Three-inch piece of vinyl brings attention to societal failure in caring for its citizens.
What began as an artistic response to Ocean Beach, California’s young and increasingly iconic hobo, tramp, traveler, beggar and bum population, has turned into the most sustained national conversation on homelessness seen in years. When the yellow and green sticker, “Welcome to Ocean Beach, Please Don’t Feed Our Bums,” began appearing on electrical boxes and shop windows, many locals accepted the statement as they had countless other vinyl messages in the past. Yet when a website run out of Lemon Grove, Calif., seized upon the sticker as “hate-speech,” attention from local and then national media outfits snowballed into a weeks-long conversation on homelessness.
Those who stood in opposition to the sticker framed the debate as an “us vs. them” conflict. Some went so far as to create artwork for an opposition sticker. Critics of the original sticker have ignored the true intent of the message itself: to get those very same critics talking.
And talk they have. In under two months, the sticker and its message has been discussed in the L.A. Times, Union-Tribune, CNN, Huffington Post, Associated Press, KPBS and dozens of radio programs and websites. The sticker spurred a community meeting on homelessness in Ocean Beach, city council members have taken note, and homelessness in the city will again be discussed on the “Editor’s Round Table,” a KPBS radio program, this Friday.