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First reading of San Marcos homeless encampment ban ordinance passes

San Marcos Homelessness
Posted at 7:46 AM, Jul 09, 2024

UPDATE (11 p.m.): A ban on homeless encampments in San Marcos is one step closer to reality.

At a Tuesday evening meeting, the San Marcos City Council passed an encampment ban in its first reading in a 4-1 vote.

If approved again by the council following a second reading, the ordinance will become a city law.

The proposed ordinance will make it illegal to camp on public property, regardless of whether homeless shelter beds are available. A violation of the ordinance would be considered a misdemeanor.

The cities of San Diego, Escondido, and Poway already have encampment bans in place.

SAN MARCOS, Calif. (KGTV) -- The Supreme Court's recent ruling on homelessness could soon be felt in one North County community.

In late June, the Supreme Court ruled on the City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson, where homeless encampments on public property would be unlawful.

Weeks after the Supreme Court ruled on banning homelessness encampments on public property, the City of San Marcos is making speedy moves to enforce the ban on a local level.

This first reading of the proposed ban comes as San Diego's North County region has seen an increase in homelessness.

San Diego County's most recent “Point in Time Count” shows that in the last year, the number of unsheltered people in San Marcos jumped from two to 35 -- a 1,650% jump.

City leaders said they're noticing how the exponential growth affects the public.

San Marcos officials said the city is facing challenges like fire hazards, environmental damage, public health issues with human waste, and traffic obstructions, which have impacted emergency vehicles.

However, North County homeless advocate Holly Herring said this ban's approach to tackling homelessness will not work.

"People will move and just continue to move around," Herring said. "It doesn't help solve homelessness. It actually prolongs homelessness and makes it harder, more expensive; makes people actually experience more trauma, and makes it harder to bring people back into community."

Herring spoke from first-hand experience and said she used to be homeless before she became a columnist and consultant on homelessness resolution.

The City of San Marcos said its goal is “to protect the quality of life for all residents while addressing these growing challenges compassionately and legally,” which means the city would pair outreach programs with enforcement.

If approved Tuesday night, the city said the ordinance will be presented at the San Marcos City Council's next regular meeting for a second reading.

Should the ordinance be approved in the second reading, it would take effect 30 days after.