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Advocates upset with homeless sweep at Harborside Park, parents uneased with location

Homeless advocates say this only hurts the homeless, especially because there are no shelters available.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — The city of Chula Vista conducted a homeless sweep Wednesday afternoon, displacing homeless from their tents that the have set up at Harborside Park.

“It was always a place that attracted people that needed shelter,” said Mayor Mary Salas.

Hours after homeless people returned to the park,CBS 8 asked Mayor Mary Salas what other alternative solutions the city came up with to help families and the homeless community.

“At the moment it's a band-aid, I'll admit that putting up a screen between the park is a band-aid solution, it certainly isn’t the answer. but at least the children won’t be exposed to what happens in the park,” said Mayor Salas.

Right now a chain-linked fence is what separates the school and the park–with more fencing being built soon to block the school.

The park is also near the human services agency building where unsheltered people visit everyday.

Off camera one homeless man tells CBS 8 that housing services being offered in Chula Vista could take weeks even months.

“We need single room occupancy units, we need permanent supportive housing,” said Homeless advocate Mandy Lien.

The city has plans to renovate the park, more like a community center where they could have activities, even a senior center there.

Homeless advocates say the system is broken and Chula Vista has very few services to protect people living on the street.

Adding that harborside park just proves that very little is being done for homeless people.

“Having people reside in a park that has no water, no restroom, behind a school is not great. this is not helping anyone,” said Homeless advocate Many Lien.

The city will be having more discussion about harborside park next Monday in their city council meeting. 

Harborside Park in Chula Vista has become an area where unsheltered people set up their campsite, either on the park or near it.

However, recently the number of homeless making their way to this park has grown to dozens.

Which has brought up safety concerns from families in the area since the park is located just a few feet away from Harborside Elementary School where children as young as five are attending.

“You drive by there and unfortunately they are drinking and doing drugs and it's so close to the school, it's not safe for any parent. Kids walk by themselves,” said Paty Garcia, a mother who says she took her son out of Harborside Elementary because of the homeless issue.

CBS 8 drove to Harborside park and witnessed more than ten campsites set up around the park. There are also chain link fences separating the homeless park from the school, but chain link fencing does not provide enough privacy, which is why the city has increased enforcement.

On the phone, a spokesperson for the city says Harborside park has become an ongoing problem. 

They also say they recognize the urgency of this issue and will be adding more fencing and screening.

While some parents are concerned, others say it's wrong to shelter their children from the harsh reality that is San Diego's cost of living. 

“This is real life, and they must know that this happens,” said Nacho Eliza, a father in Chula Vista.

Despite growing concerns from neighbors, homeless advocates say those camping at the park do not disturb the people or students around the area.

Church organizations even gather every month to provide resources to those living on the streets.

“There’s others that want to get help and get out, our ministry is connected to a lot of resources,” said Miguel Flores, a pastor for The Secret Church in Chula Vista. The church organization gave out food, hygiene bags and other resources for dozens of homeless on Saturday.  

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles the city passed an ordinance that bans homeless encampments from being within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers, bringing questions about whether Chula Vista will pass a similar ordinance. 

Chula Vista is in dire need of more parks, but the city confirmed that in the next coming weeks it could possibly decide whether to close Harborside park. 

The city gave no additional information to CBS 8 on the possible decision. 

WATCH RELATED: Mayors from across San Diego County meet to address homelessness crisis (Aug. 2022).

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