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County supervisor requests help on clearing homeless encampments

The San Diego County Administration Building is shown on Jan. 12, 2021.
Zoë Meyers
The San Diego County Administration Building is shown on Jan. 12, 2021.

San Diego County Supervisor Joel Anderson released a memorandum Wednesday asking two county department leaders for more help in clearing homeless encampments along public roadways.

In a formal request sent to Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins- Meyer and Sheriff Anthony Ray, Anderson urged them "to take action mirroring recent action by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to remove encampments along public roadways that pose critical safety concerns."

According to a statement from Anderson's office, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on April 27 upheld Caltrans' clearing of an encampment in the Berkeley area.

Gov. Gavin Newsom "is taking action to protect lives by clearing dangerous encampments on roadways and the county should be working in step with our state partners," Anderson said.

The memorandum cites an encampment in the unincorporated portion of El Cajon, which is part of Anderson's district. Anderson added that the county Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities has spent two months connecting homeless people at the encampment to resources, and housed over 60.

However, "we cannot wait for someone to be injured or killed by a car before we take the next step to clear the tents that remain on this busy, dangerous street," he added.

It was unclear if Ray or Robbins-Meyer had responded to Anderson's memorandum.

In the memo, dated May 6, Anderson wrote that despite various efforts, "the county continues to experience challenges in managing regional homelessness, including the recent proliferation of a homeless encampment located along North Magnolia Avenue.

"Since March, we have focused numerous county resources and personnel, including the involvement of housing, mental health, law enforcement and public works staff, to assist those living in this encampment," the memo stated. "We also deployed a multitude of resources on April 29, conducting a large-scale outreach event to bolster our efforts to transition individuals from the street to housing.

"I am requesting that your teams take action similar to that used by Caltrans to address the ongoing health and safety risks present at the North Magnolia Avenue encampment," Anderson wrote.

On April 29, Anderson and Undersheriff Kelly Martinez held a news conference at the encampment in response to residential concerns.

According to a 10News report, Anderson announced that four East County cities — El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Santee — were working on a memorandum of understanding focusing on permanent and emergency housing, and increasing homeless outreach.

While the El Cajon City Council recently approved a draft MOU, the other cities have not taken any action, 10News reported.