Officials clear homeless encampment, dump rocks in its place

Local

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — A line of tents on South Oceanside Boulevard is now much shorter, after the city started clearing out a homeless encampment there and left boulders in its place to discourage people from returning.

Tuesday morning, police and social workers started clearing out the area and offering vouchers to people who had been camping there for temporary stays at a local motel. The police department’s homeless outreach team offered rides to nearby Marty’s Valley Inn, where the unsheltered residents can spend up to 28 days and will have access to support services. About 30 people received vouchers thanks to the $600,000 new program, the city said.

On Wednesday, city crews starting dumping rocks along the recently cleared patch of road – to make sure more tents don’t go up. The city says as the encampment grew in recent weeks, so did complaints of drugs and violence. Some local business owners were happy to see the camp go down.

“I have compassion for the homeless. I feel they need somewhere to go – just not here, in the streets, in front of the businesses. It hurt our business while it was going on,” said Cheryl McNamara, a manager at A-1 Storage. “They started out doing a few tents here and there – it wasn’t a big deal, but when it started spreading out — the drugs and all that, violence started happening — that became a big deal.”

Rodney McGough, who functioned as an unofficial leader of the encampment, is among those now staying at the motel. He says there was confusion and concern at first, and not everyone was able to get a voucher, but he’s somewhat encouraged by the action the city has taken.

“Now, things are stabilizing. We’re finding out as to who all got taken care of and who didn’t and what’s going on there — (we) want to take care of as many as we can,” McGough told FOX 5.

Homeless advocates, including Michael McConnell, who visited the site this week as the operation got underway, were more critical of the city, saying they didn’t communicate their plans clearly to the people who were getting displaced and didn’t need the significant police presence.

“This is more like a military raid than a homeless outreach event,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “A team of six or seven professional outreach people working over a week or two could have accomplished this in a more efficient way without introducing trauma. This is just the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. Showing up in secret is exactly the opposite of the transparency we need.”

Notices that the enforcement could begin in 48 hours were placed alongside a fence behind the tents Thursday and again on Sunday, the U-T reports. The operation began early Tuesday morning.

The city says in addition to the temporary motel program, it is also planning to open a transitional homeless shelter and hopes to find an operator by June.

The line of tents once stretched a quarter-mile. Now, there’s about a dozen left. The City of Oceanside expects more motel rooms to be available next week for those who remain at the encampment.

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