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San Diego pilot program to clean up around encampments becomes permanent

"This is not about enabling, but it's about a comprehensive approach to addressing the current conditions on our sidewalks," said Mayor Todd Gloria.

SAN DIEGO — A pilot program designed to clean up areas around encampments in San Diego will now become permanent.

The Enhanced Hot Spot Program started as a pilot last October. Since then, they've collected 580 pounds of trash.

Seven days a week, you'll find crews out in the public right of ways known for encampments.

"This team is specifically geared around finding encampments and addressing the waste," said Franklin Coopersmith, Interim Deputy Director of Environmental Services.

He explained crews do not go inside tents.

Instead, they pick up what's around them and are trained to determine what's a personal item versus what's not. If it's questionable, they'll leave it behind.

The homeless often make trash piles in anticipation of the crews coming by.

"People know them now. They'll come to bring trash out; they'll set it on the block. Our teams will come and grab it. So rather than it sitting there, it's now going into a trash truck," said Coopersmith.

Chris Coleman is one of those people.

He told CBS 8 that though he'd rather not be living on the streets, at the very least, he wants to keep his area clean.

"I have to make good on what I have. Just because you're out here doesn't mean you have to live in a garbage can," said Coleman.

Mayor Todd Gloria signed off on making the Enhanced Hot Spot Program permanent as part of his 2024 budget.

The total cost is about 1.4 million dollars, which includes 970,000 thousand dollars in one-time expenditures for trucks and other supplies.

Gloria says the program isn't about enabling the homeless but rather helping both them and the general public.

"This is not about enabling, but a comprehensive approach to addressing the current conditions on our sidewalks."

Gloria says that the comprehensive approach also includes a proposal to ban encampments in most public spaces.

The city council will vote on the Unauthorized Camping Ordinance next month.

“San Diegans have my commitment to be relentless in coming back every damn day until these sidewalks are clean.  It’s unacceptable, and if other folks don't get the message, we will make this message clear by passing the ordinance and making sure this gets done,” said Gloria.

WATCH RELATED: Homeless encampments causing safety issues along Ocean Beach bike path (May 2023).

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