Golden Hill residents ask city to close down new homeless camp

SAN DIEGO – Residents of the Golden Hill neighborhood met Wednesday night to ask the city to close a homeless camp that opened over the weekend.

Councilman Chris Ward, who represents the area, answered questions and tried to reassure residents, many of whom said they don't feel safe with the influx of homeless people into the neighborhood.

The questions came hard and fast at Ward, who did his best to help people understand why the city set up tents, bathrooms and showers for the homeless at a city operations yard at 20th and B streets. But those living closest to the new camp were clearly angry.

“When I go to people and say I own a property at 21st and B and they go, 'Oh. Oh, sorry,'" said Norm DeWitt. "It’s really starting to cause psychological breakdown in surrounding community -- I mean I was being asked by one of my tenants who said 'I’m kind of scared about it right now.'”

Residents fear the homeless who are brought to the camp will wander away into their neighborhoods. But Ward told residents that the camp is set up to prevent people from walking away. Guards are stationed at entrances and exits, with police officers patrolling the site and the surrounding area.

“We'll place extra resources and extra visibility to walk around the Golden Hill Park area, 26th and B, and of course generally all the beats west of 25th Street all the way down to 19th Street," Ward said.

That did little to reassure residents like DeWitt. They say they are especially concerned because of the recent hepatitis A outbreak among the homeless.

“When you take a hepatitis outbreak in East Village and you decide that the thing to do is go in, take all their possession and scatter these people to the wind into all the surrounding residential neighborhoods, how on earth is that a plan?”