SAN DIEGO — San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria says the city is making great strides to solve the homelessness crisis and now the city is taking action to do more to handle the tent encampments on sidewalks and certain public areas.
“These encampments have grown and people are understandably frustrated. I’m frustrated, I believe councilmember’s frustrated and we have to do something. The reality on our streets is these encampments are unsafe and it is not humane and it is not compassionate to allow these to continue to happen,” said Gloria during a Thursday news conference at City Hall.
The mayor joined Councilmember Stephen Whitburn who is introducing an ordinance next month which would prohibit encampments on public property, including sidewalks, parks, canyons and riverbeds.
Under the ordinance, Whitburn says prohibition will apply only when there is available shelter.
But prohibition may apply, regardless of shelter availability, in areas where health and safety risks are the highest.
“These include within two blocks of a school, within two blocks of a shelter, along trolley tracks, along any waterway, in any open space and in Balboa Park, Mission Bay Park, Presidio Park and the shoreline parks,” said Whitburn.
City leaders say the encampments are a risk to the people in them, as well as those living and working nearby.
“This is going to be good for businesses and they’re going to get help as well,” said Moe El Debssi, owner of a coffee shop in the East Village.
The mayor says the city is adding more shelter beds, along with a SAFE camping village and other services.
“Once we have these resources in place, the answer from our homeless population can no longer be ‘no.’ They cannot say ‘no’ to leaving the sidewalk or ‘no’ that they prefer being on the street or ‘no’ to services and help. When we ask you to come off the street and we have a place for you to go, ‘no’ is not an acceptable answer,” said Gloria.
But homeless advocate Michael McConnell argues the plan would do little to solve the crisis.
“There’s thousands and thousands of folks on the street. They talk about adding 100 or 200 or 300 beds here and there. Meanwhile, they’re closing the largest shelter in the City of San Diego by the end of the year — that’s 400 to 500 beds. The math doesn’t add up,” said McConnell.