Briefing Room: homelessness is not a crime

Logo courtesy of Seal Beach PD

Hi Seal Beach,

Although this week we didn’t receive any questions directly addressed to the Police Department, we were forwarded two particularly discourteous emails addressed to our City Manager Jill Ingram.

Below are the exact, unedited emails, sent from the same Seal Beach resident (only sender’s last name was withheld):

Email 1:

Subject: Homelessness

Dear Jill, as city manager I feel that I must inform you of what is happening in our city. Because you either don’t know or don’t care. I’m going to assume for right now you don’t know. Homelessness is obviously on the rise and it is very apparent in Seal Beach. We have always had the few “regulars” but it is now becoming more than that. This is a plea to have compassion where compassion should be and rights where rights should be. First of all it is not compassionate to let these people just park themselves where they want. I have witnessed the vulgarities they spew, the rants that they go off on, all within the ears and eyes of children, families and tourists. Second, they are not always using bathroom facilities.  So, where do you think they are going? In alleys tucked away behind a garbage can or a tree, in the parks bushes, etc.  I have witnessed this, so I know it to be true. Now, let’s talk about rights. I have seen them parked at the doors of the LIBRARY!!! Parents are taking their children to story time or get books and have to walk past the carts and sleeping individuals in the door ways. That is not right!! Just go to the parks or the pier and their stuff, carts, blankets, sleeping bags are next to them as they sleep on the benches. So, tourists, families, children are witnessing Seal Beach as what? A sanctuary town for homelessness?  They don’t have the right to sit on a bench and enjoy the view or weather without having to be over taken by a sleeping individual?  I would say that either your eyes are closed to what’s going on or you just don’t care OR you just aren’t in seal beach enough to see what’s happening.  Please, do your job. Find a place these individuals can go to get help.   And, just to be clear, I have helped many of our seal beach homeless over the years. Have made friends with them.  But, at some point the tide has to turn or it will get out of control, as I see that it is.  Thank you for your time.


Email 2:

Subject: Addendum to Homelessness

I told you all the places the homeless can be found. I failed to mention where they won’t be found. At City Hall where there is a beautiful turtle pond, a nice Cody bench under the shade of a nice tree. Bushes abound where they could sleep and do their “business”.  We all know, it’s because it would not be tolerated! Please use the same standard for the citizens of Seal Beach and where we live, work and play!


Wow.  There’s a lot to unpack in Angela’s two emails.

First, any regular reader of this column will know that if there is one topic I have covered more than any others, it is on the subject of homelessness.  In fact, I’m not even going to try to rewrite to provide any new information because it seems to fall on deaf ears, especially when I read emails like the two Angela sent our City Manager.  Here’s the info:

Whenever I can write about the homelessness crisis in the United States, I always start by noting homelessness is not a crime.  Resting in a park is not a crime.  Using the library is not a crime.  Having personal property in bags affixed to a bike is not a crime.  While there are some quality-of-life issues that are associated with homelessness (urinating in public, littering, sleeping in vehicles), we all need to remember that one who is simply experiencing homelessness, is not necessarily doing anything illegal.

Homelessness is not a problem that is unique to Seal Beach.  According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, there are over 161,500 people experiencing homelessness in California.  Based on my own personal observations, Seal Beach does not have nearly the same number of individuals experiencing homelessness as many other California coastal cities.

As we’ve discussed in the past, the Seal Beach Police Department does a large amount of work, both with the homeless community and to address our quality-of-life issues here in town.  We have three Quality of Life Officers who are specifically trained to help facilitate homelessness outreach.  We regularly have specially trained clinicians who work for the Orange County Health Care Agency ride with our officers to conduct similar efforts.  These clinicians also help with mental health related calls. Particularly as they conduct risk assessments, initiate involuntary hospitalizations, and most importantly, provide resources and education to those who are both in need and request the help.

Our Quality-of-Life Officers have outstanding working relationships with other officers assigned to similar details throughout both Long Beach and Orange County.  We’ve organized large scale outreach days with Long Beach Police Officers, County Social Workers, Mental Health Professionals, Veterans Affairs staff, and others who can help end homelessness, not just in Seal Beach but throughout the entire region.

So please remember, when you see a person experiencing homelessness being homeless, it is not a crime.  If you do see an actual law being broken (non-emergency), please call us at (562) 594-7232 (or 9-1-1 for life-or-death emergencies).

Instead of emailing other City Staff, please call us and we’ll be more than happy to check the welfare of the individual experiencing homelessness.  Although enforcement is sometimes necessary with those experiencing homelessness, there are often circumstances which require a level of compassion, empathy, and understanding.  As if I don’t write this enough, I think our staff does a really good job of emoting all those needed qualities when working within our community.

In closing, if you or anyone you know in town is experiencing homelessness or is suffering from food insecurities, please let us know or visit and  for assistance. I will close this week’s article by saying that I can assure you that every City of Seal Beach staff member, and most especially City Manager Ingram, care very much about EVERY member of this community, regardless of their housing status.  Angela, civility should extend not only to our City staff, but also those struggling with homelessness.