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Residents want county to address homeless 'tent city' in Spring Valley

Short-term fixes inadequate, supervisor says
Posted at 11:38 AM, Jan 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-08 10:15:37-05

SPRING VALLEY (KGTV) -- Some neighbors in Spring Valley want the county to do more to address the large cluster of homeless tents at Lamar Park.

Residents say the park’s homeless population has skyrocketed in recent months. At least two dozen tents lined Bancroft Drive outside the park gates Tuesday morning.

“Our heart goes out to the homeless people, but when there’s drugs going on, people finding needles, the dogs are running loose, you can’t even bring your kids over to enjoy the park,” said neighbor Joe Fearce.

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The county has posted signs saying it will clear the park January 13 for a major cleaning, but Fearce and other residents say that tactic has failed before.

“They came in two or three Tuesdays ago. They cleaned everything out. By 3 o’clock, [the homeless people] were all back and then some,” Fearce said. “They know they can’t be arrested if there’s nowhere for them to go.”

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court solidified a lower court’s ruling that protects the rights of homeless people to camp in parks or on sidewalks if there is no other shelter available. San Diego County has a shortage of shelter bed space.

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“I’m very concerned about the homeless camps in the Lamar Park area and I’m working with the Sheriff’s Department and other county agencies to address them,” said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob in a statement. “There have been previous cleanups at the park, but short-term efforts aren’t enough.”

Supervisor Jacob said the county recently launched an “intensive outreach effort” to connect the homeless with services and potential housing. “We’re now putting together a long-term approach based on the lessons learned.”

“Many of these folks have serious, chronic needs and it’s important that we break the cycle of homelessness, addiction, medical emergencies and incarceration,” she added.

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With so many homeless people clustered together, churches and non-profit groups know Lamar Park is a hotspot where they can help. On Tuesday morning, a volunteer with Joseph’s Storehouse dropped off boxes of food.

“It’s not something that only happens to people on drugs or alcohol. Anybody is just one medical emergency or two paychecks away from being in the same position,” said Terri Pumphrey.