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Petition calls for city to stop penalizing homeless

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SAN DIEGO — A petition containing more than 1,100 signatures calling for the city of San Diego to stop penalizing the homeless was submitted Tuesday to Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

The petition requests “emergency action” to suspend the citing, arresting and issuance of stay-away orders to unsheltered residents, said Steph Johnson, a musician who helped organize the signature drive.

She said more signatures are being added, so the total will grow.

“It was a grassroots effort that happened over the holidays and it’s continuing,” Johnson said outside the mayor’s office.

Johnson said the city should consider allowing so-called “tiny houses” to be placed on empty lots, and providing better training for law enforcement who deal with the homeless.

“We’re ready for real solutions,” Johnson said.

She said city officials need to put a higher priority on the issue because homelessness is increasingly being noticed by “shocked” visitors, which could impact tourism.

Stacie Spector, Faulconer’s senior adviser for housing solutions, issued a statement saying that she’s “very appreciative” of the community’s passion in support of the unsheltered.

“This is a growing concern that we share and city staff are working diligently every day to ensure services and beds are made available to homeless individuals,” Spector said. “Mayor Faulconer has made addressing homelessness a top priority and plans to discuss solutions at next week’s State of the City address.”

The address is scheduled for Jan. 12.

Johnson, a singer and guitarist, formed and directs a choir made up of homeless people called Voices of Our City, which is designed to focus attention on the issue.