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San Diego's Unsafe Camping Ordinance now in effect, enforcement begins Monday

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Posted at 5:30 PM, Jul 30, 2023

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The City of San Diego's new Unsafe Camping Ordinance officially went into effect Saturday, meaning people living on the streets could be penalized if they don't seek available shelter elsewhere.

Beginning Monday, July 31, the city is going to start enforcing this new ban, but some parts of downtown are already started to clear up. ABC 10News went to a corner of downtown — 16th Street and National Avenue — that at one point was covered in tents, and as of Sunday afternoon, there was not a tent in sight.

Still, one woman 10News spoke to on Sunday feels like there is nowhere else to go.

"I would never be down here if i didn't have to be," Naomi Harris said.

RELATED: San Diego City Council finalizes approval of 'Unsafe Camping Ordinance'

10News first spoke to Harris in May; at the time, the single mother of two was living in a tent on the sidewalk near 14th Street.

"I hated it. Like, I had to stay up all night. I had to be in a situation I did not want to be in whatsoever," she said.

Since then, Harris has been able to stay in an apartment with someone else, but that living situation is about to end for her.

"I don't know... That's — I just — it just been hit upon me right now, so it's bothering me. Like I don't, I have no idea," she said when asked what she will do next.

People in situations like Harris' are banned from going back to camping on the streets if shelter beds are available. The city will focus on clearing out areas nearby parks, shelters, schools and trolley stations.

The city's new safe sleeping site has been open now for roughly one month, providing some extra space, but Harris does not want to bring her daughters there.

"They're pushing them off the streets so it looks better," she said. "There's a lot of games. They are upgrading down here. They are worried about the looks — they aren't worried about the people."

RELATED: Woman transitioning out of homelessness shares thoughts on new tent camping ban

10News also spoke to a manager of a restaurant located just a few blocks away.

"In a few hours it'll get hectic — like for sure at nighttime. Because the Padres game's gonna be over. People from 12th and Imperial move up here. Yeah, super crazy," said Josue Santa Cruz, the manager at Hodad's on Broadway.

Santa Cruz said he's unsure how effective the enforcement will be.

"If they arrest em, what's gonna happen? The jails are going to pack, and then they're going to stink," he said.

Harris believes the city needs better solutions.

"I know I'm not the only one, and my story is not the only story. Everybody is not just out here because of the drugs," she said. "A lot of people, they gave up on life, and I don't want to be one of those people who gave up on life because nobody's trying to help me. I want a hand up not a handout."

As part of the ordinance, statistics will be brought to the city council monthly on the number of unsheltered people contacted, cited or arrested.