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'The problem is bad' | San Diego’s Homeless Quandary: What to do about growing encampments

Homeless camps continue to become a growing issue across San Diego County. All week long we've heard from residents weigh in on the trash and city property removal.

SAN DIEGO — Across San Diego County there is a divide about what to do regarding growing homeless encampments.

“Health hazard definitely, yea, that's going to do down into our sewage and out into the ocean,” said El Cajon resident Linda Rispoli.

Earlier this week El Cajon residents told us about piles of debris clogging their storm drain at Interstate 8 near North 2nd Street and one day after our story, the City of El Cajon crews cleared the trash in that storm drain

"It's a great job,” said resident Ghanin Alogaidi.

Then in downtown San Diego, there are also homeless cleanups underway.

A 3-hour notice of property removal was issued last week, and homeless advocate Michael McConnell shot video of the city crews. He is upset at the city's approach of trashing tents and bikes.

"The city is just going through and throwing people's property away when they're not there,” said McConnell.

Housing 4 the Homeless cofounder Amy Zamudio says there needs to be more care with cleanups since there are not enough rehab beds in shelters available.

"We are failing to recognize how many disabled and very, very sick and ill people there are out here on our streets,” said Zamudio.

More people are weighed in on the homeless camps on CBS 8’s social media.

Eric Basil wrote this morning, "Well then the homeless advocate should go down there and clean it up themselves!

Tacoma tweeted, "It's horrible out here, I live in San Diego huge homeless crisis, people living in tents on the freeway."

“The problem is bad, and I see it, and the impact is real on communities, and the effects on cities and small businesses,” said County Board of Supervisor Chair Nathan Fletcher.

In Lemon Grove CBS 8 spoke with Fletcher, as he met with those unsheltered receiving mental health, substance abuse and housing services.

A Statement from the City of San Diego says:

“Street encampments pose dangers to both unsheltered residents and the community at large, and Mayor Gloria’s approach to resolving them is to balance compassion for those living on the streets with the need to address potentially series public health and safety issues.

The City’s Environmental Services Department (ESD) conducts regular street cleanups in high-need areas to keep the sidewalks safe and clean. ESD follows strict legal noticing requirements, impounds items of personal or monetary value for retrieval later, never discards items that are claimed and wanted and takes great pains to identify the owners of items if the owners are not on hand at the time of cleanup.

Mayor Gloria does not want to see a repeat of the hepatitis A outbreak in 2017 that took 20 lives of unsheltered San Diegans. That’s why these cleanups are critical and will continue as he increases access to housing shelter and services.”

“You can protect public health and make sure it’s not unsanitary condition and still be humane and compassionate but not allow people to live in unsafe encampments, where there is a public health risk,” said Fletcher.

WATCH RELATED: Homeless advocates frustrated over recent cleanups downtown (April 2022)

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