SAN DIEGO — Neighbors in University Heights are very concerned about a growing problem with homeless encampments around the Vermont Street pedestrian bridge.
“I’ve lived here for a long time. This has been a problem for over 20 years,” said Jayson Coleman, while pointing under the bridge. “There’s a sleeping bag there. There’s an armoire there that was in the alley just last week.”
Under the bridge’s north entrance, one encampment in particular has been a major cause for concern.
“The guy originally had posts coming out here with barbed wire and he put a camera here to intimidate people from going down here,” said Coleman.
Coleman had first secured this fence with a lock and chain, but he says a homeless man took the entire gate off the hinges.
“This is dangerous. Children pass. Elderly pass,” said Coleman. “They’re going to set this place on fire? What’s the deal?”
Three weeks ago, a fire broke out in the encampment under the bridge and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department showed up to put it out.
“This was all green,” said Coleman while pointing at the embankment. “Look at how the fence is burnt. Look how close the house is right here.”
“It was so close to burning down my neighbor’s house,” said neighbor Dailyn Brown. “My house is just a few houses away. These houses are wooden houses, I mean, it would go up in a second.”
Over the years, several fires have been started under this bridge.
“They set the damn palm trees on fire,” said Coleman.
Neighbors keep reporting these problems and feel like they’re being ignored.
“It makes me feel angry and powerless. The city is not listening to us,” said neighbor John Ross.
Coleman has submitted three 'Get it Done' reports this month alone.
Since this area is next to the on-ramp for HWY-163, CBS 8’s Brian White reported the encampment issue to Caltrans in hopes they will send out a cleanup crew and secure the gate.
Meanwhile, Coleman and his neighbors remain frustrated about the ongoing problem.
“If we don’t come together and do something together, then nothing is going to be done,” said Coleman. “Everybody thinks the next guy is going to do it. Well, I’m not the next guy. I’m doing it now.”
CBS 8 reached out to City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn’s office and received this statement:
“The neighborhood has every right to voice these concerns. Residents don’t want people living in canyons and setting fires near their homes. The city is actively working to free our canyons, parks, and sidewalks of encampments. I have informed the appropriate officials of the issue at this location and will continue working on behalf of these residents. The city council has approved hundreds of new shelter beds that are opening this summer, and it’s important that the people living in this canyon take advantage of the shelter and services available to them.”
“We want to be safe. People have been robbed here on this bridge. People gather at night and sleep on the bridge. They throw trash on the bridge. They use the bathroom on the bridge.” said Coleman.
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