Editor’s note: After initial estimates were lower, Mayor Todd Gloria said Thursday that there were about 10 tons of trash and debris removed from the site. This article has been updated accordingly.
SAN DIEGO – The city on Thursday held its second cleanup this week at one of San Diego’s largest homeless camps.
The encampment is located in the Midway District, along Sports Arena Boulevard between Pacific Highway and Rosecrans Street. Thursday’s cleanup comes one day after homeless residents started moving back into the area after the city held its first cleanup Tuesday.
City workers had campers move to the other side of the street Thursday while they picked up about 10 tons of trash and debris, according to Mayor Todd Gloria.
Andrew H. helped clean up the area in the camp where he lives. He told FOX 5 he pitched a tent in the encampment after falling on hard times and losing his job.
“It’s a temporary situation for me so why not make the best of it,” he said.
While some homeless advocates help people get out of the camp, the city told FOX 5 only seven out of about 180 people living in the camp accepted help from the city to go to shelters.
Andrew said it’s not that simple to pack up and leave. He said going to a shelter means leaving behind many belongings that could get stolen, along with limited shelter space.
“It’s more availability of housing than it is refusal of housing,” he said. “They would like other alternatives, but for now safety in numbers kind of thing seems to be working.”
Mayor Gloria said the city has increased temporary housing projects but admits the pandemic has made it a challenge. Both COVID-19 case rates and staffing issues have led to limited intake at shelters.
“We need folks to get vaccinated right,” Gloria said. “We need to be able to have full access to all of our shelters. We can’t have intakes shut down because of an outbreak. We got to be able to have workers who can come and help staff these facilities.”
He said to fully clear the camp, it will take continued outreach and cleanups since another challenge is getting people to accept help.
“The conditions out there are completely unacceptable, and I will not be content with leaving them in that way, but we’re going to have to be persistent,” Gloria said. “This is not one and done; this is about an ongoing effort to make sure that the situation there improves and ultimately is no longer.”