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Cleanup of homeless encampments in Midway District begin

Posted at 5:20 PM, Feb 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-01 20:52:34-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - "They need assistance, they need help. Not just trash pick up," Karen Anderson-Thatcher said.

Anderson-Thatcher is one of the owners of Walter Anderson Nursery. She shares that over the past 10 months, the sight on the other side of her property's fence has grown out of control.

"We have seen everything," she explained. "There's been needles, urine, feces, bags of it, vomit and just trash."

The city of San Diego crews came out Tuesday morning to the area of Sports Arena Boulevard in the Midway District. The mayor said in a press conference on Monday, that he was worried about conditions that could result in potential outbreaks or pose a public health risk.

The city asked those who live on the street to move their belongings while crews cleaned up, but did not explicitly ask them to leave. Among those who are unsheltered is Kaellan who said many of them just moved to the other side of the street and went back once the work was done.

"Back home, I'm from the Midwest, and you would get arrested for doing this," he said. "You would be arrested for being homeless. You'd be ran out of the city."

However, businesses like Anderson-Thatcher's hope for a more permanent solution. She said she has contacted local leaders for months, including Mayor Todd Gloria's Office and San Diego police. Every day she has been asking for help and said that nothing has changed.

"I was hoping that the people would get some help and some services," she said. "I was also hoping we would get some help because driving through their every day is upsetting and depressing and it's upsetting for the people who come here. And no one is getting help. And that's what we really want."

"What happened today was not a solution to homelessness, it was just a band-aid to keep the sidewalks clean," explains homeless advocate, Michael McConnell.

He emphasized that this morning was all about the trash, food on the streets, and keeping things sanitary.

"But it honestly doesn't look a lot different," he expresses. "You still have people out here."

The mayor on Monday shared in a press conference that a month of outreach work by various community partners found roughly 94 tents with 183 people residing on Sports Arena Boulevard. While there have been discussions for mental health assistance, only seven people in the area accepted services.

"I wish more would accept assistance," stated Mayor Todd Gloria. "This last year my administration has increased shelter space by 21%. And we will continue to build more shelter beds, more permanent supportive housing units, we built over 100 last year there's 1,000 in the pipeline today. We are working aggressively to address the underlying root causes of this problem, but we can't ignore what is happening on our streets today."

That is why green notices were placed along the entirety of the street, forewarning that arrests could be made if someone did not comply. However, McConnell said that was not the case.

"The city took a better approach to this," he explained. "They didn't come out and storm into the camps, trying to displace people in minutes. They worked and let people know, 'Hey start moving'."

McConnell believes that the reason this has grown in such a short time is potentially due to the location, being surrounded by warehouses instead of front-facing businesses. He also said encampments near the freeway have been cleared out, potentially resulting in more people moving to the Midway District.

The city hopes that with more clean-ups, those without shelter might be willing to get help. However, homeless advocates believe concrete solutions are needed.

"We just need some good standard policies that balance trying to keep the areas as clean as possible, while also being humane and dignified as possible to the people who have to call those spaces home," McConnell said.

RELATED: City of San Diego crews start cleanup of homeless encampment in Midway District