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San Diego may soon resume citing homeless for illegal lodging

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A deal is in the works that would allow police, under certain conditions, to resume ticketing homeless people who are illegally sleeping on downtown San Diego's streets.

Under the tentative agreement, police could only issue an illegal lodging ticket to a transient if there is an available shelter bed and the individual refuses to take it, Deputy City Attorney Dan Bamberg told the City Council on Tuesday.

The deal should be finalized in about two weeks, he said.

A lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Diego in 2004 by several attorneys on behalf of homeless people who got citations, sought an end to the issuance of illegal lodging ticketing by police.

They argued that there were not enough beds in San Diego to accommodate the homeless, and therefore they should not be issued a fine when there was no viable alternative to sleeping outside.

The city reached a settlement in 2007 and was ordered by a federal judge to stop issuing illegal lodging citations to people sleeping on city streets between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

Police were still permitted to issue citations for other violations, including public intoxication, vandalism or trespassing.

"We have reached an agreement, the details of which are being I's dotted and T's crossed, to get the judge to change the order and the settlement agreement as it once stood," Bamberg said.

The announcement that the city may once again be permitted to hand out illegal lodging citations came at the start of a hearing on the establishment of a permanent homeless center in downtown.

The City Council voted unanimously to enter into negotiations with a developer and service provider to finalize plans to convert the World Trade Center building into a one-stop homeless center.

Plans call for an on-site medical clinic, mental health screening, drug and alcohol treatment, counseling and living space for up to 223 people in both long-term supportive housing and emergency shelter beds.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who represents downtown, has pushed to make settlement of the illegal lodging dispute a provision of approval of the homeless center.


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