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San Diego Sports Arena encampment residents ticketed as cleanup continues

Police are now writing tickets for people living there.

A San Diego homeless encampment cleanup along Sports Arena Boulevard is entering a new phase, police are now writing tickets for people living there. City officials said it is part of a progressive enforcement approach now that shelters have space in them again.

On Monday morning San Diego Police officers began their sweep, going tent by tent to speak with people. There were some tense moments between police and advocates who do not agree with the city's approach.

"The police are using criminalization to drive people away," said Coleen Cusack, an attorney who said she is representing dozens of homeless residents at the encampment.


RELATED: City-led cleanup operation of homeless encampment in Midway begins

Cusack and some other advocates believe the city is escalating enforcement to scatter unsheltered residents, making it harder for them to be found in next week’s homeless point in time count. The survey gives a regional snapshot of the number of people living on the streets.

San Diego Sports Arena encampment residents ticketed as cleanup continues

"And all so that what?" Cusack asked. "On February 24th when they come around to do the point and time count and the mayor has chased everybody out on the street
— and the mayor is going to pat himself on the back?"

A spokesperson for San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, who ordered the cleanup, said the enforcement is part of the normal process.

"The only change is that we paused shelter intakes during the omicron surge because we had so many positives in our shelters and now that we’re done with that — we’re of course opening our shelters again and we’re trying to encourage people via outreach and progressive enforcement," said Gloria's director of communications Rachel Laing.


She also pointed out that federal funding is tied to the homeless count.

"These federal dollars are really important," Laing said. "One of the calculations is the magnitude of the problem so it’s in our best interests to have an accurate count."

Police were offering shelter during the sweep Monday. A city spokesperson said a total of 17 people were contacted with four accepting shelter. One person was arrested for a misdemeanor warrant, eight people were given verbal warnings for violation of illegal lodging and/or encroachment, three were cited with infractions and one person was given a misdemeanor citation.

Sports Arena encampment residents starting to be ticketed as cleanup continues

Some people remain resistant to shelter, saying they do not want to stay in a large congregate space.

"COVID has made it very unsafe for people to stay in congregate care and so a lot of people want single rooms to stay safe," Cusack said.

A city official said there have been significant efforts to get people into shelter, but there are ongoing concerns about health and safety. Enforcement will continue as long as there is space in shelters.