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Neighbors in Cherokee Point say homeless situation is getting worse

Neighbors have reported the homeless encampment numerous times and fear for their safety

SAN DIEGO — Neighbors in Cherokee Point, a neighborhood wedged between North Park and City Heights, are calling out for help. A canyon at the end of 35th Street has been a trouble spot for years with numerous homeless encampments. 

People who live by it feel helpless. 

CBS 8’s Brian White walked the area with neighbors who feel the situation is getting worse every day. 

“The homeless people bring tons of bikes right down there to the canyon and they spray paint them and chop them up,” said Erick Russell, a homeowner on 35th Street for the past 5 years. “This garbage is just piling up for months and months.  You can see it on the other side of the canyon.  All the stuff that’s scattered around here is just washing down the storm drain and going out to the ocean, which is terrible.” 

Credit: CBS 8

The fire danger present with people living in the canyon is something that worries neighbors on 35th Street and the surrounding neighborhood. 

"There are fires started in this canyon all the time and we call the fire department, but they basically have told us unless we see actual flames lapping up out of the canyon that they really don’t want to come out,” said Russell. 

Over the past couple of years, the homeless issues have escalated so much that neighbors don’t safe anymore, whether inside or outside of their homes. 

“There have been multiple times where we find people on our property trying to break into our house or stealing things out of our cars,” said Matthew McCurley. 

“I feel very unsafe here, just to go outside of my fenced-in property, especially at night when I have to take my dog out, and it’s very nerve-racking,” said Sarah Delapena. 

“My husband and I were literally chased down our street by one of the homeless guys from the canyon on his bike threatening to kill us,” said neighbor Erick Russell. 

Neighbors have gone to great lengths to add more lighting to their homes and to the alleyway. 

“As you can see, we’ve had to cover the entire outside of our house in flood lights and motion lights because of all the shady stuff that goes on in this alley at night,” said Russell while standing outside his home near the canyon. 

Neighbors have been very persistent in reporting these problems over the past few years. 

“I looked back and Justin and I, between the two of us, have like 275 Get it Done reports with the city,” said Russell. 

“It just makes me upset because I feel like we can’t feel safe in our own neighborhood and be able to walk alone at night with my dog,” said McCurley. 

As far as jurisdictions, the city owns the canyon area, but Caltrans owns the fenced-in property alongside the 805 freeway and there are encampments and trash on both.  

Erick Russell and his neighbors don’t know what to do so that they can feel safer in their neighborhood. 

“I don’t have any ill will against the city and the police officers are always so awesome when they come out here and try to help with the homeless issue and I get that,” said Russell.  “But at the same time, there is also a fine line with like well, now I don’t feel safe in my own home.  I pay all these taxes.”  

CBS 8 reported the issues to Caltrans and also reached out to the City of San Diego.

“We currently have 15 open reports for this area, with an additional 27 that are marked as a duplicate of an open case," said a city spokesperson. 

"Since launching the encampments report type in the Get It Done app less than a year ago, we have seen a steady increase in submissions for this report type from across the city, as more residents download the app and use this tool. In the last several weeks we have seen an additional influx of encampment reports citywide. Currently, the average response time for this type of report is 20 days and we are doing our best to respond to all complaints as quickly as we can.

Depending on whether people are present, encampment reports are forwarded to the Neighborhood Policing Division (NPD), the Environmental Services Department (ESD) and/or homeless outreach specialists, as appropriate. NPD team members respond to reports that indicate people are on-site. ESD team members respond to reports that indicate people are not on-site and may require cleanup. Homeless outreach specialists receive reports and plan outreach activities based, in part, on data from Get It Done reports to help inform regional outreach efforts and may be contacted directly from NPD team members to offer assistance, such shelter placements and additional resources to help unhoused persons off the streets and on the path to housing.

Typical outcomes for this type of report include services being offered to any people present, connection to a homeless outreach specialist, enforcement action, or movement of the encampment.

The City of San Diego is working to address encampments across the city with limited resources, which can contribute to a delayed response to each individual Get It Done report. To deploy resources most efficiently, the City is using Get It Done data to identify areas with high concentrations of homeless encampments and respond in a coordinated manner. Some of those areas recently have included East Village, Sports Arena, and Rolando Village. Other areas will be prioritized as teams continue to address this issue.

It should also be noted that the City is also working to open more shelter options and move individuals into housing as quickly as possible. A new women’s shelter is slated to open soon and an up to 125-bed shelter in the Midway in August. These efforts will help many more individuals move off the streets and into shelter.”

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