Volunteers clean up massive homeless encampment along San Diego River in Mission Valley

Posted at 8:25 AM, Apr 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-26 11:25:10-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Volunteers from the San Diego River Park Foundation will spend Wednesday morning hauling garbage out of the San Diego River in the eastern part of Mission Valley.

Last week, police cleared a homeless camp from the area, where they think hundreds of people have set up permanent homes. The officers posted notices for people to remove their personal belongings, and anything that's left will be thrown out.

The camp is in City Councilman Scott Sherman's district. He said, "I couldn't believe the damage and destruction down there."

The area is located near 5920 Fairmount Ave., along the river near the Home Depot. Most of the camp is hidden by bushes and trees, but once you get past that, it opens into nearly a full acre of tents, trash and waste.

Among the debris is what looks like a chop shop for stolen bicycles. Sherman said that's proof of the criminal activity along the riverbed.

"The people living there are a different part of the overall homeless population," Sherman said. "They're stealing bicycles and committing petty crimes in the neighborhood and then living in the river. That needs to be dealt with."

It's also an environmental concern. Countless batteries, many of them leaking acid, line the trails. The homeless also use the river for a bathroom, and all of that finds its way to the water and eventually out to the ocean. Experts from the River Park Foundation worry the ecosystem could already have permanent damage.

Wednesday's cleanup is from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Because of the dangerous materials in the area, only skilled volunteers will be going into help clean.

Sherman said people who want to help can still contact his office for details.