“I love you. You love me. We’re a happy family.”

Maybe not so much.

After complaints went viral about how the children’s “Barney” song was being broadcast at loud volumes and on a continuous loop from a San Pedro building — presumably to deter homeless encampments along Palos Verdes Street — the property owner, Jerico Development, quickly turned the music off and apologized.

“The idea is to deter people from being here, but these people have no where to go,” said Hillary Barker from the watchdog group Street Watch LA. “It’s psychological harassment.”

The song was just one of many methods that different groups in the San Pedro area have attempted recently to address an uptick in homeless encampments, which have grown as shelters have had to limit their capacity and impose quarantine rules when exposures were confirmed to keep folks safe amid the pandemic. Many people who would otherwise stay in the shelters don’t want to commit to a two-week lockdown, according to experts, so street homelessness has become more visible.

“We’ve had some outbreaks, which required us to put the sites under quarantine,” Shari Weaver of Harbor Interfaith Services said. “Those that didn’t want to follow the quarantine order for a number of reasons” chose to leave, she added.

Beds also had to be eliminated, she said, to comply with social distancing orders. A Bridge Home, which opened in July, had to cut its availability from 100 beds down to 75, she said. The nearby county shelter, meanwhile, dropped from 40 beds to 32 after opening in early March.

As more people who are homeless move from shelters to the streets, some of their tents, said San Pedro resident Vicky Rodriguez, have begun to creep up into residential neighborhoods.

Rodriguez — who came to the U.S. from Vietnam when she was just 3 — and her husband and two children, ages 11 and 18, just moved to the waterfront neighborhood in San Pedro in November.

While not shocked by the homelessness she sees in San Pedro, Rodriguez said the encampments blocking sidewalks prevent her from walking two blocks to the main Post Office. Discarded undergarments and feminine products are found on theirs and others’ properties, she said, so residents have started cleanups.

Rodriguez also has started a new neighborhood watch group for the downtown district and surrounding residential blocks.

“We are now banding together and we are trying to network with other neighborhood watch groups,” she said. “The encampments are a big concern.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino was not available for comment on Friday, Feb. 12, but in a written statement said he heralded the return of full cleanups around the sites. But those also continue to be controversial among homeless advocates, who say they amount to sweeps that displace and harass people living on the streets.

The money spent on those efforts, said Barker of Street Watch LA, could better be spent on providing housing, specifically with agreements to use motel and hotel rooms for immediate relief.

Amber Sheikh, who chairs the 15th District’s Homelessness Working Group, agreed with Barker that more hotel and motel rooms would help in finding immediate shelter that wouldn’t involve so many pandemic complications that are inherent in congregant living shelter situations. Earlier such programs have been largely phased out in funding.

While more permanent housing is underway, that more long-term solution is costly and takes time, Sheikh said.

In the meantime, more and more people who are homeless have been testing positive for the coronavirus, Sheikh said, which has impacted outreach efforts.

And, she added, the pandemic has put roadblocks on planned shelter programs.

“There wasn’t even a chance to get settle in and get programming going,” she said.

As for the “Barney” music fiasco, it seems to be fading as quickly as it appeared.

The dustup, though, was a major discussion point on Thursday, Feb. 11, when the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce’s Quality of Life Committee gathered on Zoom in a closed session meeting.

Representatives from Jerico, which is one of the San Pedro waterfront development partners, again apologized and said the company was committed to “a continuing dialogue” with homeless advocacy organizations, the faith community and others to explore ways to find solutions. Among the company’s suggestions was an idea to explore launching an arts program for area shelters and the designation of a community liaison.

Barker said she’d like to see more, including a willingness to open the buildings owned by Jerico — the long-closed Ante’s Restaurant at 729 Ante Perkov Way (Palos Verdes Street) and a structure next door to it — for homeless housing.

Jerico representatives, who were not available for followup comments, said at the meeting and in a written statement released later that there was a tenant in one of the buildings. The properties are primarily used to rent for movie shoots.

“They’re longtime business owners and philanthropists, I’ve known the family much of my life,” Sheikh said of the company. “They were super remorseful and asked me, ‘How do we make this right?’

“It’s not cool what happened,” she said. “But I really do think they’re trying to make it right. I think everyone is trying to do the best they can right now.”

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