Downtown San Diego Sweeps Against Homeless People Are Cruel and Have Got to Stop – Now!

by on April 7, 2017 · 3 comments

in Homelessness, San Diego

By Jeeni Criscenzo /San Diego Free Press

Homeless man loses his possessions and his dog in cruel sweep. Photo: Michael McConnell

On April 5th, while I was in City Hall with other advocates for homeless people voicing our objections to the Mayor’s proposed ballot measure to increase the Transit Occupancy Tax to pay for an expansion of the convention center, with a few crumbs tossed in for “Reducing Homelessness”, only a few blocks away, some of our City’s most destitute citizens were being cruelly victimized.

Their tormentors not only took away everything they had left in the world, including what little makeshift shelter they had, but in one case documented in photos and a video by Michael McConnell, they even took a man’s pet dog!

The perpetrators of this crime were our very own SDPD, acting on the orders of the Office of the Mayor – the very same author of the Council Action Summary that we were arguing against in the Rules Committee, that stated “homelessness remains a regional crisis” and purported to be raising funds to address homelessness.

I was planning to write about the extraordinarily successful Expo of emergency sleeping cabins that Amikas presented during the month of March. To brag about how we went door to door talking to neighbors prior to transforming the vacant lot on the north side of St. Luke’s North Park, into a display of I-Wood Sleeping Cabins that could be easily assembled to be an Emergency Bridge Housing Community.

I wanted to tell you about the events we held at the site every day for two weeks, especially the advocate’s breakfast where representatives of many of the agencies serving the homeless, and the Regional Taskforce on the Homeless, joined a discussion about how Emergency Bridge Housing Communities, with I-Wood Sleeping Cabins could be placed throughout the city and county as a crucial part of a real plan to get everyone off the streets and on their way to permanent housing.

Mostly, I wanted to tell you about the focus groups we held during our Hospitality Day, with folks who were currently homeless, dangerously close to being homeless or formerly homeless. I was going to share with you what these people, mostly women, said they wanted most – safety; and their suggestions for how a bridge housing community should be managed – they wanted more rules than I had expected; and that many of the older women explained that they were being victimized daily by younger thugs.

I was going to conclude with great pride and exhilaration, that the Expo was most successful in getting a positive public response, that most of the city council sent their staff or personally came to visit, as well as the City Attorney and Stacie Spector from the Mayor’s office, and that their responses were overwhelmingly positive.

BUT when I saw that photo of the man with his dog, with him being sent off to jail and his four-legged best friend being sent off to doggie jail, all for the crime of having no place to go… well I just couldn’t bring myself to write about anything else.

This has to stop.

But there is something we CAN stop right now. Something we MUST stop now. Something that we are morally bound to stop NOW. These cruel, almost daily sweeps going on downtown must end.

Yes human beings living on the street has to stop. Elderly women getting abused by young hooligans, (like the one gal who kept a brave face during our focus group and then broke into tears when I hugged her) – that has to stop too. And I’ll concede that there are reasons we can’t stop those things right now, even though I know these bridge housing communities we are proposing could stop this stuff.

There is a process we have to follow: get the city ordinance passed to allow people to live in our sleeping cabins (yes, it looks like there is a strong possibility this can happen); find a site for our pilot community (and the hundreds of others – I think big!), build the pilot; garner public support. I understand that these things take time, but I’m pushing them to go as fast as possible.

But there is something we CAN stop right now. Something we MUST stop now. Something that we are morally bound to stop NOW. These cruel, almost daily sweeps going on downtown must end.

After over a year of this, it should be obvious to anyone that these sweeps are not having any kind of positive impact and they are further traumatizing a population that is already suffering. Our tax dollars are paying for San Diego’s own disgusting version of Jim Crow and we, as taxpayers, have a moral obligation to refuse to fund it. The police officers and sanitation workers who are being ordered to carry out these operations could refuse to follow orders that are against their values. It only takes one to make a statement. Others will follow. They can’t fire all of you. Besides, we’ll have your backs. We’ll make heroes out of you.

We can flood the mayor’s office with calls, emails, letters, demanding this stops. We could stage a sit in in his office and flood the media with videos and photos like the ones Homeless News San Diego has been posting on Facebook. We can act as human shields when we know a sweep is scheduled someplace. We can overload every City Council and Committee Meeting with hundreds of public comments demanding this stops. We could bring this city to a standstill until the Chamber and whoever else is behind these sweeps hollers uncle.

Or we can call on the person the mayor hired to catch the flack for his failures to solve the homeless crisis, who has professed to me that she deeply cares about the homeless and I believe her. Is Stacie Spector willing to put her own job on the line? – Refuse to be the mayor’s apologist –tell him she can’t make this turd smell like a rose? I know it’s scary to risk that steady paycheck and the thrill of being in the halls of power. But heck, I haven’t seen a paycheck since I started working on this issue eight years ago and nobody invites me to high powered meetings. It’s not so bad. I still have a place to sleep – and most nights I sleep pretty good.

We can flood the mayor’s office with calls, emails, letters, demanding this stops. We could stage a sit in in his office and flood the media with videos and photos like the ones Homeless News San Diego has been posting on Facebook.

Tell him the truth: he can kiss his political career good bye if he doesn’t do the right thing. It’s never turned out well when people in power push others to the point where they have nothing left to live for. Tell him the people will make sure he never gets his Convention Center Expansion, or any of the other goodies he’s promised to his developer buddies.

Tell him to just make an end to it. No excuses. Put the trash barrels back, and the porta-potties so people have a place to do their business in dignity. Give them a place to throw their trash and a broom and they will keep their bit of street clean.

And while you’re at it, find a bunch of vacant lots where we can plunk down sleeping cabins in communities for a couple of years, so people actually have a place to go to sleep besides the goddamn sidewalk. Open up a chunk of Qualcomm for Dreams for Change Safe parking.

And build some very affordable housing – lots of it – not a concentration camp down by the border, but actual housing all over the city, near trolley and bus stops.

And stop this too – stop playing us for suckers, by thinking you can get public support for everything your developer buddies ask for, as long as you sprinkle in some funds for homelessness. Hell, if you stopped the sweeps, you’d have gobs of money to spend on reducing homelessness. So just stop it – now.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat Seaborg April 8, 2017 at 1:44 pm

You put words to my thoughts exactly. I was also at the City Council meeting when the Convention Center expansion was discussed. I am so proud of the many San Diegans who saw through this attempt to throw crumbs to the homeless community and its advocates. The mayor needs to take care of business first by planning for sufficent low income housing. Put that plan in place and let’s see results. Then come to us for a vote on the convention center.


Patty April 11, 2017 at 8:13 pm

Strip all the Rich bureaucrats of their pets their homes their dignity
kick them out to the streets and see how they like it… Seeing the man with his dog made me weep. Shame on San Diego. SHAME on you mayor, may someday you are treated the way you are treating others. DISGUSTING.


jim treantenou April 25, 2017 at 2:31 pm

I am a 54 yr. old man homeless and living in san diego river bottom in Lakeside the sheriffs just made a sweep again sat against all us who live in the area around river walk way they come 2-10 times a month pick up people on warrants mainly while our friend crazy Charlie was beat up and stabbed twice may die they race around town in unsafe manner on calls of homeless doing something wrong they need to focus on criminals more than the homeless


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