Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Beverly Hills Accused of Running Homeless Man Out of Town with Private Security

And the guy was apparently well liked.


George Saville slept on a cot in a downtown homeless shelter. In the morning, he would catch the bus to Beverly Hills.

There, Saville’s wit and wide knowledge of news, entertainment and sports drew a circle of admirers, including a half-dozen people who took their morning coffee at Urth Caffe.

The cafe owners supported him. Sports stars such as Lamar Odom and Jason Kidd stopped by for daily tidbits of information. Arab royals from the Beverly Wilshire Hotel asked him to pose in their selfies, Saville’s supporters said.

“He’s smart; he has historical references,” said Maria Belknap, a business manager and Urth patron. “He knows the L.A. Times and New York Times inside and out and he can talk about everything.”

“At best he is charming, at worst he is harmless,” said television host Larry King, who eats breakfast nearby and has slipped him cash on occasion. “Every community has a panhandler, and Beverly Hills is not so far above it.”

City officials, however, call Saville an opportunist and “aggressive panhandler” and considered drawing up a “shame list” to pressure cafe owners to stop catering to him.

After a run-in with a city-funded private patrol, known to locals as “greenshirts,” Saville was charged with two misdemeanors and ordered to stay away from the restaurant. Saville’s friends call the charges bogus and merely a ploy to drive the 57-year-old homeless man out of town.

“What you’ve mounted is an extrajudicial squad of greenshirts [who] are there to clear the streets of undesirables,” David Lyle, president of a television and digital content producers association, told the Beverly Hills human rights commission in May.

At a separate hearing, James Latta, the city’s human services administrator, countered that, “if it’s someone that wanted our help and needed help, we’ve got it for him. But this individual doesn’t want it.”

Saville’s clash with officials raises questions about how far cities can go to clear public spaces of indigents — and what obligation, if any, homeless people have to accept services and shelter...