Ashley Matthews

Homeless Encampments Highest on Record in SD Riverbed

Homeless camps along the San Diego River in Mission Valley have surged to an all-time high as law enforcement increases downtown in an effort to control the Hepatitis A outbreak.

This month, the San Diego River Park Foundation counted 101 homeless camps in Mission Valley.

The same area was counted last October and there were only 56 camps.

"It's kind of isolated in certain spots where you can camp," said Robert Gerald, who frequents the river camps. "It's not quite as dangerous as downtown."

Gerald used live on the streets downtown, but a few months ago decided to come to Mission Valley, mostly spending his time by the river.

"I would say on average, for a handful of weeks, then eventually you have to move on for one reason or another," Gerald said. "Something usually runs you out."

Mission Valley residents told NBC7 they are also noticing an increase in the homeless population on Mission Valley streets and outside of stores.

"I used to go to the Ralph's and I stopped doing that just because I've seen such an increase," said a nearby resident, Elaina Brown. "I just tend to stay closer to home, I don't go to certain areas anymore." 

Recently, the city stepped up efforts along the riverbed.

City officials told NBC7 that in recent weeks crews have removed approximately 20 tons of material, mostly trash.

The city also sent the Homeless Outreach Team to give Hepatitis A vaccines and offered housing options and other services to the homeless.

Some living nearby, however, still question if it will be enough. 

"It definitely worries me," Brown said. "And then it's also, what's the long-term solution?" 

The San Diego River Park Foundation estimates about 2.5 people live in each camp. That would mean that about 250 people are currently living along the river in Mission Valley.

The county releases new numbers every Tuesday on the Hepatitis A outbreak.

So far, 19 people have died of the virus, and there have been 516 cases reported.

The homeless population is considered the most at-risk.

Contact Us