SAN DIEGO—Mayor Todd Gloria announced Jan. 31 the city will conduct a cleanup operation on a homeless encampment along Sports Arena Boulevard.
The announcement came after what Gloria described as a “concentrated” effort to connect the people camping along the road to shelter and social services. Advance notice of the cleanup was posted along Sports Arena Boulevard on Friday.
“The situation on Sports Arena Boulevard in the Midway community is wholly unacceptable,” Gloria said. “The potential for an outbreak of disease and the threat to public safety compels us to act now.
Over 90 tents and 180 homeless individuals were living on Sports Arena Boulevard between Rosecrans Street and Pacific Highway, city staff and People Assisting the Homeless reported during outreach efforts.
The homeless will not be cited for illegal lodging or encroachment, but residents who refuse to move during the cleanup to allow this public health operation to proceed will be arrested.
The vast majority of the homeless were hesitant to accept shelter placement despite knowing cleanup operations were imminent, according to a city statement, as only seven people accepted placement into a shelter.
Many homeless said they were not accepting help because they were suffering from a stomach illness, which was reported to county public health officials.
City staff going through the encampment to collect waste reported public safety concerns, including cooking fuels that pose a fire risk and items soiled with feces, urine, and pet waste.
“The situation in Midway is intolerable for all parties involved,” City Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell, who represents the Midway community.
“It is inhumane to allow our unsheltered neighbors to live on our streets or under bridges,” Campbell said. “I hope those living on Sports Arena Boulevard will accept the services and shelter provided to protect the health and safety for all.”
Outreach workers said the homeless were concerned about criminal activity happening in the encampment.
“The community has felt the impact of this sprawling encampment for months now,” said Dike Anyiwo, vice chair of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group. “Our planning group meetings are dominated by reports about illegal drug use, litter, violent assaults, and theft of property from nearby homes and businesses. People here are desperate for action.”
San Diego’s standard cleanup practice involves individuals moving their belongings from the area to allow city staff to remove waste, abandoned property, and items that are unsanitary or in disrepair.
Last year, Gloria reformed procedures involved in encampment cleanups to include a less-visible police presence. However, due to reported safety threats to workers during cleanups in this area in the recent past, officers will accompany city staff during the cleanup.
Jack Bradley contributed to this report.