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South Bay homeless advocates criticize city over Harborside Park closure

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Posted at 8:55 PM, Aug 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-25 23:55:36-04

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) — The closure of Harborside Park in Chula Vista is getting pushback from some community advocates.

"There's nowhere for them to go," Sebastian Martinez said. "It really is a service desert in Chula Vista. There's no emergency shelter."

Martinez is the Executive Director of Community Through Hope, a South Bay organization that assists low-income families and people experiencing homelessness.

"For the most part, all of us are like a family. We get to be like a family here," Raien Perry said.

Perry has camped at the park on and off for two years.

He said he and others set up there because it's a safe location. It's also within walking distance of the county's Health and Human Services office.

"And we got food resources. Costco, Walmart, Target, and Food 4 Less [are] less than a block from here," Perry said.

But next week, Perry will have to pack up and leave.

Chula Vista's city council voted to close the park for 90 days after concerns from the neighborhood about drug use and crime.

City Councilman John McCann calls the park a health and public safety issue, especially for the children who attend Harborside Elementary nearby.

"When the city had to take down the playground equipment because of all the hypodermic needles and feces on the equipment, that was unacceptable," McCann said.

McCann said the city's homeless outreach team visits the park every week to offer people help.

They also provide hotel vouchers.

However, Martinez said the shutdown is not a solution.

While he understands parents' concerns, he believes the city does not have a game plan to address the root of homelessness in the area.

"We're hearing a lot about the drug and alcohol issue here. Is there anywhere for those folks to go? Because most of the time when our agency tries to get people into detox, they tell us there are no beds," Martinez said.

McCann added the city plans to open a homeless shelter by the end of 2022.