Homeless On San Diego River

by on September 3, 2009 · 3 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Homelessness, Ocean Beach, San Diego

River Park Foundation head forced to become homeless expert

By Kelly Davis/ San Diego City Beat / September 1, 2009

A breakfast forum last Thursday on the subject of homelessness included Rob Hutsel, executive director of the San Diego River Park Foundation. Hutsel, who’s headed the nonprofit for eight years, has become an unlikely expert on the people who call the river banks home: The organization’s twice-monthly trash pick-ups and bi-annual “river blitz” clean-ups have somewhat become field studies of the living conditions of river-bank dwellers.

“When we first started, there really was an area [where] people were told, ‘Just go down to the river and get out of here,'” Hutsel said in a phone interview.

Mixed in with what he refers to as “legacy trash”-old, abandoned cars and other large items-were homeless encampments. The area had been left alone for so long that its inhabitants had formed a makeshift community, Hutsel said; they even had their own mayor.

“On one side of the river, it was the tweakers, and then on the other side it was the non-tweakers,” he recalled.

“There were two-story structures down there. They had taken a lot of the vegetation and cut it down and built little structures. It was really quite amazing. You’d see [car] batteries all lined up; they’d have a nice little stove set up and a kitchen area.”

(For the remainder of this article, go here.)

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

PSD September 4, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Props to the people for using some ingenuity in setting up these encampments. I’ll bet this would make for a fascinating social study on the workings of this underground community right under our noses.

But I guess my buddy (who lives here now) was unfortunate enough to live on the tweeker side of the river at his old place in Mission Valley – his car got broken into twice before the thieves decided enough was enough and just stole the whole thing the third go-round.


Larry OB September 6, 2009 at 12:53 pm

It looks to me like there is enough demand to fill a legitimate campground if the city would only build one…or two campgrounds. And I mean tent camping, not something that just caters to large RV’s.


Frank Gormlie September 6, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Larry – the logistical and ecological problems with having homeless campgrounds along the San Diego River are enormous – but wait! there already are homeless campgrounds along the river. They’re just not official. Should the city make them official? meh!

But what about Fiesta Island, Larry? The City wanted thousands of demonstrators to camp out on Fiesta Island in 1972 when the GOP Convention was coming to San Diego. I say, what’s good for demonstrators is good for the homeless. Plus, people could have them walk or run their dogs – lots of opportunities there.


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