Clothes can be seen in a puddle near a homeless encampment in downtown on Nov. 11, 2022.
Clothes can be seen in a puddle near a homeless encampment in downtown on Nov. 11, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

What a week.

A divided San Diego City Council on Tuesday narrowly passed a controversial ban on camping. Police officers won’t enforce the new law yet — it still has to go through a couple steps.

But we have a lot of questions about how it will all work. Shelter operators and advocates who work with homeless residents are worried it will make things worse for people on the street. In a way, that’s what supporters want, for the streets to be so uncomfortable that shelter is the only option. But as we’ve reported before, shelter isn’t always available.

Still, Tuesday’s decision sent out a big message.

That is, as the city’s mayor put it, “it’s no longer acceptable to deteriorate on the sidewalk.”

Take that in for a second: People are deteriorating on our city’s sidewalks.

As our own Will Huntsberry revealed, homeless people are dying at an unprecedented rate all over the county. Not only that, deaths are rising at a much greater rate than homelessness.

Last year, an estimated 588 homeless people died in San Diego County, according to the Medical Examiner. Many of those deaths were due to overdose.

Neighbors Die a lot on National Avenue

The corner of 16th Street and National Avenue in the East Village on June 9, 2023.
The corner of 16th Street and National Avenue in the East Village on June 9, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Huntsberry shared the story of a 46-year-old man named Donald who died in April.

He spoke to friends of Donald, who shared that in their community, encampments along National Avenue, people die fast, and often.

Here’s what Huntsberry learned from one of Donald’s friends: “Jas loved Donald. Donald knew the Bible well and would talk to her about it. That gave her a lot of comfort, which was priceless, because living on National Avenue is very uncomfortable. 

No one knows how Donald died – not his neighbors and not the medical examiner’s office. All Jas knows is she came home on April 16 and Donald was dead. People had lined up to come by his tent. His street sister Pebbles moved in that morning.

Neighbors die a lot on National Avenue. ”

It’s a powerful story. Read it here.

Others Had Their Own Stories

The annual homeless census shows that the region’s crisis is worse than ever before. And as we’ve reported, the crisis is touching almost everyone’s life.

Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert shared her own story during the meeting. She told a story about a man who exposed himself in front of a coffee shop in downtown. The barista was on the phone with 911. There was another man sleeping on the floor in a torn up sleeping bag with food wrappers and alcohol bottles nearby, she said.

“Everyone is suffering,” von Wilpert said. “People who have mental illness and drug addiction or people forced to sleep on the street are suffering. Just as much as the business owner and the barista who put their life savings on the line to open a coffee shop are suffering.”

She also shared that she found someone who died in a tent on 17th Street and Imperial Avenue while shadowing workers with the city’s Environmental Services Department.

More Chisme to Start Your Week

  • Tigist Layne reports that Escondido now has the third largest homeless population in the county. She also shares how other North County cities compared. Read more about North County homelessness here.
  • Lisa Halverstadt shared the story of unsheltered seniors and people with disabilities who struggle to get into shelter. She reports that providers often don’t take them in, if they can’t independently care for themselves. That means some are forced to stay on the street, a bad option, but they best they have. Read that story here.
  • The day after the San Diego City Council voted to ban camping. Jakob McWhinney and Ariana Derhsler hit the streets to speak to homeless residents. They had a lot to say about the city’s plan. Read more about their reactions here.
  • In other city news, San Diego is still on the hook for defunct streetlight cameras. Jesse Marx reports it’s costing the city $1 million a year. Read more here.
  • I must confess that I’m not separating my food waste from my regular trash anymore. Turns out I’m not the only one struggling to keep up. MacKenzie Elmer writes that some San Diegans are fed up, and it’s about to get worse as the days heat up. She has some tips to keep your bins free of flies. Read her story here.
  • If you know me, you know I don’t know anything about sports. But if you like sports, especially soccer, you’ll want to read this story.

Andrea Lopez-Villafaña, Managing Editor, Daily News Andrea oversees the production of daily news stories for Voice of San Diego. She welcomes conversations...

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1 Comment

  1. The city refuses to prioritize the well-being of its citizens. Absolutely no acceptable alternative established but let’s wipe out the one they have been forced into. Some could say it’s a theory derivative of genocide.

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