CHULA VISTA, Calif — City leaders in Chula Vista are considering a ban on homeless encampments - similar to the ordinance passed in the City of San Diego. It comes as officials in the South Bay report a rise in people living on the streets. Advocates for the homeless, however, rallied outside of City Hall to be sure their voices were heard ahead of the important vote.
Mayor John McCann said it still may be another month or two before the Chula Vista City Council casts a vote on the homeless encampment ban, but they are debating the topic and taking public comment to determine what will work best for Chula Vista.
"Lives are being lost, trauma is being added to the most vulnerable, and we are harming rather than helping," Rosy Vasquez said, who is the President and CEO of Community Through Hope, a South Bay nonprofit geared toward helping unsheltered residents.
"The conversation that gets left out is about prevention. We need to keep Chula Vistans in their homes," Sebastian Martinez said, who is the Director of Advocacy for Community Through Hope.
At last count the number of people experiencing homelessness in Chula Vista has gone up.
"We've seen an average of 200 people, and now it's increasing close to 300. Homelessness has become an epidemic," Mayor McCann said.
"When you see that homelessness is up 54% in one year, we don't have too much time before we become like San Diego and we don't want that in Chula Vista," Martinez added.
If Chula Vista City Council passes a ban similar to San Diego, it would mean no tents in public spaces as long as there are shelter beds.
"We will debate it and find something that works for Chula Vista. We need to get people off the street, but we need to be sure that we're protecting small businesses, as well as families and neighborhoods," Mayor McCann said.
Right now Chula Vista police enforce encampments that block the right of way such as sidewalks.
"We've already been proactive. If you drive down 3rd Avenue or downtown, you're not going to see one tent," the Mayor added.
The Homeless Outreach Team then makes each person aware of the resources that are available.
The City’s most recent moves to combat the crisis include closing Harborside Park to those sleeping overnight, purchasing a motel that will be used as a shelter as well as utilizing the parking lot for those living in their car. 65 tiny homes should also be ready by the end of the year.
"It's a lot of families. People with young kids, so it's alarming. I am seeing 3 or 4-year-olds with parents who are unhoused. Statistics are trending up," Martinez said.
The mayor is an advocate for taxpayers, but these advocates for the unhoused do not support a ban on encampments.
Leaders will host a public workshop October 5 at 4 p.m. at Chula Vista City Hall where residents will have a chance to provide input.
WATCH RELATED: City of Chula Vista pondering homeless encampment