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As City Leaders Are Sworn In, Homeless Choir Urges End To Ticketing Street Population

The Voices of Our City Choir sings on the steps of Horton Square to demand th...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: The Voices of Our City Choir sings on the steps of Horton Square to demand that city officials put a stop to ticketing the growing homeless street population, Dec. 12, 2016.

Standing on the steps of Horton Square in downtown San Diego, the Voices of Our City Choir, most of whom are homeless, sang a desperate plea.

Some homeless members of the Voices of Our City Choir were given citations by police last week for sleeping in their tents on city sidewalks, but they say they had nowhere else to go.

“Love rescue me, come forth and speak to me,” the singers belted out across the plaza, where current and newly-elected city officials, including the mayor, city council and city attorney, were gathering for a swearing-in ceremony.

The choir urged officials to put a stop to ticketing the hundreds of people living on the streets. A dozen of the choir members were cited by police last week for sleeping in tents on 13th street, outside the church where they rehearse.

Video by Matthew Bowler

“We demand that the mayor end these inhumane practices,” said Steph Johnson, the choir’s co-director. “And that Mayor Faulconer do so as an emergency humanitarian action until permanent and safe housing is provided to every San Diegan in need of shelter.”

RELATED: Homeless Choir Singers In San Diego Find Healing Through Music

A growing number of homeless people are sleeping in tents that line city blocks. A recent count by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless showed more than 1,100 people sleep on sidewalks and parks in downtown. But a city ordinance makes it illegal to block a sidewalk or street — whether it’s to sleep there, pitch a tent or park a cart.

Photo credit: Michael McConnell

Voices of Our City Choir members hold up the citations they received from police for blocking a part of the sidewalk with their tents, December 5, 2016.

Choir members argue they have no other choice because shelters are full and waiting lists for permanent housing units are years long.

Jeffrey Hays, who has been homeless for about a year after losing his information technology job, received a ticket last week.

“We’re not a drain on the system,” Hays said. “Most of us, where we house ourselves, usually it’s within one block. We try to stay together. We clean the area, we keep it safe.”

The choir members are also planning to speak out at a city council meeting on Tuesday.

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