OCEANSIDE, Calif. (KGTV) - With motel vouchers in hand, police in Oceanside cleared out most of a homeless camp along South Oceanside Boulevard.
Early in the morning, rows of police recorded moving toward a large homeless encampment, 48 hours after the required notice was posted.
Last week, the Oceanside City Council passed several measures, including a motel voucher program, offering up to 30 motel rooms for the homeless, up to three weeks at a time.
If the voucher is refused, a new anti-camping ordinance will allow police to ticket the homeless, before removing a tent.
Oceanside Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim points to a string of overdoses, along with drugs and violent crimes at encampments. He says something needed to be done.
“It’s a real public safety issue, not just for the people sleeping there, but for neighbors and businesses as well … Homelessness is not a crime, nor should it be. However, we really do need a tool to nudge some of these individuals into services and get them the help they really need,” said Keim.
The new efforts are being praised by many residents and businesses, frustrated by the community impacts of the tent camps.
This camp gaining recent attention amid the effort of the man who started it to clean it up and keep it clean.
Homeless advocate Michael McConnell called the police presence counterproductive.
“Criminalizing homelessness has never worked, anywhere … There’s no reason to bring dozens of cops. What we need is more professional help and resources,” said McConnell.
McConnell says many were willing to accept the vouchers, but there weren't enough vouchers for a camp of between 40 and 60 homeless individuals.
“Not enough at this one encampment but also for the other 300 homeless in the city. There doesn’t seem to any plan other than hiding these folks,” said McConnell.
“This is something that we can do right now and try to get someone into a safe, healthy, living environment and then connect then to those critical services. It is a needed measure, as we look for more long term solutions,” said Keim.
Oceanside's new anti-camping ordinance amends a previous one to comply with a court ruling, which said a city can't prevent someone from sleeping in public when there is no space in a shelter.
An Oceanside Police spokesperson says no citations were issued and the homeless were connected with a variety of resources at the site.
All of the motel vouchers were handed out. About 10 tents remain. Police say those homeless are now on a waiting list for the vouchers.