The following is an opinion from Pat Thurman of Sun City, regarding squatters moving into abandoned and foreclosed homes throughout the community...
The past couple of years have brought problems for the senior community in the core area of Sun City, the shoppers and storeowners in the Sun City Shopping Center on Cherry Hills and Sun City Blvd. So many of the condos, that are on two sides of the shopping center, have residents that no longer drive and bought here because they could walk to the stores. This has changed with the homeless becoming more aggressive with their solicitations for money. Many of them sit on the benches outside of Vons’ Market watching the shoppers come and go. Some shoppers are followed to their cars and asked to give money, and it seems as though the ones most approached, are the older more frail ones. Consequently, this is causing shoppers to not shop here. Some of the few that still drive are going to other areas to do their shopping because they are afraid of being intimidated by the homeless.
Before the last rain came you could drive by Citi Bank on Sun City Blvd. and watch one couple with their little white dog, sitting on the grass playing some sort of dice game with their big sign saying “Homeless” in front of them! A few days later, the same couple are now sitting on a small area of lawn by the bus stop on Bradley playing the same game and having the same sign up for people to give them money.
They are hanging out in front of the Smoke Shop or over by Santana’s Restaurant, Walgreens’ and one even stands by the front door of the Post Office. They move from one spot to another covering all areas of the shopping center, which leaves the shoppers at their mercy.
The Tapley and Associates Company that manages some of the shopping center have said they are going to put more signs and cameras up soon. When this is done, then the police could write tickets for loitering and panhandling. Stater Bros. does have signs up around their store and if more property owners in the center would agree to put more signs and cameras throughout the center, this would help both the tenants, shoppers and police.
Another solution, if the signs do not discourage the transients from bothering the shoppers, would be to hire a Security Company to patrol the center during business hours, but this would be a far greater expense for the managing companies and probably to the tenants as well.
Some of the churches in this area are doing their part by offering food banks, but the transients have to show proof that they live here or they have to come to their church service to pick up a bag of non-perishable food. Some churches offer information on how men, that are willing to work, can go to The Hacienda Christian Life Campus in Perris to rebuild their lives. This takes the ones willing to help themselves off the streets and cares for them while they learn to take charge of their lives again.
The problem will not go away if residents keep giving them money or buying them meals. The reason they keep coming back and playing on our generosity is because, some can make anywhere from $80.00 to $200.00 per day by not working or having to pay taxes on money earned, as we do! If the supply stops then, hopefully, they will move on and our residents can again feel safe shopping close to their homes.
Another problem, which is growing, is a few of them are going door to door asking for work. Their prices are cheaper than most but they are also not licensed and if they get hurt while working on your property, they can file a claim against the owner. Some seniors think that if they see these people working at a neighbor’s house that they must be okay to hire and do no checking or asking about having a license. When the work is finished, if it is inferior and these people are gone, now you have no recourse but to hire someone else to redo what they did. There is a couple that are going to the homes where people have tall palm trees and asking if they can trim them. They have no vehicle to carry the trash off and if the trimmer happens to fall, you could be responsible for his medical bills and expenses. Sometimes it is wiser to pay a little more and hire a licensed contractor than to risk a major problem for yourself like this.
The final problem is we now have squatters that are moving into houses around the Sun City area. They can take over a home and this becomes a major problem for the neighbors! Until the owners or banks can be located, major damage might be done to the home. One owner found out that the squatters in her home sold her things at a garage sale in her driveway and none of her neighbors reported it. Some wander our neighborhoods looking for unlocked cars to loot. The money they beg from residents helps them to pay for utilities so they can be comfortable while they pay no rent or taxes.
The only way to stop all of this is to stop funding them and for neighborhoods to become watchful when there are vacant homes around them. Alert your neighbors and the police to suspicious people loitering around your neighborhood.
It is sad that we have so many people that are homeless, but the largest percentage of them would rather live like this than have to find a job and follow the rules like the rest of us do. People that were in the process of losing their homes during the financial problems in the past few years, do anything they can to keep their families together, find jobs, and put their lives back together as soon as possible. They are not the ones that you see roaming around our neighborhoods day and night panhandling.
Having the homeless here costs all of us in the pocketbooks! If each neighborhood would start taking responsibility for looking out for their neighbors, talk with your neighbors and stay informed on events that are happening all around them then maybe we could bring back the feelings of safety into our lives once more. Or do nothing and let this problem grow.
- Pat Thurman, Sun City