ESCONDIDO — A new draft bill from State Sen. Brian Jones (R-Santee) aims to prevent homeless encampments near schools, parks, libraries and daycare centers and allow cities to better enforce the proposed law.
Jones, who represents the 38th District and is running for the newly-drawn 40th, along with former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Escondido Councilman Joe Garcia and others held a press conference on Sept. 23 at Grape Day Park to announce the draft legislation.
The venue was selected at the popular Escondido park — which has become an inland “hot spot” for the homeless population — and to highlight the growing issue across the San Diego region.
“This will help protect our most vulnerable population, our children,” Jones said. “When conducting a sweep, the bill requires law enforcement officers to provide information about sleeping alternatives, homeless and mental health services and homeless shelters. This will connect homeless individuals to desperately needed services as we compassionately clear these encampments.”
Jones said the bill is modeled after an ordinance recently passed in the city of Los Angeles, where the city is grappling with a homeless crisis and encampments overwhelming the city’s public spaces.
The draft language of the bill would make it illegal to have a camp within 1,000 feet of “sensitive areas” — schools, parks, libraries and daycares. Law enforcement would first issue a 72-hour notice to vacate or face a possible misdemeanor offense.
“The street is not a home. Period,” Faulconer said. “Homelessness is soaring in California and soaring in San Diego. It’s devastating for the people who are living it and devastating for the communities who are experiencing it. We cannot allow homeless encampments to overhwhelm the cornerstones of our community.”
Jones’ team also said the bill has the support of Bill Walton, the basketball legend, who was recently attacked by a homeless individual in Balboa Park. Walton has since asked San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria to resign due to his alleged lack of response to the city of San Diego’s growing homelessness crisis and public safety and health concerns.
“Things are worse now than ever before and our lives are being dictated by an out-of-control and unruly homeless population,” Walton said at the joint press conference with Lucky Duck Foundation board member Dan Shea.
For Jones and other lawmakers in support of the bill, homeless advocates argued this legislation will put the homeless, especially the those with mental illnesses or disabilities, at greater risk, forcing people to populate other areas in those jurisdictions with no resources.
Greg Angela of Interfaith Community Services in Escondido, said there are 99 shelter beds in North County — all of which are occupied, including the recovery beds at Interfaith.
While Angela said the nonprofit is “interested” in the bill, the organization does not support its current language and stated it must have funding or resources for shelters, housing and treatment and day centers so homeless people have a place to go.
“We would support prohibiting people from sensitive places if they had a place to go,” Angela said. “There are not shelter beds, there are not treatment programs that are open and accessible and there is not housing that individuals can afford.”