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Police resume enforcement at Midway District homeless encampment

Posted at 5:09 PM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 20:39:34-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego Police officers stepped up their efforts Monday to move people out of a large homeless encampment in the Midway District and into shelters.

But many of the people in the encampment are declining services, even if it could ultimately lead to their arrest.

For the last month, 19-year-old Alissa Cline has slept inside a tent in the encampment on Sports Arena Boulevard. She longs for something more.

"I wish I had my spot because then I would be able to get a job, go to college, and just like be on track," she said.

The city says it wants to help people like Cline get there, and on Monday, police officers came to resume what officials call progressive enforcement. It begins with education on available services. But if a person refuses shelter, follow-up interactions can mean an infraction citation, then a misdemeanor citation, and ultimately grounds for arrest.

The city resumed the enforcement because shelters reopened to new residents as the Omicron surge waned.

On Monday, officers spoke to 17 people in the encampment, four of which accepted shelter. Eight were given initial warnings, three were cited with infractions, and one with a misdemeanor. Another person was arrested for an outstanding misdemeanor theft warrant.

Cline says she was not approached, but would decline going to a shelter even if it got her closer to permanent housing because she doesn't trust them.

"Some programs, they don't really have the best interest out for you," she said. "They'll keep you in there for months on months on months and then when you're about to get your housing, they'll do something to try to get you kicked out of the program."

Cline said she would prefer at least a hotel voucher, but the city says it doesn't have the resources for that.

As it stands, she thinks she can provide better for herself on the streets.

The city is currently taking in a limited number of people in an effort to keep down the spread of Covid. A spokeswoman for the city noted that once all shelter beds are spoken for, San Diego police cease enforcement for the day.

"The City continues to emphasize a compassionate approach; however, it will balance that with the need to address the health and safety issues that persist in encampments," the statement said.