POWAY, Calif. — The City of Poway is now enforcing its homeless camping ban after the city council unanimously approved it last month.
“I’ve never gotten more positive emails and calls from folks who live in Poway saying ‘thank you for getting ahead of this,’” said City Councilmember Brian Pepin, who spearheaded the efforts behind the ban.
Under the ban, sheriff’s deputies can cite people for sleeping in public spaces and confiscate personal property within 24 hours, only if they refuse an available shelter bed.
They can also clear illegal encampments with 48 hours notice.
“The first step is always trying to get people connected to shelters and service providers that are going to get them back on their feet and get them the help they need,” Pepin said.
Pepin says the city took action after getting reports from parents concerned about a spreading encampment near a school.
And while the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness has Poway’s homeless population in single-digits, there’s worry about encampment migration.
“What the City of San Diego did recently to pass a similar, more aggressive homeless ordinance — we’re certainly concerned that we might see an uptick in the problem in Poway and so I think it makes sense to get ahead of it and be proactive,” Pepin said.
The ban is meant to help find shelter for the unsheltered.
Poway doesn’t have a shelter, but contracts with a network of shelters in North County.
But Miranda Chavez with the Bridge to Housing Committee says there aren’t enough shelter beds available.
“It’s likely that if law enforcement contacts someone who is unsheltered in Poway, that there is not an available shelter bed for them. If there’s no shelter beds, it doesn’t matter if you have one person who’s unsheltered or 100 or 500 — if there are no shelter beds, there’s nowhere for them to go,” Chavez said.
Month after month, San Diego County is seeing more people fall into homelessness than those getting off the streets.
Responding to Poway’s new ordinance, Andy Kopp with the San Diego Housing Federation said, “As more cities across the region explore and enact new ways to ban homeless people from existing in their communities, one question should remain at the top of everyone’s mind — where will they go?”
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department says deputies will conduct business as usual.
“There will be no increase in staffing due to the new ordinance. If they receive a call for service or come across someone in violation of the new ordinance, deputies will again approach the situation with compassion and focus on helping the person rather than enforcement. Enforcement at this time is a last resort when all other options have failed,” Lt. David LaDieu said.