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New ordinance would ban homeless encampments on San Diego streets

Being homeless in San Diego could soon land you with a fine.

San Diego City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn has proposed a new ordinance that would ban homeless encampments on public property if shelter beds are available.

It would also prevent people from camping in places like parks, transit stations, or near schools whether beds are available or not.


“We’ve heard too many stories about people on the streets who have been randomly attacked, stabbed to death, even set on fire and there have also been threats to our neighborhoods as well,” Whitburn said.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria has also backed the plan.

Staff at the Alpha Project, which provides shelter and outreach to people experiencing homelessness, hope the ordinance will make it easier to get unhoused people off the streets.

Chad Brewer used to be homeless, but now works at the Alpha Project.

He thinks the ordinance may encourage clients to turn their lives around for the better, something he can relate to.


“When I did start changing, it was forced, like from the parole department and different authority figures and finally it took,” Brewer said. “But I had to keep getting exposed to it over and over so it does do something. It’s like having a parent that holds the line and keeps their family to the same standard. It’s the same thing.”

Mary Serrati has lived at the Alpha Project shelter on Newton Avenue for more than two years now and thinks sleeping on the streets is too dangerous.

“I’ve seen three deaths in about a month, one over here, a couple over there, and it’s because they’re on the streets, and they don't want to abide by rules so something’s got to be done with them,“ Serrati explained.

Homeless advocate Michael McConnell agrees that no one should have to sleep on the street. But he worries there aren’t enough beds to cope with demand.

“All you have to do is look at the count of shelter beds and the count of homeless people and you realize there’s nowhere near enough beds,” he said. “And then for people like me who are out on the street, who see people lined up in the morning two hours before the homeless response center even opens, it’s obvious there are a lot more people wanting a shelter bed than there are beds available.”

The city council will have to approve the ordinance and could to vote on it next month.

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