SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The City of San Diego is cracking down on homeless encampments next week, saying that they are moving back to progressive enforcement.
The enforcement that the City of San Diego is alluding to is being able to have officers come out to encampments like the one in the Midway District and ask if the unsheltered individual would like shelter. If they say no, the officers then warn them that they are violating laws like encroachment and illegal lodging.
It is a practice that the City of San Diego had in place prior to the omicron surge. However, homeless advocates say bringing it back is the wrong move.
The encampment off Sports Arena Boulevard which is home to more than 180 people has been the focus of cleanup efforts over the past two weeks. Since this Tuesday, the city has been able to clean up more than 15 tons of waste. The cleanup efforts have now been made permanent as signs have been posted across the area saying crews will be there every Tuesday and Thursday,
"It's a little cleaner, but there are still a lot of people out here suffering on the street," explains homeless advocate, Michael McConnell.
Tents still line the street, now on both sides.
The City of San Diego says stricter enforcement will start Monday. That means officers with the Neighborhood Policing Division will offer shelter to those who are homeless. If they decline, they will be given up to four opportunities to accept services, before officers can make an arrest.
The City of San Diego released this statement to ABC10News:
The City temporarily suspended enforcement due to the pause in intakes to shelters after the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. With shelters now accepting new clients this week, the Neighborhood Policing Division will resume its progressive enforcement. One of the key components to the City’s Progressive Enforcement Model is the offering of shelter and services to individuals experiencing homelessness at every interaction before any enforcement action is taken. There has been a significant focused outreach effort over the past month to engage individuals and offer services and shelter in the Sports Arena area. Only eight of the more than 180 individuals estimated to be living there have accepted the City’s offer of shelter. 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 of this size.
The city has a coordinated outreach program (non-law enforcement) that operates daily to offer individuals services and shelter. Those crews have been working in this area regularly for months.
"This is a failed approach it's failed over and over," shares McConnell.
McConnell does not think this is the answer.
"Once you put a criminal record on somebody it makes it that much harder to get out of homelessness," explains McConnell. "So it works against what you are trying to accomplish."
While city shelters are accepting new guests and moving many to affordable housing, as seen Thursday at Father Joe's, advocates like McConnell believe that better housing opportunities than the ones we have, are the answer.
"They will tell you it's not safe, it's not healthy, the city crams hundreds of people into these shelters and people have to sleep just a few feet apart," shares McConnell on behalf of stories he has heard from those who are unsheltered. "It's just not what a lot of people are going to want to do."
McConnell believes that safe camps or areas where those who are unsheltered can keep their belongings, is a better solution that can benefit both parties.
The city says that if there are no shelter beds available, enforcement will stop.