Tuesday, May 15, 2007

St. Joseph Center has no respect for the neighbors.

May 15, 2007

The work of the St. Joseph Center at Lincoln Blvd. and Flower Ave. in Venice does not apparently include respect for the surrounding neighbors.

The SJC Homeless Center has opened its doors and is reaching out to the needy and I am grateful that many are getting the help they need. But as a mother, I will not negate my responsibility and I must speak out in my struggle to provide a safe and nurturing home for my family.

I am concerned with the recent changes in my neighborhood and I am asking that our elected officials and the St. Joseph Center to actively accept the rest of their responsibility. I have been opposed to them operating this center twenty feet from my home. It is just too close to a family neighborhood. I have to worry about the other clients the SJC serves, the mentally unstable and criminals that hide amongst the homeless – I should not have to fear my neighbor.

Now that the center is open, instead of using the center’s front doors, the SJC requires their clients to enter and exit using the doors in the back of their building. This area overlooks my home, yard and the rest of the neighborhood. Many of their clients hang around at this back entrance and sit on the ground or sit in the chairs provided by the SJC facing my home directly and as I mentioned previously my property line is exactly twenty feet away. This means that as my family and I come and go from our home there are strangers sitting twenty feet from our house constantly watching us. They know when we are home and when we are not. They stare at us as we move about. It is more than unsettling to have strangers watch you.

On Tuesday, May15, at 8:15 a.m., I counted 13 adult men facing my home and neighborhood waiting outside the SJC.

To be a good neighbor the SJC could simply conduct their business inside and use the front entrance on Lincoln Blvd., but instead, they have posted a “No Loitering” sign in the front window of their building which will keep clients in the back and closer to our neighborhood. If there is a problem with a client it all takes place in the alley next to my house. Whenever there is a problem or disturbance the security guards, other personnel of the SJC and the police are all at the back entrance trying to quell the disturbance. This affects our family life.

The number of vans and RVs parking overnight in front of my house has increased, especially on the weekends when there is no security provided from the SJC. The SJC currently provides security M-F, 7 a.m. to 1a.m., which is less time than I was previously told by a SJC representative back in November, 2006. Security after service hours has not been consistently visible since they opened. There have been more strangers walking and hanging around the neighborhood which warrants an increase to 7 days a week security. Our community needs more security for its safety and the SJC should provide this as part of the responsibility connected with their work!

Within five days this past week there were four incidents, that I know of, where strangers have come onto my property. On Thursday afternoon (May 10) at 4:30, as the SJC’s security guards were leaving a very upset and angry woman yelling in the alley walked on to my front lawn with her bicycle. Because of the proximity, it is very natural for their clients to wander onto my property. I was afraid to approach her as I had heard her yelling from my living room.

On Friday, May 11 at 11:30 a.m. my neighbor saw a man with a shopping cart going onto my property into my carport area. She walked closer so the man would know he was being watched.

On Saturday morning, May 12, at 7:30 a.m., as I was driving away in my car I saw three strangers walking down the alley looking over my neighbors’ fences. I drove around the block to wait for them to leave the area. This forced me to cancel my plans to leave as I did not feel safe leaving my property and sleeping family. I watched one of them trespass onto my property while the others waited in the alley.

Monday, May 15, 8:15 p.m., there was a loud knock at my front door. I asked who it was. I heard a muffled response. I asked again. I heard an angry and loud voice command, ”Just open the door!” while she pounded on the door. When the woman moved away from the doorway I did open the door and heard her continue yelling and before I closed the door again she yelled, “Get that bitch away from me!” towards my daughter when she refused to give her a blanket.
What exactly can the security of the St. Joseph Center do for the community when we find ourselves in an unsafe or dangerous situation? The answer to this question is of utmost importance.

Less devastating, but also a change in our neighborhood is the increase of abandoned shopping carts left in the alleys and sidewalks. I believe that the SJC should be responsible for taking care of the picking up of these abandoned shopping carts all around our neighborhood.

On Wednesday morning, May 9, I counted five carts as I drove around our block (I did not include the carts outside the SJC). The SJC can make arrangements with the cart retrieval business to pick up the carts on a regular basis and make sure this happens.

I can’t believe that all this is happening to our neighborhood- it has never been like this before. There are more strangers in our community than ever before. Perhaps if the St. Joseph Center would service their clients indoors many would be less likely to roam the rest of the neighborhood and we may feel safer.

A homeless service center should not be located next door to any one’s home or in any family neighborhood. The respect due to the surrounding families seems to be more than the organization, functioning to help the homeless, is willing or able to give.
And this is wrong.

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