Ticketing the homeless in San Diego

San Diego cops are back on the homeless beat, ticketing, even arresting the homeless which they have been unable to do for the last 5 years. KUSI's Steve Bosh has been following the homeless shelter debate over the years and reports on the latest details.

A federal judge signed off on a settlement between homeless advocates and the city that allows police officers to once again enforce illegal lodging laws, but only if there is a shelter bed available and the homeless person refuses it.

The settlement was based on the rationale that it's unconstitutional to arrest people who are “involuntarily homeless,” so the city had to offer a bed before it could enforce the law.

Councilmember Kevin Faulconer said the ruling “strikes a balance between providing the beds and services for the people that need help and people that need assistance, but also equips our police officers with a very important enforcement tool.”

The settlement applies only to the homeless in the downtown area which, according to Councilmember Faulconer, is the main goal.

According to the city attorney, San Diego now has a strategy, a plan, which we haven't had, a step forward.

This strategy gives the city more opportunity to be creative and add beds, a lot more beds if it's successful, said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. But beds cost money, and the city doesn't have any.  The city would need a thousand beds, every night, to shelter the homeless.

Even if the beds were there most would go empty, 70% to 75% of the time a homeless person actually refuses a bed space when its available.

Admittedly this is a small step in a larger strategy. The city's been working on a 220-bed intake shelter but that too has stalled.

The other part of this strategy is a warehouse on 9th Avenue, accessible to the homeless twice a day, where they can store their belongings rather than hauling them around in a shopping cart all hours of the day and night.

Categories: KUSI