The number of homeless people living in Santee has more than doubled over the last year, according to the Regional Task Force of the Homeless in San Diego County.
Many of the homeless are living at Santee riverbed, just south of Sportsplex USA in Santee. The area looks similar to a jungle and it’s off-limits.
Now, it has become a campsite for many homeless people.
“It depends on the time of year. During the summer we can have 45 people in the river bottom. Sometimes it will go up to 60 but they're generally transients,” said Santee Mayor Randy Veopel.
The Regional Task Force of the Homeless reported from 2015 to this year, the number of homeless people in Santee increased to 63 homeless people. That number is more than double the count from last year.
Mayor Veopel says there is a park full of kids nearby and it’s a cause for concern.
“They're here to do drugs, to sell drugs and that's a danger to our youth,” he said, speaking of the homeless living in the riverbed.
Lieutenant Damon Blankenbaker, from the Santee Sheriff's station says some of the transients feel safer in the riverbed because they see less violence than in the city.
But they are also seeing a higher percentage of calls related to homeless activity and crime.
“We've had strange occurrences in Santee because of violence in the lower river bottom toward San Diego,” he said.
“Over the past year, over 14% of the calls to us has related to transient or drug or homeless activity in the city. So, that's a huge number as far as what of our resources are dedicated to this."
The homeless outreach team sweeps through the Santee riverbed every week. For those who want help, the Sheriff's station is also involved in a regional enforcement assistance program.
“We offer it to them on the spot. We'll literally drive them from the location we spot them and take them wherever they need to go,” Blankenbaker said.
He says it’s not a crime to be homeless. But there are criminal activities going on among transients and that is what the Sheriff’s station wants to address.