City installs rocks where homeless camp out

Boxers at Undisputed Downtown say just getting to the gym some days is a challenge because of all the homeless people that have live near Imperial Avenue and 17th Street.

"They might see someone urinating, going to the bathroom, drinking, smoking crack," gym owner Joel Rocco said.

Rocco is fighting mad, and he said membership has fluctuated because some of his patrons are afraid to walk in the neighborhood.

City crews recently added sharp rocks at the underpass at Imperial Avenue, which was known as a popular encampment.

The city says they spent $57,000 on installing rocks and concrete to make the area safer for pedestrians. However, a homeless advocacy group believes it's just a way to push homeless out of the area.

"You are so worthless that they will put down sharp rocks in the only place where you can find shelter is just beyond my imagination that anyone could think that that's a solution," homeless advocate Jeenie Criscenzo said.

Criscenzo brought a basketful of fake rocks down to City Hall to deliver them to Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Her group believes the rock bed will only push the homeless to other areas, and a first step in fixing the problem is putting up temporary tiny shelters in vacant lots.

"They can feel safe at night, they can get their head together and get beyond homelessness," Criscenzo said.

Criscenzo and members of the nonprofit Amikas delivered 9,000 signatures from people asking the mayor to find a lot where they can try out the tiny shelters for six months to prove that it works.

Rocco said the rocks are a small start but believes there's a solution more effective than the tiny shelters.

"Housing first is the only real model that works, transitional obviously doesn't because after 30 days they're back out on the street," Rocco said.

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