Spring Valley residents upset with illegal homeless camp at Lamar Park

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Drugs, drunkenness and verbal abuse, those are just some of the things Spring Valley residents say they are dealing with ever since a large group of homeless people set up camp in Lamar County Park.

A tent city has popped up outside the popular park and the people who live around here are clearly concerned.

“My heart goes out to them, it does. But this is too much. Nobody goes to the park anymore. No one takes their kids or their dogs. They have taken over. I’ve never seen a ‘double wide’ tent before, but there they are. I know this is how some of these people choose to live, but it’s not fair to interrupt the way we live,” said Joe Fearce of Spring Valley.

At this particular spot, there is a lot of assistance and help for the homeless, but it’s mostly from church groups and local non profits.

“They need the help. We bring them sandwiches and blankets and other things every week. Our goal is to get them the help they need to get out of here. We’ve had some successes and we’ve had some failures, but we’ll keep trying,” said David Greta of the Father’s House Church.

One week from now, the County will clear out the homeless camp and tell them to move on. This has been done before and they always come back.

“A few weeks ago the county cleared it out and by that night, most of them were back. In fact, there were more,” says Joe Fearce.

To be clear, the County is between a rock and a hard place on this issue. The U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that “sleeping on a sidewalk” or public place is not against the law unless the County/City has beds available. Unless there is an alternative offered, besides jail, the police can’t arrest them for being poor and homeless. It’s a case originally out of Boise, Idaho.

The next clean up for “Tent City” is January 13th. The locals predict it will be back immediately after the clean up crews leave the park.

While we were there, we encountered a variety of people who wanted and needed help. We also encountered angry people who threatened us.

This Park sits in the District of Supervisor Dianne Jacob. She says the County is working on short term and long term solutions to a very complicated issue. Unless these solutions include “housing” of some kind, the homeless are not breaking any laws by sleeping and living on public right of ways and public land.

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob gave KUSI the following statement about the illegal homeless camp:

“I’m very concerned about the homeless camps in the Lamar Park area and I’m working with the Sheriff’s Department and other county agencies to address them. There have been previous cleanups at the park, but short-term efforts aren’t enough. The county recently piloted an intensive outreach effort to connect the homeless in communities like Spring Valley with services and potential housing, and we’re now putting together a long-term approach based on the lessons learned. Many of these folks have serious, chronic needs and it’s important that we break the cycle of homelessness, addiction, medical emergencies and incarceration.”

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