Poway City Hall / File photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

The city of Poway is expected to follow in San Diego’s footsteps next month and vote on an ordinance to ban camping. 

If it passes, sheriff’s deputies would have the authority to clear homeless encampments and personal property from public spaces. But whether Poway can legally enforce its ordinance depends on whether there are other places for unhoused residents to go.

That’s because cities looking to crack down on homeless encampments are restricted by a 2019 federal appeals court ruling that it is unconstitutional to prohibit people from sleeping outdoors without offering indoor alternatives. 

As of now, Poway does not have shelter beds within its jurisdiction. Instead, the city partners with Alliance for Regional Solutions, a group of nonprofits in North County, that run a shelter network. 

Under Poway’s proposed ordinance, homeless individuals will have 24 hours to move after their first contact with law enforcement.

Councilman Brian Pepin, who introduced the encampment ban, emphasized that Poway’s homeless population doesn’t compare to San Diego’s but that it is more than the two people who were officially counted in January.

He views the ordinance as a compassionate approach to homelessness and believes the 24-hour requirement is enough time for people to take their belongings and find adequate shelter.

Shelter providers, however, disagree.

“I think it is almost impossible to get someone into a shelter bed within 24 hours,” said Greg Anglea, an Alliance for Regional Solutions steering committee member and CEO of the nonprofit Interfaith Community Services. “We operate at capacity and in 80 to 90 percent of these situations, shelter beds will not be available.”

There are currently three shelters in North County with approximately 50 beds each, which are located in Vista, Carlsbad and Escondido. A fourth shelter is expected to open on July 1 in Escondido.

Anglea said he appreciates Poway’s financial contributions to the Alliance for Regional Solutions shelter network, but because shelters are at capacity, unsheltered Poway residents will have nowhere to go.

Pepin conceded that even if Poway’s ordinance passes on July 18, it might not be enforceable.

“My understanding is that if there’s no bed available, that there is nothing the city can do at that point,” he said.

Still, the City Council is going to consider the ban. 

Poway residents in support of the ban told the City Council that they fear encampments could one day encroach on parks and hiking trails. 

Marylynn McCorkle, with Alliance for Regional Solutions, however, said the discussion around encampment bans has exposed a different, more immediate problem — a desperate need for day centers, more emergency shelters, more lockers, more affordable housing and safe parking for people who are living in their vehicles.

“I think we need many more resources before this should happen,” she said. Otherwise, she added, the enforcement of encampments is unfair. “You’re telling them that they can’t camp? What are they supposed to do? Where are they supposed to go?”

McCorkle, who has been working with shelters for 10 years, said the population of people who need help is changing. The latest point-in-time count data shows the region’s homeless senior population rose by 46 percent.

And lately she has seen more people who are homeless for the first time, including seniors and working families.

She said it is increasingly challenging for people on fixed budgets because they often do not have the opportunity to keep working and affordable, supportive housing is not available.

“You can’t ask an 80-year-old woman with health issues, ‘Okay let’s get you a job,’” McCorkle said.

Kathryn Gray is a Voice of San Diego intern.

Join the Conversation


  1. Poway my want to hold off and see what happens with San Diego. Several knowledge sources have told me that on any given day in San Diego there may be as few as 20 beds available for the homeless.

    I think San Diego will get the dog snot sued out of them when they try to enforce the Camping Ban.

    1. The homeless industrial complex (knowing that they have lost public support) is trying to refrigerator the narrative to “its unhealthy 80 year old grandma’s!”. Which works right up until you see the 35 year old toothless heroin addicts that make up most of the hobos.
      Go Poway! Listen to your taxpayers.

  2. When I was a little boy, I liked to make trouble, do bad things until I became fearful of my parents and the police. This is Poway. Keep up the good work unlike San Diego where we give away the farm to criminals and the homeless who show no remorse, no gratitude, no nothing. San Diego is a cesspool of sick humanity. Dan Smiechowski is a candidate for Mayor of San Diego.

  3. Cut Anglea’s funding down to zero. These providers are a dime a dozen, you don’t need someone opining outside his business in local media and undercutting city policy. Find someone who’s a team player.

Leave a comment
We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.