Homelessness isn’t a crime.
It’s a common refrain among advocates and even the Department of Justice, which said so in an Idaho case last year.
“Our society, our Constitution doesn’t allow for people to be arbitrarily told what to do and where to go,” said Eric Tars, senior attorney for the D.C.-based National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.
Yet we hear about homeless San Diegans receiving tickets, getting caught up in encampment sweeps and being ordered to move along though they seemingly have nowhere else to go.
I talked to attorneys, police officers, experts and activists about what the law allows – and doesn’t allow – and how those laws work in practice on San Diego streets.
Their message was clear: Homeless people have the same constitutional rights as anyone else, and that means working with them to get off the street is the best way to get them off the streets.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
"Morris said those issues rarely present roadblocks. Most enforcement happens during the day and the city usually has beds to offer up at night if there’s an issue, he said."
This statement is in direct contradiction to the statement by lorisaldana that a there are not enough shelter beds. So, which is it? Who has the data? Or is it just because the cops don't try to cite people at night because they know there are not beds available?
Here is something else that the Police can do. They can harass the homeless, as has been documented and stated on this site and elsewhere, and, in so doing, inspire one or more vigilantes into doing what is being done; the murders and other violent attacks.
Today, July 4th at 1 PM, SDPD announced they are searching for a suspect in the assault and murders of homeless men. One body was burned under the Clairemont Drive freeway ramp. Another was found in a park near Ocean Beach.
In recent weeks, additional attacks have taken place downtown near Horton Plaza and other areas.
It is time to end the #SDPD #ASG sweeps to prepare for the All Star Game and ComicCon.
These sweeps are not only NOT promoting safety, they are actually putting people's lives at risk as they seek shelter by hiding and sleeping in other areas, away from lighting and people who might deter these attacks.
Lisa, one problem with "transients" or "homeless" is their proximity to schools, especially in the beach communities. With many schools having joint use spaces with park and rec, homeless take up spaces less than 50-100 feet from schoolchildren with only a chain link fence separating the two. The problem is the unknown factor if the "transient"/"homeless" person has a record that is dangerous to children and/or are carrying a weapon. I feel for their plight but wish their was a statute on the books outlawing loitering near schoolchildren.
There is a huge piece of government owned land where the old Midway post office is located. Every time I drive past I wonder if it could be used to create a huge homeless services area. I'm thinking a legal place for those living in cars to park, showers and toilets to take care of waste issues, and all the services, both mental and physical health and job seeking, that people might need. AA and NA could hold daily meetings too. For those without cars perhaps some sort of small secure space where they could at least keep their belongings.
The problem is ridiculous. The homeless are besides an eyesore a health and safety issue. The city smells like an outhouse, the litter is unsurmountable , petty crime is just a part of daily life for San Deigens and safety in our parks is non-existent. If they don't feel welcome in our neighborhoods and parks may I suggest leaving San Diego. I believe the sweeps and constant badgering should entice the homeless into shelters or permanent housing. I think it is time to double down on efforts to clear our streets of this problem.
@joe coneglio There are not enough shelters nor permanent affordable housing for the thousands of people now living on the streets in San Diego and other cities.
Many of these people are long time residents of San Diego who have been working but not earning enough to afford safe, secure housing.
Many are older adults with disabilities and/or on Social Security who have lived here for many years, and are unlikely to move due to costs/logistics/limited mobility. Same for many disabled veterans.
Actions to "clear our streets" address none of the causes of homelessness and will not result in permanent solutions. In fact these "sweeps" may be putting people at greater risk, as seen by this series of assaults in recent weeks. See: http://www.kusi.com/story/32331662/police-looking-for-suspects-in-multiple-homeless-beatings
And while SDPD can't "criminalize" homelessness, these "sweeps" may suggest it is OK to harass and evict people- or worse.
Maybe they can't force them off the streets, but they sure as hell can move them to another street--farther away from Petco Park. I am curious to see what happens after the All Star Game.
"Unfortunately, too many local governments are focused on ending the visibility of homelessness rather than on ending homelessness itself.3 This misplaced focus causes cities to disrupt homeless encampments by evicting their residents or enforcing anti-camping or anti- sleeping ordinances. These actions are futile and counterproductive. Breaking up encampments without offering residents adequate housing or shelter gives residents nowhere to go, while making their survival even more precarious. Disrupting encampments harms residents by taking away the safety of community, and forcing them into a daily nightmare of searching for security, shelter, and food, making it impossible to focus on longer-term measures to end their homelessness. The constant disruption send a message to people experiencing homelessness that they are not allowed anywhere.4 "
Also, these sweeps require considerable SDPD and "waste management" staff costs. So an important question is: are these sweeps cost-effective? Is the money being spent for this enforcement in the best public interests of San Diegans? Does removing people's belongings have any long-term benefit?
Related: Other cities have found that homeless people with the MOST belongings are often most likely to have mental health issues and have a more difficult time finding permanent housing. If these sweeps were done with an analysis of these factors, they could actually be used to identify and help those most at risk for long term homelessness.
Instead- the sweeps are exclusively punitive. For example: this past week alone, two veterans who had already received "Housing for Heroes" vouchers also received citations for encroachment. This means in addition to seeking a landlord who will accept their vouchers, and in addition to needing to come up with money for furnishing their permanent housing, they now have to raise funds to pay for these citations.
Is this good public policy- forcing veterans to pay for being homeless, even as they are actively working to end their homelessness?
Thank you for this report, and also for not once using the term "transient" to describe people who are experiencing homelessness- in stark contrast to the city of San Diego.
In San Diego's 2017 budget summary, they refer to increasing funding for these sweeps, referring to the actions as "transient camp inspections and abatements." This "sweep" policy is in stark contrast to recommendations found in a report from Seattle ("No Rest for the Weary: Why Cities Should Embrace Homeless Encampments") that explains:
"Local governments should recognize, like Portland has, that many residents of encampments have no place else to go and are simply looking for a place to sleep. That is why it is essential to understand the benefits encampments provide to their residents....
"The most important benefits of encampments over living in the street or in shelters are safety, community, autonomy, and stability."
These pre-AllStar Game sweeps are disruptive, criminalize otherwise law-abiding people, and may make life less safe for those who have no other place to live by taking away their only shelter and breaking apart cohort groups.
How can this be conducted in anyone's best interest, except those who want to deny the reality- that San Diego is in the midst of a serious and growing homelessness epidemic?