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SDPD: Two Homeless Men Killed, A Third Badly Hurt In Separate Attacks

July 5, 2016 1:19 p.m.

Homeless Advocate Speaks Out On Recent Homeless Killings

GUEST:

Bob McElroy, president, Alpha Project

Related Story: SDPD: Two Homeless Men Killed, A Third Badly Hurt In Separate Attacks

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

The fear and frustration following two fatal attacks and one critical against two homeless men in San Diego. When it comes to the new state budget what is in it for San Diego? This is KPBS Midday Edition . I and Maureen Cavanaugh it is July 5. Our top story police are searching for a man who was a person of interest in the deaths of two homeless and in San Diego and the critical stabbing of the third. The attacks happen near Mission Bay Park and near ocean beach on Sunday and Monday. Police have not released the identities of the men killed and one of the men authorities say was burned beyond recognition. These attacks have sent a sock -- shockwave through the homeless community and they are far from the first. I spoke with Bob McElroy president and CEO of the alpha project. I spoke about the shockwave SSN to the homeless community. What is your reaction?
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We have been out there this morning all day today. We are doing wellness check some folks that are down in the riverbed and stuff but it resonated all the way down to 17th and K. They were speaking to folks in the -- and there are a lot of scared folks at the. This is about us extreme as it gets. I've never seen something this extremely savage. People are scared.
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What are you telling the homeless population to do?
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Keep their eyes open. We happen down talking to folks and those -- telling them to stay in groups. This is not something new. A couple weeks ago somebody was clunking people over the head with the pipe around Horton Plaza. There was another attack in East Village. Folks need to pay attention to their surroundings and if they see somebody they don't know keep their eyeballs open.
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You say it is not new. Violence on the streets affecting homeless people have been going on for a long time. It sounds to me as if there is something about this that is striking you as shocking.
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There has always been a dirty little secret. I have been out on the street and I with the folks under the bridges and people will drive by with paintball guns and BB guns and throw eggs and that advocates reported. Now we are seeing people get killed and hit with pipes. There is frustration on both sides. Many of the folks downtown are trapped with mental illness and they act out many times and there's tremendous frustration for people who live downtown just trying to walk their dogs and they are verbally accosted or attacked by a homeless person considers frustration both ways and I get it but it's a volatile situation. We have been trying to do something comprehensive.
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Is your impression that the violence directed at homeless people has gone up.
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Absolutely. My daughter lives downtown -- and her boyfriend. She lives -- she was walking down the street and was verbally accosted by a couple of guys on the street and her boyfriend wanted to go over and beat the living daylights out of them. So I get it. Folks that are on the edges right there it does not take much to light the fuse. As I said the door swings both ways. We have to do something about the situation downtown to mitigate the violence at some point.
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The city has been working to transition is people into housing. With my homeless people on the street is this approach working?
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It works incrementally. For the lucky few -- there are 7000 people on the waiting list and there is no inventory of permanent supportive housing. It will be decades at this rate to build the inventory of affordable housing for people to move into it works when you have inventory and etiquette people inside but right now we have the huddled masses on the street and right now there is 7000 people waiting to get into the permanent supportive housing. We have to do something far more comprehensive than us.
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The city has been trying to discourage camping in the East Village leading up to the All-Star game. What is your take on how that man has unsettled the homeless population and you have homeless people on the move now.
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We always have. We have been doing community cleanups and policing for decades. It gets attention now because the All-Star game but if you are down there and there's 50 people across the street that I've been there for several weeks. The police are obligated to do something about it and then remove them down to another block and we have been hurting people around from block to block for decades. It gets more attention now the reality is that it has to be a place for folks to go. This is a designated specifically for homeless folks to get services. We continue to hurt people from one block to the other.
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For these attacks that happened over the weekend you have been reaching out to populations downtown and in San Diego River. What have the policeman during.
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The cops are not social service providers and unfortunately we have kind of put them into that role. It's up to the providers and the city Council to be more proactive and provide a place for people to go and get them up out of the riverbed's. We got nine ladies who live in the riverbed's near QUALCOMM Stadium and they are scared to go downtown into a fit somebody -- the facility. This could happen to them today. It might be days before anybody find some. It is tremendously frustrating. Not been able to scoop people up and taken to a place that is safe.
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I have been speaking to Bob McElroy President and CEO of the alpha project.
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