SAN DIEGO – The City of San Diego is working to address homelessness in the community, with a new focus centered around clearing up encampments along public spaces.
The move, however, is facing some pushback, as protestors outside the City Administration Building voiced their concerns Monday.
15th St. and Island Ave. is just one intersection of downtown San Diego where tents line the sidewalk.
Adjacent to the encampment is a now-vacant taco shop where Rosalio Palacios once worked. He said the homeless community deterred customers away from the restaurant.
“People are afraid to come inside the parking lot when they see homeless. They get into the buildings, they destroy everything, and they use everything,” Palacios said.
Councilmember Stephen Whitburn is introducing an ordinance Thursday, which would prohibit tents on public property through enforcement, including sidewalks, parks, canyons and riverbeds.
Whitburn said this will apply only when there is available shelter, but there is an exception.
“For things like schools and areas that are concerning for health and safety. The ordinance would prohibit people from having an encampment within two blocks of the school and two blocks of another shelter, or a waterway, those types of areas,” said Whitburn.
People who oppose the move say it’s not enough and criminalizes being homeless. In an effort to sway the city council, protestors gathered Monday with signs reading “housing not handcuffs.”
“It’s grabbing at trying to solve the homelessness issue here, but it’s not with compassion. It’s not with actual solutions, it’s more so hiding the problem, rather than solving the problem,” said Logan Goverman, an SDSU student and member of the Mustard Seed Project, a grassroots organization on campus.
City leaders say the encampments are a risk to the people who live in them, along with those who work and live nearby.
Councilmember Whitburn addressed concerns Monday evening, looking to quell fears, while emphasizing the motive behind the ordinance.
“All we’re saying is that when we’re doing so much to help people get back on their feet, we can’t have people choosing to live on the sidewalks,” Whitburn said.