On Firestone Boulevard, business owners struggle with homeless

DOWNEY – Downey business owner Martin Orloff could not believe what he was seeing outside of his store, Exotical Hawaiian Apparel. A homeless man was sleeping under a bench which had just been installed, directly in front of the business, not long before.

“I was out of the country. I just happened to come back and here is this stuff,” said Orloff. “They could have been doing it many more times.”

According to Orloff, many homeless individuals have been taking advantage of the new benches, which are separated from the street by a concrete barricade. Orloff said he has witnessed some of these individuals sleeping, consuming alcohol, or simply loitering in the space.

Orloff’s first experience with the issue came when he found several homeless individuals sitting on the benches with opened cans of alcohol at their feet. However, it was not until the incident with the sleeping man that Orloff took a direct approach.

“I woke him up, and I didn’t really say anything,” said Orloff. Calmly, he gestured for the man to leave. “But that’s not my job. I don’t feel like calling the police on these poor souls. I think it’s pretty mean to call the police on someone who is less fortunate.”

The issue with the homeless is not a new one when it comes to the businesses on the block of Firestone between Paramount Boulevard and Downey Avenue.

Art Valencia, owner of Art’s Camera, explained that there have been several incidents with the homeless at the post office across the street, as well as in the back parking lot that the businesses share.

“It’s embarrassing,” said Valencia. “They urinate and relieve themselves right there by my door and I have to clean up the mess. It’s pretty bad.”

Valencia said that he’s also had issues with the homeless walking through his business, being rude, asking to use the restroom, and begging for money from both his customers and himself. Valencia said that one woman once witnessed a homeless couple performing lewd acts in the parking lot, and asked him to call the police.

Both Valencia and Orloff said they have approached the city with their concerns, however, they feel that the issue is not getting the attention that it requires. Orloff described it as “unsightly.”

“We’re not getting the same love like they do down the street from us,” Valencia said, referring to the Downey Gateway. “You’ve got this beautiful block, maybe a hundred yards from us. Then you come to our side and it looks like skid row. That’s a shame.”