Last night, September 7, I went to a meeting of the Friends of Sunset Park (FOSP) to support a plan for group housing for seven members of Step Up on Second, the Santa Monica nonprofit which delivers services to people suffering from schizophrenia. By the time the meeting was over, I was so embarrassed I never again wanted to admit that I live in this area.
Even before FOSP’s representative threw the floor open to questions, members of the audience began shouting out their distaste for the project. It was quite a display on the part of a bunch of people whose average age looked to be at least 50 years old. Their yelling was obstructive enough to make FOSP threaten to shut the session down. Worse, the comments were astoundingly cruel to the folks from Step Up, a group that included the parents of a schizophrenic daughter, two current residents of the program and many staff members who had given up their evening to talk to FOSP.
Much of the shouting had to do with the fact that the group house, if indeed it ever happens, will be very close to Grant Elementary and John Adams Middle School, and thus dangerous to children. Step Up’s CEO commented that in several meetings with the PTA’s of those schools he had not seen this level of concern.
So, though I dislike questioning anybody’s motives, even the motives of people behaving as badly as those I saw last night, I wonder what was really on display here. Are the neighbors of Step Up’s prospective group house concerned for their children or for the value of their property?
With “friends” like these, Sunset Park doesn’t need enemies.