A redhead named Kerry Williams showed me her broken glasses before last night’s city council meeting at Point Loma Nazarene University. She’d just rolled a cigarette and propped it in the corner of her mouth before flinging her taped-together spectacles off her nose as a symbol of her plight.

“I mean, I can’t even afford $25 to get these fixed,” she said. But Williams, having lived on and off the streets for the last five years, said more people in San Diego are in trouble than just those labeled homeless.

“People think, ‘Oh, you’re homeless, you’re scum,’” she said. “But here, in San Diego, a lot of them, they’re less than a paycheck away from that.”

City Attorney Mike Aguirre echoed Williams’ sentiments that these issues don’t affect just homeless people last night in his presentation of his office’s efforts to reexamine the way the police and judicial systems enforce illegal lodging tickets. His report, accepted unanimously, documents his research into bringing San Diego enforcement practices in line with a Los Angeles lawsuit ruling by the Ninth Court of Appeals that declared it “cruel and unusual punishment” to ticket homeless sleepers if there is a shortage of shelter beds.

That docket item came after two hours of discussion about the feasibility of the plan to end chronic homelessness, which was eventually passed unanimously.

The last proposal concerned the emergency shelter program. City homeless organizers asked the council to declare a state of crisis for the homeless shelter program and to approve the withdrawal of $445,000 from the San Diego Housing Commission to fund the emergency, 120-day program.

That proposal passed 5-3, with Councilman Ben Hueso, Councilwoman Donna Frye and Councilman Tony Young opposed. Hueso raised concerns about the proximity of one of the proposed shelters to a site known to hold contaminants. The site will be undergoing remediation to clean up the toxic substances, but that cleaning will take place while the shelter is open. Hueso made a motion that the council postpone a decision on this proposal until more environmental impact investigation could be done, but other council members said the program needed to be approved last night in order to be running by Nov. 1, the program’s scheduled start date.

Because of time constraints, almost all of those who’d submitted requests to speak during public comment were told they wouldn’t be heard. Council President Scott Peters read each of their names for the record.

“Your presence meant a lot,” Peters told the homeless contingent. “We did a few things tonight that were tough. … We wrestled with the winter shelter and did the best we could.”

The more-than 25 homeless individuals came to the meeting in vans with San Diego State University and PLNU students. Before the meeting, they met for dinner with longtime homeless advocate Larry Milligan.

KELLY BENNETT

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