SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City council voted Tuesday for a second time to affirm the adoption of a controversial policy banning homeless encampments on public property when a shelter bed is available, with some exceptions.
“The ordinance says encampments will be prohibited at all times in areas where there are particular concerns about public health and safety — within a two-block radius of a school, homeless shelters, canyons where you have fires that threaten homes, and other sensitive areas.”
District 3’s Councilmember Stephen Whitburn authored the measure. It’s “that absolute ban” – 24-7 in certain areas — that had City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera and others taking issue.
Elo-Rivera said he still has problems with part of the measure.
“I remain particularly concerned about the ban on sleeping near shelters, as my conversations with service providers and some folks who have experienced homelessness in that situation find that particular component to be especially troublesome,” he said.
Enforcement will be rolled out slowly, beginning at the end of July after additional shelter beds and safe sleeping lots come online. The first expected to open later this week at the city’s maintenance yard at 20th Street and B Avenue.
“They don’t want to go into an indoor shelter for whatever reason but they have embraced the idea of a safe sleeping site with bathroom and showers and security and meals and connections to services,” said Whitburn before the vote.
Enforcement will begin with a warning, a citation which could carry a fine and misdemeanor and finally arrest and possible jail time.
“It is perfectly reasonable to ask somebody to accept a shelter bed when available rather than simply choosing to remain in an encampment, especially considering how unsafe and unhealthy the encampments are,” Whitburn said.
The latest report from the San Diego Regional Task Force On Homelessness found a 32% increase in the number of unsheltered homeless people in the city of San Diego, with about 3,300 people living outdoors. Of those, about 2,100 are living on the sidewalks and in cars, just in downtown San Diego alone.