Following in the footsteps of the city of San Diego, officials in Poway are preparing to step up enforcement of homeless encampments. But the difference between the size of the community they are targeting is stark.
The latest point-in-time count, released Thursday by the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, shows a 22 percent spike in 2023 of unsheltered people in the region – a 12-year high. Poway had two unsheltered residents as of January, down from 23 in the prior count.
The annual census aims to provide a total picture of the unsheltered population in San Diego, yet regional leaders recognize that this picture only reveals a partial view of the number of homeless people living in the region.
Earlier this week, the Poway City Council voted to introduce an ordinance that would ban camping and personal property storage in public places. A final vote is scheduled for July 18.
Councilman Brian Pepin, who championed the ordinance, explained it as a way “to get ahead of the problem.”
Pepin said he was motivated to create the ordinance a few months ago after two mothers alerted him to vans and RV’s gathering on Pomerado Road. Pepin said he had to act fast to crack down on what he described as a growing trend of not just vehicles but also tarps and loud music.
The timing of this exchange and Pepin’s proposal coincided with San Diego’s announcement in April that a new camping ban was in the works.
At a City Council meeting on Tuesday, Poway officials and residents said they were worried about unsheltered individuals moving to the community if the San Diego ordinance passes on June 13.
Poway’s ordinance prohibits unlawful camping or storage of personal property in public places. Individuals asked to move are required to do so within 24 hours only if a shelter bed is available. Additionally, if their personal items need storage the city is required to provide it for 90 days.
No one spoke explicitly against the ordinance, and the entire Poway City Council voted in favor of pushing the measure along.
Instead, opposition came from Tamera Kohler, CEO of the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, in the form of a letter on the day of the vote.
“Unfortunately, the proposed ordinance does not address the root causes of homelessness but instead focuses on displacement backed by potentially punitive measures used against those experiencing homelessness in Poway,” she wrote.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the date of the second reading. That meeting is happening on July 18.