San Diego, CA

6 Months After Pilot Program Between San Diego and Cal Trans Began, Homeless Encampments Are Returning

J. Maginot

Ahead of a Powerful Late Spring Weather System, Homeless Encampments Are Popping Up Along San Diego Freeways.

Roughly six months after California Governor Gavin Newsom and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria announced a joint partnership between the two governments and Caltrans to clear homeless encampments along San Diego freeways, those very encampments are returning.

The program partnered with City Net, a homeless outreach organization consisting of mental health and social workers in an attempt to create a more permanent solution to the problem.

Instead of San Diego Police rounding up the personal belongings of transients and shipping them to a landfill, City Net goes through to inspect, catalog, and inventory fore possessions before making a referral to an agency.

This softer approach initially yielded some positive results, but there has been some backsliding. Thefts and violent crime have both been creeping up as these encampments create an underground economy all their own.

Stolen bikes are a significant problem. Swapping parts and removing serial numbers make the bikes nearly impossible to track. They later show up for sale on Craigslist or are just offered up for sale locally.

San Diego isn't the only municipality facing this issue. National City has also seen encampments return, sometimes with dire results.

As of 2020, San Diego was home to nearly 5,000 residents who were permanently homeless. Funding for this pilot program came from Governor Newsom's $22 billion California Comeback Plan.

To date, a small percentage of the 5,000 homeless in San Diego have taken advantage of the outreach. Program operators and social workers stress that this number could change rapidly. Getting help can be a tough sale.

The outreach contract is slated to be evaluated for renewal in June 2022.

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