A San Diego Police officer picks up a bag of trash while conducting a homeless encampment sweep along 17th Street in downtown San Diego in August 2021. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

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Mayor Todd Gloria on Monday defended the city’s bolstered efforts to crack down on downtown homeless camps that had been growing for months.

The Monday press conference was the latest marker of a major shift for the Democrat who as mayoral candidate criticized predecessor Kevin Faulconer’s policing of homelessness and pledged that on his watch the city would stop “criminalizing the existence of San Diego’s poorest and sickest residents.”

On Monday, as NBC 7 San Diego reports, Gloria promised to continue using the so-called progressive enforcement model of offering homeless residents shelter before writing tickets or making arrests for offenses associated with homelessness.

“Camping on the sidewalk should not be an option when alternatives exist because people living on the streets and sidewalks is not without impacts on the neighborhoods where it is happening,” Gloria said. “And those impacts are growing and they’re far more serious and consequential than ever.”

Gloria’s approach hasn’t gone over well with advocates who say increased enforcement and homeless camp clean-ups hamper – rather than help – efforts to move homeless residents off the street. Most homeless service experts also say increased enforcement doesn’t reduce homelessness.

During last week’s operation, police reported making more than 200 contacts and arresting three people for encroachment, essentially blocking a sidewalk. They said four people accepted shelter.

Homeless residents often share myriad reasons for not accepting such as concerns that they might be separated from their partners and street support systems, or would be uncomfortable in packed shelters.

There are also many more unsheltered residents than there are open shelter beds. The latest homeless census tallied 2,494 unsheltered residents, an estimate considered to likely be an undercount. By comparison, the city now has under 1,500 shelter beds and reports more than 90 percent of them are typically filled.

Gloria said the city plans to soon increase its offerings and implored homeless residents to take up city offers of shelter after decrying camps that have in some areas built up on sidewalks on both sides of the street.

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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10 Comments

  1. While he’s at it, Mayor Gloria should rid the East Village of street vendors, too. They also block our sidewalks, provide safe haven for criminals while contributing little to the local economy – if at all. Take a look at Father Joes – you don’t see any of them there.

    1. You must be a restaurant owner. Stop trying to actively destroy people who are trying to earn a living

      1. At the 12th and Imperial Trolley Station, there is a small store that sells merchandise. Across the street, there is a pharmacy. They both pay taxes and for the leases needed to run their stores on the property they’re on.

        How dare you suggest they’re trying to “make a living”?? They’re parasites, taking business away from those in Seaport Village, then Balboa Park and now here in the East Village. On top of that, they pay no taxes or leasing – robbing the City of revenue.

        Got any other bright ideas?

        1. There has been nothing in all of the stories regarding street vendors a requirement calling for a California Franchise Tax Board certificate to collect sales tax. A $38.00 city fee is a joke!

  2. The Mayor is imploring people to enter shelters, but only makes 150 shelter beds available for 2,500+ homeless residents? This is nonsensical.

    1. Just another dog and pony show. It didn’t work in San Francisco, Portland or Seattle, either. Try something really different instead of repeating the same mistakes.

  3. They have to make a place for the Homeless. City has land make a safe area for them and
    get them oft the streets and out of are Parks !

    1. More than that – there will be thousands more to take their place, so where’s the gain, here?

    2. Yes let’s create them camp site in available land with nessessary resources, cheap and could work. But it should be illegal to sleep on the city streets. It’s destroying our life’s as tax payers

  4. demented liberal democrat policies have created this atrocious heartless mess and human suffering .. now they can’t stand the stench

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