WOODLAND HILLS (CBSLA.com) — Within minutes, the war of words began between people on both sides of the homeless issue in Woodland Hills.
Five minutes into the protest, a man who said he was homeless was arrested for assault against another protester.
Both sides say they are fighting for the homeless, but the people marching to “take back their streets” say it’s the aggressive panhandlers and drug users, who litter their neighborhoods with syringes, they want arrested.
“There are people truly in need,” Michael Murray said. “We don’t use the word homeless. We’re talking about criminal transient activity. We’re talking about behavior, not conditions or situations.”
But people like James Wright say they are being unfairly targeted and grouped in with criminals, when their only crime is falling on hard times.
“I’m not a burglar. I don’t steal. I don’t do drugs. I look for work every day,” Wright said. “I’m just an average Joe, except I’m homeless.”
While protesters marched in Woodland Hills, in Northridge at National Night Out, Councilman Mitch Englander acknowledged the growing homeless problem in the San Fernando valley and introduced his Take Back Our Neighborhood initiative to tackle the issue.
“We have full-time dedicated staff working not only with homelessness but with our community faith-based organizations, churches, synagogues, nonprofits, the police department,” Englander said.