Mayor directs broad changes in addressing homeless encampments
Published - 03/29/21 - 12:00 PM | 3793 views | 4 4 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Mayor Todd Gloria on March 29 announced a number of significant changes to policies governing how the City handles homeless encampments and unsheltered people’s belongings. 

The changes were driven by Gloria’s insistence that all policies affecting unsheltered residents be based on dignity and compassion. They are aimed at providing transparency and consistency to reduce negative impacts of City sidewalk-cleanup activities on people experiencing homelessness.

“While the City has an obligation to make sure we don’t have another communicable disease outbreak like hepatitis A among our homeless population, we can do so with compassion and while respecting their dignity,” said Gloria. “As we work every day on solutions to connect folks to permanent housing, shelter, and supportive services, these changes apply a measure of respect and compassion that will reduce the trauma for those San Diegans experiencing homelessness.”

After San Diego’s deadly hepatitis A outbreak in 2017, the City has an obligation to ensure that its sidewalks are clean to protect against future public health threats. Other cities with large homeless populations have seen outbreaks of typhus and other infectious diseases due to unsanitary conditions in encampments.

Gloria has committed to a new compassionate approach that will keep the public right-of-way clean and provide less uncertainty for unsheltered individuals. The changes, most of which are already in effect, include:

·         Suspension of cleanups and enforcement during inclement weather.  

·         Suspension of cleanups at night. 

·         Easier means to retrieve personal items removed during cleanups. 

·         Clearer and more consistent noticing of cleanup schedules.

·         Reduction of law enforcement visibility.

Coordination of cleanup activities with outreach activities to ensure that unsheltered residents are offered shelter and services ahead of the cleanups.  

These changes were developed under direction of the mayor by the City’s Homelessness Strategies Department, incorporating feedback from persons with lived experience, relying on homelessness experts and national and regional policy, and including ideas and input from the City Environmental Services and Neighborhood Policing departments. The changes that involve installing new signage will be implemented over the next several weeks.  

Details on each of the changes are as follows:

– Inclement weather cleanup suspension: The City’s Environmental Services Department will not conduct cleanups of items that may belong to people left on the sidewalk or in canyons during poor weather conditions such as rain, hail or extreme cold. The Police Department will also suspend the issuance of certain citations.  

– Elimination of nighttime cleanups: Cleanups will be confined to daylight hours only. allowing unsheltered people the chance to arrange their sleeping areas as safely as possible before nightfall.   

– Storage and retrieval of personal items: City crews conducting cleanups are responsible for saving and storing items that may have personal value, such as jewelry, photos, identification or legal documents. Staff will post clearer and more detailed instructions for how to contact the City so items can be delivered back to their owners. 

– Clear and consistent noticing. City crews will establish a regular cleanup and sidewalk sanitization schedule and post it in high-need areas to provide better advance notice. For larger-scale, less-frequent cleanups, such as those that may be required in parks or canyons, the Parks and Recreation and Environmental Services departments will work with Homelessness Strategies staff to include service-provider outreach in the planning process to focus resources in that area as part of a concerted advance effort. 

– Trauma-informed presence. City teams will have less visible police presence during cleanups. Although police officers will be present to preserve the peace, protect city crews, and be available for incidents that may arise, they will reduce their visibility by avoiding the use of emergency lights, relying instead on City truck safety lights, and positioning the police vehicles further from the site. These changes are aimed at making it clearer that the activity is for public-health purposes, not enforcement. 


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Darren Farnesi
April 04, 2021
Seriously ?! I applaud the compassion but what is this going to do to SOLVE the problem?! It's only going to make it worse on people trying to do business and live in the city! I'm going to have to build a fence around my front porch now to keep them from sleeping, pooping and peeing, and leaving their trash there every night. I am a business that employs people. My customers have to step over the smell, the trash, the feces, and the passed out, drugged or screaming/crazy homeless people to get into my business to spend money. Where is the priority for ME and all the other residents and business owners within the city limits?! WE pay the taxes for this property and these sidewalks! If you keep normalizing and accommodating homelessness then what you're going to end up with is NOBODY doing business or living in the city anymore EXCEPT for homeless people. And you'll have NO tax revenue! Is that what you want? If not, Todd Gloria, then you'd better do MORE than this !
March 30, 2021
More political blah, blah, blah from our leadership. How sad to see our beautiful city because a downtown slum - great impression for our visitors. What about some compassion for us taxpayer who have to walk through this filth and experience abuse? Let's get our priorities right and perhaps some of the money going into staff salaries could be better spent at the cause of homelessness. Gee Mayor, how about a picture of you in the midst of some of the street slums?
Robert Burns
March 30, 2021
So, the Mayor wants to bring us further into normalizing homelessness. There remains nothing close to adequate emergency shelter availability into which homeless can be moved.
Richard Smith
April 03, 2021
As a nurse I can see the danger of spreading different viruses that can be hosted in homeless communities of Downtown area of San Diego. What about horrible smell of urine, feces on the streets there? And we pay property taxes for that? Most of homeless people use Fentanyl, Cocaine, and other heave drugs daily. They can hurt us because of the mental illnesses and drug addictions they developed due to different circumstances. Why we need to see that? They need special housing and mental facilities where they can live. Where all the tax payers money go? it is real serious crisis and needs to be addressed immediately.
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