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.