SAN DIEGO — San Diego city leaders are rolling out new efforts aimed at keeping people out of homeless encampments. It comes as a new report shows our community's homelessness crisis is getting worse.
As more and more San Diegans wind up in homeless encampments, Mayor Todd Gloria and City Councilman Stephen Whitburn say the city should make it harder to live in tents instead of accepting housing services.
In a press conference Thursday, Whitburn announced an unsafe camping ordinance, which would make it illegal to set up camp near places like parks, schools, and homeless shelters
"You find a location that is away from homes and businesses," said Whitburn. "You ask the people who are currently living on the sidewalks to instead move to a safe sleeping location where they have security, restrooms, access to services."
Gloria also promised to enforce existing rules that prevent homeless people from refusing services.
"Ultimately it may result in folks being ticketed or arrested," said Mayor Gloria. "That is not what we want. What we want is people to say yes to the substantial expansion of shelter beds that we've created."
This comes as a new report from the Regional Task Force on Homelessness shows homelessness is on the rise yet again. 1,036 people became homeless for the first time last month, while just 725 found housing.
Meantime a study from researchers at San Diego State University says ramping up enforcement can deepen the issue, because contact with police can make some people hesitant to get services.
So some San Diegans doubt whether restricting camping will make a dent in the community's homelessness.
"It seems to have deep structural roots," said Andrew Allen, a San Diegan. "It's uncomfortable. It's a reminder that many people are suffering. The cost of living is unsustainable, and it's heartbreaking."
Councilmember Whitburn's proposed ordinance will go in front of the city council. Mayor Todd Gloria plans to introduce a ballot measure allowing the city to face less regulation when building more spaces for homeless San Diegans.