.
Long talked about a few ideas for combating downtown homelessness. He addressed something I’ve heard a lot downtown — that some well-intentioned efforts are compassionate but misguided. He thinks any gifts of food or assistance must be connected with services.
On Better Compassionate Approaches
Guess what, Mr. and Mrs. Do-Gooder? You just came down from (Rancho) Penasquitos with your troupe from church and there’s a dozen of you in a beautiful white van, you’re feeling really good about giving out sandwiches and socks and coffee?
I love it. You’re doing God’s work. You’re not helping the homeless. You’re helping them remain homeless.
If you keep giving them the sandwich, and you come down here every Wednesday, they’re going to keep coming like a cat comes to my back door for milk. You’re not helping them.
Go to one of these agencies. Support them. Because when that guy comes to the (agency’s) door, he gets a sandwich, he gets socks, he gets something warm to drink. And he gets a counselor. He gets a person who may find housing. He gets an attorney to talk to to help with those tickets. He gets much, much more than an enabling cup of coffee and a sandwich and a pair of socks.
We need that. That’s what we need. We need a place for them to go.
On Unprecedented Energy Toward Fighting Homelessness
I think, frankly, we’ve hit the tipping point. I think we’ve hit the tipping point with what’s tolerable about homelessness. Thank God, I think the tipping point has been tugging at people’s heart. People see these people that are homeless downtown. We live in America’s Finest City, in the richest country in the world, and we still allow people to lay their head on concrete at night.
What in the hell is wrong with us? Why do we allow that?
We don’t even let dogs running wild spend the night out on the street. We put them in a kennel at the animal control shelter. But we’re OK with letting humans lay their head on a sidewalk at night.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misquoted the assistant police chief in the headline. We regret the error.
Clarification: We’ve placed his quoted remarks in a blockquote format to make clear they’re Long’s words.
I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.325.0531.
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