SAN DIEGO – San Diego city leaders have announced a new plan to address the homeless crisis.
Mayor Todd Gloria proposed that those without a home could move to a designated safe campground near Balboa Park, but not everyone is sold on the proposal.
Ramona Aguirre, 79, has lived outside city hall since 2002 along with her neighbor who goes by the single name of Thompson.
“We don’t deserve that, because we haven’t done nothing, we haven’t done nothing, we’re just homeless, that’s all we are,” Aguirre said.
It’s home, but a proposed city ordinance that would ban sidewalk encampments pushed by Councilmember Stephen Whitburn could bring some changes to their day to day.
“Some of them don’t want to go into an indoor shelter, but the people that I’ve talked to say they would love to go to an outdoor space where they have bathrooms, where they have security, where they have food, where they have connections to services,” Whitburn said.
Yet Thompson still wishes to live along the sidewalk of city hall adjacent to the MTS trolley stop.
“I’m used to the familiar surroundings and I met a lot of people here and the same one’s over and over,” Thompson said.
Along with the ban comes a solution: a new legal space to sleep outdoors called “Safe Sleeping Sites.” Two of these repurposed sites were announced Monday set to be on Balboa Park property, but not actually slated inside the park. One is near the Naval Medical Center which will open in the fall and the other near a city maintenance yard adjacent to the park which will open in July.
It’s all part of the mayor’s $78 million plan to combat homelessness in the city.
“So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to take a parking lot and we’re going to screen it off for privacy and have people who are currently living on sidewalks and in parks and canyons move there instead … It’s very humane and most importantly, it will be safer and healthier for the people who are currently living on our streets,” Whitburn said.
As of last month, city records show over 1,900 people are currently living on the street. The two spots near Balboa can hold more than 500 of those people. It’s a move homeless advocate Logan Goverman says is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.
“Yes, I am extremely happy that the city is doing this, but we need to do more … Right now, it’s 1,900, but the numbers have steadily increased. So, we have 500 now but then those 500 people are there and then there are more and more people coming. Where do they go?” Goverman said.