San Diego’s Homeless Scenario Brings Tension to Neighborhoods

| October 3, 2018 | 0 Comments

Over the past several months I have been participating in meetings and efforts to address the homeless situation in various parts of urban San Diego. What is obvious is that all of us who live and work in these areas of the county are being impacted by an increasing experience with homeless people and encampments. Looking for the cause is as challenging as how to prevent it from existing.

One of the meetings on this topic was held in Mission Hills this past month and attracted a large group of Mission Hills’ residents and business owners, as well as guests from Old Town and surrounding communities.

Councilman Chris Ward was responsible for coordinating this meeting and he invited other city officials and representatives to talk, listen and answer questions from the audience.

As expected, residents and business owners were eager to share their concerns and sought guidance and direction on steps to be taken to reduce and eliminate the homeless situation. Unfortunately, what became a common message from the city representatives is that drugs and mental illness are at the top of the problem.

We also learned that the City has a number of challenges and constraints that prevent some types of enforcement – namely our low staffing levels of SDPD officers and a few lawsuits that have changed how the City can enforce and when. The Isaiah settlement requires the City to provide three-hour notice to all homeless encampments before removing them, and the Spencer settlement prohibits SDPD from enforcing illegal lodging laws between 9 to 5:30 p.m., that is unless the officer is responding to a complaint and can offer an available shelter bed.

The SDPD, the mayor’s office, other city representatives and Councilman Chris Ward had no firm answers on how the problem can be eliminated, but they said the issue is a number one priority.

They indicated that the County of San Diego could do a lot more to work on solutions and funds. Fortunately, the State of California is now providing some funding. They also stated that there are many contributing factors that need to be addressed. This includes the epidemic use of methamphetamine and heroin, drugs that are now cheap and usage is extremely high especially in the transient community. These drugs also lead to mental issues (due to significant usage) and theft to support the addiction.

We were constantly reminded that it is important for everyone to report future incidents or concerns on the Get It Done app or website. This information gets directly routed to SDPD and will allow the new Neighborhood Policing Unit to address the issue and coordinate with the appropriate city resources. For example, if you see an encampment and can safely take a photo, you may report it via Get it Done (GID). This allows The City of San Diego’s Environmental Services and the Code Compliance officers to be alerted about an abatement that needs to take place. SDPD uses the calls and GID report data to allocate resources within their department. We were told, the best way to get more resources allocated to our communities is to consistently report issues to the dispatch or Get It Done app as soon as they arise.

The SDPD representatives stressed reporting every incident of theft and illegal activity, including encampments, to SDPD. It was pointed out that most people do not bother to report theft of property from their vehicles because they don’t believe it will be recovered. We were told it should be reported so more resources can be provided to our respective neighborhoods.

We were also given contact information for Lieutenant Lara of SDPD. He was present and provided his direct number (619) 446-1010. He is in charge of the SDPD Homeless Outreach group and deals with the homeless encampments.

Fortunately, we also received additional resources and contacts that we should keep on hand and utilize because the needs may (will) arise:

• For emergencies call 9-1-1
• For non-emergencies call (619) 531-2000
• Non-emergency quality of life issues (homeless assistance), call (619) 446-1010
• Mayor contact regarding issues that have not been resolved, call John Ly, senior community representative at (619) 236-7740 or jly@sandiego.gov
• For Environmental Services (litter removal, illegal dumping, encampments, or sanitizing), call (858) 694-7000
• If Environmental Service issues aren’t resolved, call Jasiah Neff at (619) 481- 1786 or jneff@sandiego.gov
• The City “Get It Done” app is located at https://www.sandiego.gov/get-it-done
• Contact Councilman Chris Ward’s office at (619) 236-6633 or ChristopherWard@SanDiego.gov

The fact is, we all must be vigilante and make it “our” priority to deal with the homeless issue. This recent meeting was a reminder that there are resources available to assist us. It’s our responsibility to utilize them so that we can benefit from what is available and also to report what is happening in our neighborhoods.

Homeless encampments have become common throughout the City of San Diego.

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Category: Business, Life Style, Local News

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