Along the rails, near the Buena Vista Lagoon, there exists a camp hidden from civilization. Tucked neatly into an overgrown pocket of brush and vegetation, a sturdy tent stands abandoned. The chatter of waterfowl overpowers the buzz of nearby tire treads and police sirens. Tall reeds sway to a fragrant ocean breeze. The quiet is eerie, almost uncomfortably so. People live here, but they’re nowhere to be found.
It smells like stale urine. Broken glass, mostly the remains of cheap malt liquor bottles, clutters the dirt ground like intricate pieces of a mosaic. To wander barefoot here would be an act of stupidity. Small as it is, the camp produces a fair share of litter. Despite the trash, the scant few belongings in sight are laid out carefully, as if a man were preparing for a day on the job.
A simple fishing pole is propped against the tree. There’s no sign of a recent catch, or any food for that matter, except for a few plastic junk food wrappers.
“No trespassing” and “no camping” signs dot the landscape. The city of Carlsbad has taken a stance. Homelessness isn’t allowed around these parts.
Consider a “no camping” ordinance to be a built-in control mechanism, not necessarily aimed at those with a place to call home. It’s an interesting, mostly political position, one that is rooted in last resorts and frustration — the agony of dealing with an old social problem. An important question remains, however: Where are the homeless supposed to sleep?
Chain smokers live here, and they too are nowhere to be found. There are only a handful of homeless folks in Carlsbad Village, and they all seem to smoke. One has to wonder if this camp is where they call home.
The homeless population is too easy to ignore here in North County, and it’s partially because these people are so efficient at avoiding society. They must know the police won’t take the time to park, hike a few hundred feet and make an arrest. Even if a driver is intentionally looking at the camp from the Coast Highway, there is no way they could spot the tents. It’s a perfect location, really.
Under the train trellis, in the shadow of a multimillion dollar beach pad, there exists another camp, nowhere near as “orderly” as its neighbor just to the south. Pages from an old Playboy magazine are in advanced stages of decomposition. Miss July doesn’t look as pretty as she once did.
A train whizzes by, one of many to come. The old trellis creaks and vibrates. Stagnant lagoon water is temporarily displaced by the locomotive, sending a swarm of what appears to be mosquitoes into a frenzy. Here, a crummy blanket and pillow are laid out, an isolated and dirty — but mostly dry — spot to rest.
Graffiti covers the trellis, the sort of indecipherable babble few can understand. The contrast is intense: humanity on the edge, surrounded by luxury, a fine beach and a recovering lagoon. It’s doubtful many know of this encampment, or care for its well-being for that matter.
One of the problems with this situation, as I see it, is the interaction the camp has with the Buena Vista Lagoon. As many know, boating is not allowed on the lagoon for the safety of nesting bird populations. Does camping along its shores somehow disrupt the natural ebb and flow of an already fragile environment? I’m sure it does to a minor degree. But again, what other resources and avenues do the local homeless population have available to them?
I imagine this camp will survive a round or two of law enforcement interaction before it relocates to the more remote stretches of the lagoon, farther from the everyday glares of Carlsbad Village residents.
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