To combat homelessness, San Diego police officers are increasingly turning to a local law that was originally enacted to address trash dumpsters blocking the public right-of-way.
Section 54.0110 of San Diego’s municipal code forbids “any vegetation or object” from encroaching on a public space. A log of arrests by San Diego police, going back to 2010, shows the law first being used on Occupy San Diego protesters, who’d set up camp in the city’s Civic Center plaza, in November and December 2011. In all, there were 11 encroachment arrests that year, according to the log. Arrests grew to 23 in 2012 and 76 in 2013. As of Aug. 4, there had been 64 arrests so far this year.
Citations issued for encroachment violations, both misdemeanors and the lesser charge of infraction, show a similar increase. In 2010, officers in Central Division, which includes downtown, issued 232 encroachment citations. By 2013, that number had increased more than five-fold to 1,234. Nearly 1,600 citations were issued in 2014. During the first six months of 2016, officers issued 624 encroachment citations, according to police records.
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I certainly do not believe in criminalizing poverty but we also have to weigh the rights of people trying to live and work in these areas. It's not fair to ask the police to solve this issue but when a homeowner or business owner has issues with being over run by transients where exactly should that person turn? What are the options when your front stoop or your parking lot is being inhabited by the homeless? What do you do when you're being buried in their trash? What are the options?
I reside in Golden Hill and I can attest that there is absolutely nothing benign about having dozens of homeless people taking up residence on your block. The trash alone is reprehensible, not to mention the urine and feces. . i have witnessed drinking, drug use, indecent exposure, public deafication, fighting and sex all openly on the sidewalks within a block of my home. Our small complex constantly has transients entering our yards through private gates to access the recycling at all hours. I often wake up to trash strewn about the yard when they have finished. The sidewalks on B&C streets under the bridge look like a cross between an open sewer and a landfill and often they are unpassable by pedestrians. This within a block of a high school and city college. This isn't benign. Not wanting to live around this isn't something to be ashamed of.
This city and county spend exhorbanent amounts of money each year (upwards of $200,000,000) on a population of around 10,000 people with no discernible impact and yet I am constantly hearing calls for more cash influx. I don't have a magic bullet to fix this but I also don't agree with what seems to be the trend of shaming residents who work and pay taxes and just want to live their lives is any kind of answer to this. We also need to respect the rights of our 'housed' population as well.
I've done some volunteer work with the homeless and there are a lot of good people trying to do a lot of good things. Unfortunately, there is very little being asked of those receiving help. We do not hold them accountable or really even ask them to change. i am constantly hearing about how we need to respect the homeless and treat them as citizens equal to the rest of us and while I do not disagree with that notion I don't feel we are expecting the same from those receiving assistance. A great many of the people Ihave encountered living on the streets in golden hill most certainly do not respect us as neighbors.
I believe we need to take a good objective look at how the money is being spent. From my perspective beauracrcy and inefficiency seems to be taking far too large a bite out of the apple. I would reccommend reading some of the workthe VOSD did back around 2012-13 on the homeless in SD. Read about the PATH building that opened up months late, over budget and under capacity; then tell me if you think the money allocated to the homeless is being responsibly stewarded. I see room for improvement; at least for accountability.
@Jake Vogelsang Thanks for adding a dose of reality to this discussion, Jake. If a homeless camp suddenly appeared on the sidewalks in front of our homes, the neighbors would find a way to convince those people to move elsewhere.
This is such a complicated issue; it seems unlikely that we will ever address all of the causes so homelessness will always exist. But that does not mean we should tolerate sociologically unacceptable behaviors, such as urban encampments.
Is it possible to find the elusive combination of kindness and gentle enforcement?
I have worked with nonprofits in the homeless area in the past. I am therefore sympathetic to the homeless, but this is a complex problem. Homeless encampments pop up around areas where they can get services, so its no surprise that they are in the area around where Father Joe's and several other providers are located. Having said that, there are also a lot of problems associated with encampments: poor sanitation/no sanitation, alcohol/drug use, drama from some of the more unstable members, panhandling, etc., etc. Many people don't like this and complain, the police respond, the homeless get victimized, and the cycle continues.
