Press "Enter" to skip to content

Bicyclist who videotaped Santa Ana River Trail homeless wishes he’d done things differently

Jay Mendoza never expected the video he shot of tent encampments occupied by homeless people along the Santa Ana River Trail in Orange County to get the kind of attention it did. And it’s caused him some heartache.
In July, Mendoza, who lives in Anaheim, attached a GoPro camera to his bike helmet and went for a ride, capturing the journey as he and a friend rolled past the tents and tarps that serve as homes for  hundreds of people who live on the bike trail in Orange and Anaheim. As he filmed, he added his own narration — highlighted in subtitles — describing he saw and heard and smelled as he rode the river.
“Damn, they know how to party,” he quips as he rides past piles of trash and assorted debris.
“Oooh, it stinks,” he continues. And, referring to suspected bicycle “chop shops” made up of stolen bikes and parts, “Ay, is the bike shop over here?” Then later: “Tweaker everywhere.” “Damn … it’s neverending.” “Generator. They’re one of the ballers, huh. They got electricity.”

Mendoza’s film hit a nerve. Since he posted it on Facebook and YouTube, the six-minute clip has been seen more than 1.5 million times worldwide.
And his work has attracted thousands of comments.
Some express shock about the deplorable living conditions in an area — Orange County — widely viewed as a place of carefree affluence. Many others are aimed at the people themselves; few are complimentary or sympathetic.
To those who consider the homeless people at the riverbed a source of blight and crime, the images and narration from Mendoza underscored the need for local authorities to increase law enforcement and clear out the encampments — something the county is now poised to do with a looming Jan. 22 deadline.
But to advocates who call for more services and housing to relieve the situation, Mendoza’s video was seen as a drive-by attack.
“I was getting mostly people that were shocked,” he said. “Then, after a while, I started getting hate comments and people saying I was unsympathetic.”
Today, Mendoza regrets what he now sees as shallow and sarcastic remarks he uttered on the fly.
“I made some dumb comments on that video, like some immature comments,” says the 33-year-old cyclist.
“I wasn’t really thinking that this video was going to go viral. And I wasn’t really talking about the whole homeless community.”
What Mendoza did think about: Old friends of his own, now on the streets, with lives defined by drug abuse or mental illness.
He recalls seeing one young woman in particular, who stood dazed, in the middle of the bike trail, exhibiting telltale signs of drug abuse. “You see a lot of people with cuts or scabs on their face, because they’re always picking at themselves.”
But Mendoza says now he was wrong to give the impression that everyone along the trail is up to no good. How could he discern that as he sped by without stopping to talk to anyone?
He later added this footnote to his Facebook post: “Apologies to those offended by the commentary. These jokes were made based from personal experiences of losing friends to these streets due to drug addiction, as well as recovering stolen bikes from a chop shop. We understand not all homeless are drug addicts or thieves.”
Still, Mendoza says he would shoot that same video all over again — because it opened a lot of people’s eyes to a place and a plight most had never seen that close up, nor ever will. But, instead of narration, he says he’d keep his mouth shut.
“Not make any more jokes,” he says. “Just take it serious.”
Homeless man ponders life at Santa Ana River Trail from a helicopter
Santa Ana River Trail homeless people: Where they are, how they live, what they’re saying
Source: Oc Register

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply