Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that the ordinance will go into effect Saturday and enforcement will begin Monday.
SAN DIEGO — San Diego’s homeless encampment ordinance will go into effect on Saturday.
The city said it will first focus its enforcement efforts on the unhoused living in the street and in tents within two a block radius of schools and parks.
“It’ll be a gradual implementation,” Councilmember Stephen Whitburn said in an interview with FOX 5 Tuesday. “Those will be the areas we will be starting with and gradually will be expanding the enforcement and implementation of the ordinance to all public property in the city of San Diego.”
Beginning Monday, law enforcement can enforce the ban. Authorities will first offer a shelter bed to someone living on the street, if they decline, they will get a warning. On the second contact, law enforcement can give a misdemeanor citation. If they decline shelter for a third time, a custodial arrest can be made.
“We have been reaching out to individuals who are currently living on the streets and in the parks, and letting them know that the ordinance is taking effect and they need to be looking for safer and healthier places to go,” Whitburn said.
However, this ordinance only takes effect if shelter beds are available.
“At this moment we do not have enough shelter beds to accommodate everybody who is currently living outdoors,” Whitburn said.
The city has plans to expand shelter capacity, while some critics have said it is not fast enough.
The city’s new safe sleeping site, which opened in June in Golden Hill, is about half full and has room for 61 additional tents.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do but I think the unsheltered population is getting the message, we are working to provide those places, whether it’s a safe sleeping site, indoor shelter,” Whitburn added.
This ordinance enforcement comes as Golden Hall, which has sheltered more than 500 people, is set to close because the Fire Marshal has deemed it no longer safe for people to live in. This comes after floods from last fall’s storms. The hundreds of people living inside will be relocated.
As this closes, the number of available shelter beds will likely diminish, leaving less opportunities for the ban to be enforced.
There are plans to relocate some of the residents from Golden Hall to an old motel in Barrio Logan. That will not be enough space, Whitburn said when that is full, Whitburn said they will look for more accommodations.
“What we are committed to is making sure that everybody that has been staying in the Golden Hall shelter has another place to go, where they have a shelter or ultimately permanent housing,” Whitburn said.
There is no set date for when Golden Hall will officially close. Whitburn said their goal is to get everyone inside Golden Hall relocated by the end of the year.
The city is also planning to open another safe sleeping site, coined LOT O, in the fall. That site is expected to have capacity for around 400 tents, near the Naval Hospital and Balboa Park.