Two situations on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum have business owners and others who frequent downtown Palm Springs searching for solutions.
At issue are the often frightening encounters business owners and their customers are having with an aggressive panhandler and the circumstances involving a pregnant member of the homeless community who so far has refused assistance.
Patrick Bradley, who uses a wheelchair and is often reported to leave it to aggressively confront people, has a history of violence toward merchants and visitors downtown. He is also well-known for similar behavior in other Riverside County cities.
Riverside County court records show dozens of citations and arrests involving Bradley for a range of crimes dating back to 1995, including drug possession, assault, and intimidating business owners. Many of those crimes occurred in Palm Springs. He was most recently arrested in 2019 and convicted of intentionally interfering with a business and obstructing a police officer in Hemet.
Bradley was banned from business districts in several cities, including Palm Springs, as part of his probation for that crime. His probation expired in July, however, and he has since returned to downtown Palm Springs. Business owners say he has again been demanding money and becoming agitated when denied or confronted.
“He is getting more aggressive by the day,” said Mindy Reed, owner of a pair of downtown restaurants. “Do we have to wait until he gets violent with us? Do I have to wait until he spits on me?”
Palm Springs Police Department Capt. Mike Kovaleff told Reed and others attending a Main Street Palm Springs meeting Tuesday that while he hoped Bradley would not resort to that behavior, given his past behavior, he worries he might. For that reason, Kovaleff urged business owners to be proactive.
“What it’s going to take is restraining orders,” Kovaleff said. “He travels to a lot of places — Hemet, Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs. There are 26 different cases in the court computer involving him.”
That’s precisely the approach business owners were forced to take in 2009, when they filed civil restraining orders against 18 members of the homeless population who were aggressively seeking money on city streets.
“You will have to go to court here in Palm Springs, right near the police station, and show a reason why he should be banned from outside businesses,” Kovaleff said. “Any type of evidence you can bring to a judge is helpful.”
While business owners deal with the complicated situation brought on by Bradley’s behavior, they have an equally difficult task convincing one female member of the homeless population to seek medical attention.
The woman, who goes by the name of Leela, is in the advanced stages of pregnancy and is frequently seen lying on downtown sidewalks, including during the intense heat of summer.
Multiple community members have tried to help the woman, explained Joy Brown Meredith, who has so far only managed to convince Leela to take shelter in a shaded area near Meredith’s store on North Palm Canyon Drive.
“I personally have been involved trying to get her to accept help from Mama’s House, Well in the Desert, Martha’s, and also Street Life Project,” Meredith said Tuesday. “She doesn’t want any services, and it’s unfortunate that it is that way. When you see somebody eight months pregnant laying on the sidewalk with her belly out, and it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s very concerning.”
Kovaleff agreed, adding that police have also tried to convince the woman to accept assistance.
“That is an absolutely tragic situation,” he said. “Our staff has repeatedly offered her services. But we cannot force somebody into those services. We need to protect her and that unborn child right now.”
“Unfortunately, some people have used this to magnify the discussion on social media,” he said. “All of us are trying to do what we can, but it’s her desire right now.”
One option those concerned with Leela’s situation have yet to attempt is to move for conservatorship legally. That move was suggested Tuesday and has been allowed elsewhere in the state in extreme cases. Kovaleff promised he would explore the option.
“Even though she is homeless, she is caring for herself,” Meredith said. “There is a very fine line there. It’s a pretty high threshold of what it requires.”