“We are committed to beating hepatitis A and doctors are clear that starts with vaccinating our most at-risk residents and keeping public areas clean. I am working with county nurses to bring vaccinations directly to homeless individuals and today we’re clearing debris to keep the riverbed clean,” said Faulconer. “This is going to help stop the spread of the virus, protect our most vulnerable residents and restore our natural habitat. Our sanitation efforts will continue for as long as needed to address this public health emergency.”
With a number of San Diego’s homeless population living along the San Diego River, the city and county are focused on conducting sanitation and vaccination efforts for the at-risk population living along the riverbed. Faulconer has directed crews from the City’s Environmental Services Department to clear the riverbed of trash and debris while the San Diego Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team offers shelter opportunities and supportive services to homeless individuals there. County health officials are providing onsite hepatitis A vaccinations.
“The San Diego River is a sensitive wetland that must be protected,” said Sherman. “For their own health and safety, it is vitally important to remove homeless encampments from the river and offer individuals the help and services they need. This action is an important first step.”
The cleanup complements existing year-round efforts by the city to clean and preserve the environmentally-sensitive habitat. The city is planning additional cleanup activities over the coming weeks as part of the ongoing regional effort to stop the spread of the hepatitis A virus.
As part of an annual contract with the San Diego River Foundation, the city funds weekly river inspections and an annual inspection that covers the length of the river. The River Park Foundation removed more than 66 tons of trash and debris from the river bed so far this year. It is estimated that 90 percent of trash and debris can be attributed to homeless individuals living near the river.
“I appreciate Mayor Faulconer for cleaning up this environmentally-sensitive habitat and for helping to prevent the spread of hepatitis A,” said Zapf.
The city has a similar contract with I Love a Clean San Diego, where the city sponsors 15 cleanups a year – three of which occurred in the San Diego River last year.
The riverbed clean-up is the latest step in an unprecedented sanitation effort by the city to eradicate the virus from public areas including sidewalks in the downtown area and other communities based on need. The city has also significantly expanded 24-hour access to public restrooms in areas near large homeless populations. In coordination with the city, the county has installed 63 hand-washing stations throughout downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.