SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The final touches are going into Petco Park before Thursday's highly-anticipated opening day. But just a few blocks away from the stadium are the many faces of San Diego’s homeless crisis, where several resources and services are located.
Homeless advocate Michael McConnell spends many early mornings on the streets of downtown, documenting police interactions with the homeless population.
Since the Hepatitis A outbreak he’s seen the number of encampments go down, but say he's frustrated over the city’s response to fixing the problem.
“I’m most frustrated that there's not a strategy that's solutions-focused, long term thinking about actually reducing homelessness versus reducing the visibility of homelessness," said McConnell.
On Wednesday morning, one day before Padres Opening Day, McConnell captured several interactions with police and the homeless around Petco Park and East Village. He believes the enforcement is the city trying to push homeless people away from the stadium before thousands of people descend on downtown.
“When we have to send out massive amounts of law enforcement to clear an area, to make things appear better, versus them actually being better, we know we failed," said McConnell.
10News also spoke with several security guards in the area who say they witnessed more enforcement than usual.
However, San Diego Police says the enforcement around East Village is unrelated to Opening Day and that no additional officers were sent to the area Wednesday morning. They say officers are in this area every day as it's one of their busiest sectors in the city.
A representative tells 10News they respond to daily complaints from business and residents to address ongoing problems, including encampments, drug use, and other criminal activity.
Since last summer they've responded to 5,000 of these complaints through the Get It Done app alone.
The department says during each contact they always offer help to individuals. If assistance is denied they have a progressive enforcement model which begins with warnings.
But McConnell says based on what he's witnessed day in and day out, he's not satisfied with this answer.
“What we’ve done is we’ve moved a lot of people around, we don’t let encampments build up again, but the folks are still there, they haven’t disappeared," said McConnell.
10News reached out to the Mayor's Office and received this response:
The work our police department does to offer shelter and supportive services to vulnerable individuals, while at the same time protecting the quality of life in our neighborhoods does not change based on special events. Our officers are in the field every day, in areas of the City that need their help, based on reports and complaints from businesses and residents. The people they come in contact with, often times, are drug dealers and other criminals who are preying on the homeless community.