housingMilitant Journalism

Homeless community in San Diego resists police terror and demands safe housing

Early on the morning of Feb. 14, several dozen advocates, including the San Diego County Homeless Union and the Poor Peoples’ Campaign, gathered in defense of an encampment of unhoused community members in the Point Loma neighborhood of San Diego. Mayor Todd Gloria said on Twitter that citations and sweeping of the encampment would begin this week.

People living at the encampment in Point Loma decided to collectively organize in order to resist their displacement. The unhoused neighbors are cleaning up the space with brooms and rakes, sharing resources, self-policing drug use and violence and even secured legal representation through an on-site legal attorney.

Despite these efforts, the San Diego Police Department was out in force on Valentine’s Day to issue citations and carry out arrests at an industrial park off of Sports Arena Boulevard. This strip of land is a last-ditch respite for those seeking shelter or awaiting permanent housing through the state.

Political nature of housing laid bare

“We really just want three things,” Coleen Cusack, the attorney representing more than 20 of the residents at this encampment told Liberation News while handing out breakfast. “These people need a clean shelter, a solitary shelter that will accommodate pets and children, and a COVID-free shelter. Right now, that isn’t what the city is offering. We will stay out here until the city responds with a real plan.”

“Fight poverty not the poor.” Liberation photo

Last week, Democratic Mayor Todd Gloria announced he was sending in the police during a week-long program with the stated purpose of providing shelter, services and sanitation for the more than 100 people now residing at the encampment known locally as “Death Row.”

However, residents suspect ulterior motives.

“C,” who asked to be identified by their first initial out of fear of police reprisal, told Liberation News, “[The police] have been arresting people all week already, down in Balboa Park, without adequate warning. We think it’s got to be because there is this homeless count on April 24, and Todd Gloria just wants the numbers to look good to improve his approval rating on the issue of homeless people and housing. He doesn’t care about us. It’s messed up.”

We need systemic solutions, not bandages

Politicians like Todd Gloria argue that the current quantity and quality of homeless shelters is adequate for San Diego’s homeless population. Some right-wing officials even claim that these community members prefer to be on the street rather than accept government aid.

Liberation News found this to be demonstrably false, as evidenced by our conversations with people on the ground.

A member of the California Homeless Union poses for a picture. Liberation photo

Tim, the lead officer of the San Diego Homeless Union told us, “What we need now is housing. Shelters are just band-aid solutions. People judge us by our cover and not by who we really are. Me, I am a leader. I have never been a follower. And I want to help lead people to fight for their housing rights.” Tim went on to talk about his involvement in this movement for affordable housing, which dates back to the 1980s — highlighting the multi-generational character of this struggle.

C said he would happily receive aid and attend a safe shelter if one was available: “We want the shelter, but you don’t want all the unfair rules that go along with it, like you can’t bring your dog or your belongings. The shelters are rarely clean and there’s always positive COVID cases right up next to you.”

Citations and arrests will continue throughout the week at 7 a.m. each day. This terroristic program is anticipated to culminate in the removal or destruction of any personal property left on site by the end of the week. Residents at the encampment remain determined and encourage those interested in supporting to come out in person and to help hold elected officials accountable for neglecting our unhoused neighbors during a global pandemic.

Featured image: A police officer stands in front of protest signs, one reading, “How does that move them into housing?” Liberation photo

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