Homeless: Persona Non Grata

At Petco Park, MLB All-Star Game

San Diego will be rolling out a red carpet at Petco Park next month, as host of Major League Baseball's All-Star game.

But there won't be a welcome mat for the homeless anywhere in the vicinity. 

The city got an international black eye in 1989, when police tore down homeless camps in East Village right before the Soviet Arts Festival. 

On Thursday, folks roosting on a 14th Street sidewalk near Petco Park told NBC 7 that officers already have been moving them away from Tailgate Park, citing the All-Star game. 

“Five o'clock in the morning, they’re waking us up. We're hungry,” said Michael Lindsey, pivoting as though he were responding to an officer. “You're not coming with a meal saying 'Hey, here's something to eat.' Do you need a place to stay?' You're asking us for IDs and telling us we can't live here." 

A homeless woman who identified herself only as Kristen added: “What's been happening is, every day they're coming out here trying to put the pressure on you. But where can we go? There's no solution."

You don't have to travel far from Petco Park to find shanty-tent colonies occupied by "displaced individuals” who roam well into downtown and east of Interstate 5. 

The city recently installed jagged rock formations under the freeway along Imperial Avenue, where homeless were camping beneath an I-5 overpass. 

The explanation from city hall was that it was in response to safety concerns of Sherman Heights residents. 

But internal email traffic indicates it was a pre-All Star game priority -- and that a similar project was planned around Tailgate Park, but didn’t go forward due to lack of time to complete it before the All-Star fesitivities.

City officials were leery of talking Thursday about the likely need for police "cleanup" sweeps based on violations of Municipal, Health and Safety Code sections. 

They said they're all about focusing on long-term, integrated rehabilitation, social services, transitional and permanent housing programs. 

But longtime homeless advocates say it's an uphill battle getting enough property, money and public commitment.

“We do call them 'cleanups'”, said Bob McElroy, CEO of the Alpha Project for the Homeless. “But we're actually herding people from one block to another block over the decades, because there is no place for people to go -- there's no central intake facility here, no central site. So we're all frustrated."

Lt. Scott Wahl, spokesman for the San Diego Police Dept., sent NBC 7 this statement regarding the situation:

"Our officers conduct outreach on a daily basis, offering beds and services to homeless individuals and veterans in an effort to help them get off the streets and end the cycle of chronic homelessness."

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