The Housing First model has been successful in other cities in getting the homeless off the the streets. It has proven difficult here for two reasons: In fighting among our homeless providers who want to protect their piece of the pie, and low housing stocks in our area. Many landlords who might be interested in providing subsidized housing do not participate because of complaints from their other tenants about the habits of the homeless. I live in City Heights, the building next to me used to provide subsidized housing. One of the tenants used to 'praise the Lord' at the top of his lungs at 3 am. Others shot up by the garbage dumpsters and there was constant police calls to the building. That building no longer provides subsidized housing and the neighborhood is quieter.
So what do we do until enough units can be set up to house the homeless and provide them with the support they need? BTW this will be years away. Shelters are not an answer, there are not enough beds available. The wait for a single adult male for a shelter bed is many, many weeks. We know the problems with street sleeping, which is what we are doing now. Is it possible that something like the encampment put on by VVSD at Sand Down would work? I don't think there is going to be one answer, I think there will be many answers, some more successful than others. I believe it is important that we keep trying. We should solve this problem before we consider spending tax payer money on $ Billion palaces for rich people to play in. The homeless are people, who deserve better than we have given them.
The city's solution is to ticket people who can't afford to pay their fines? Shameful. San Diego doesn't have the political will to do what is necessary to help the least fortunate amongst us. They'd rather spend money by throwing them in jail, building rock impediments, or push them into low income neighborhoods where they blend in better with us poors instead of the affluents that live in Pinnacle. Shameful.
@Desde la Logan It is called Policing For Profit.
So is there a solution offered here or are you just shaming the citizens of San Diego? Do you have any ideas?
I find it shameful that the City would resort to interpretations of the law that allows harassment of people with no where else to go.
All of a sudden, it clicked. Now I understand all the new faces I see in my neighborhood.
I attend planning groups, and ad hoc committee meetings that spend the majority of the time discussing homeless people, which in my opinion is based in fear. Most of the homeless I know are benign and would prefer to be left alone. Some who urban camp in my neighborhood say that they don't want stay down on the Bottoms because of all the drama, alcohol, and drugs.
Those who are mentally disturbed aren't as crazy as most would think, but do have a problem assimilating to what most people consider normal, whatever that is, but the picture of homelessness shocks and disturbs people.
What I find shocking, is the deinstitutionalization that began around 1959, by then Governor Brown, not our current Governor, his father Edmund.
At the time California housed 37,000 mentally ill people in hospitals. In an effort to save money, the Governor and prominent Psychiatrists, decided it would best to shift the burden to local community houses and programs. Together they sold this program to the legislature, and voilà
This is where it started to fall apart. The project was an utter failure, and underfunded, some 36-38 percent of the former patients ended up homeless.
No med's, No follow up, No nothing!
I don't advocate putting people into mental hospitals, they deserve better.
The solution is not one size fits all, it requires a certain flexibility and different components to fit the different sub-groups that make up the homeless population.
And it should come as no surprise that there will be some people who simply won't get off the streets.
So here's a chance for our Governor to clear the plate his father left at the table, because this will be a huge undertaking that requires the kind of money that only he can find in the budget. Maybe.
The private sector needs to step up as well, and partner with the state to make it cost effective.
And oversight, with autonomy and powers to intercede between the two, without favor. A committee open to those whom they serve.
And thank the Lord because you have a bed to sleep in.....for now
Good article addressing the reality on the street. When I talk to the homeless, I'm seeing more and more illegal lodging citations, encroachment citations, and stay away orders - probably more than before the 2007 lawsuit settlement. This does virtually nothing to end homelessness, and could in fact be counter-productive by alienating the homeless population.
@Thomas Theisen Alienation the population is what LE does best. The tragedy is that they cannot see that that is what is being done.