EL CAJON, Calif. — San Diego County officials say they are actively working to help the homeless and clear out an encampment on North Magnolia Avenue in El Cajon.
“At the end of the day, it’s about getting people off the street, not kicking them down the street,” said County Supervisor Joel Anderson.
Right across the street from the homeless encampment, Anderson provided an update on what is being done to provide services for the homeless in East County and announced a “memorandum of understanding” between the county and the cities of El Cajon, Santee, La Mesa and Lemon Grove.
“We will work to marshal resources together and address this as a unified front so those homeless who are refusing help won’t be able to dodge services by simply changing jurisdiction — so that’s the goal,” said Anderson.
The encampment on North Magnolia Avenue has been around for about a year and Anderson says it is getting smaller.
“We’ve got tremendous resources over the last 60 days to knock down two-thirds, but this last one-third — these are people that we’ve offered resources to. They’re refusing and we need more tools for the tool belt,” said Anderson.
Many who live and work in the area say they’re fed up with the encampment’s criminal element.
“The city of El Cajon Police, the San Diego Sheriff all know about this,” said one woman. “And children are still being victimized there…why? What is wrong with us?”
Sharie Finn said her daughter went missing last year, was assaulted, and later found at the encampment.
“Every day that we’re out here, we see crime and we get phone calls that are telling us that crimes are being committed. We come out here they’re being committed — there’s people smoking meth pipes right here in the middle of Magnolia,” said Finn.
San Diego County undersheriff Kelly Martinez says deputies have made several recent arrests at the encampment, but admits they can’t handle every incident.
“We are bound by law — that if we don’t witness it in front of us then we aren’t able to make an arrest and then the victim has to come forward,” said Martinez.
“If you get rid of the homeless equipment– they’re not here to commit the crimes,” said Finn.