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Advocate says homelessness increasing in downtown San Diego

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Posted at 10:26 AM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 13:26:06-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Alpha Project CEO Bob McElroy says he and others in the downtown San Diego community are seeing more people than ever on the streets.

What they're witnessing is echoed in the latest report from the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, which said the number of newly homeless almost doubled in 2020.

McElroy thinks a major contributor is addiction.

"Just the rampant drug and alcohol use down there is just skyrocketing. I drive the streets, I walk the streets every day," McElroy said.

McElroy says the pandemic drastically changed how enforcement is approached and people who used to be booked into jail for drug-related offenses usually aren't anymore, in order to keep jail populations down.

He also says it's almost virtually impossible to permanently get rid of encampments.

"What people do is just pick up their belongings and go to the other side of the street, they clean and then people move back over," McElroy said.

McElroy says the pandemic also reduced the number of shelter beds available.

"We can have all the outreach we want, but if you don't have a place to start the process, we're seeing what's happening on the streets right now," said McElroy.

And he worries that if things continue to get worse there could be a repeat of just a few years ago when San Diego saw a massive Hepatitis A outbreak.

"That's my fear, that we're gonna have another outbreak like that," said McElroy.