Hundreds Gather in Lakeside, Concerned About Proposed Homeless Shelter

If approved, the homeless shelter will consist of about 60 individual sleeping cabins on a vacant lot located off Riverford Road, next to A-1 Self Storage

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Several residents in Lakeside are not happy about a potential new homeless shelter being considered in their community.

About 300 people gathered at the Lakeside Rodeo grounds Thursday night to voice concerns and learn facts about the county’s proposed shelter.

NBC 7's Artie Ojeda takes a look at where the homeless shelter will be built.

If approved, the homeless shelter will consist of about 60 individual sleeping cabins on a vacant lot located off Riverford Road, next to A-1 Self Storage.

Some are concerned this location is too close to a school, a retirement community and a local business.

Amirra Milner is the property manager of A-1 Self Storage which has 24-hour access. She said the homeless would need to use their parking lot to get to the shelter. She's also concerned about customers not wanting to come to their units if the homeless are around. Additionally, Milner said it exposes the company to potential theft.

During the standing-room-only town hall, San Diego County Board Supervisor Joel Anderson -- who represents the district -- said, “I’m trying to be as transparent as possible,” as he explained why the small community needs a homeless shelter.

“It has to be in Lakeside,” Anderson said. “Cause, why should anybody else’s community have your homeless?”

According to the San Diego Regional Taskforce on Homelessness, East County has the second highest amount of unsheltered at 1,712, compared to City of San Diego’s 4,801.

In Lakeside, the number of homeless has more than doubled over the past year, from 24 in 2020 to 63 in 2022. More complaints have been received and if a shelter is not built, legally, law enforcement cannot ask the homeless to leave their campsites, Anderson added.

“So, I want to make sure that there’s a path to help these people off the street and it’s compassionate,” Anderson said. “But on the same token, for those who choose to squat on other people’s property, that’s not right either and we’re gonna enforce those laws.”

Many have asked why not put the shelter in a commercial, industrial area. Anderson replied that this was the best location according to analysts.

Clients would be referred and dropped off by county outreach staff, not allowing walk-ins. Twenty-four-hour, on-site security would also be provided.

Mary Balicki has lived in Lakeside nearly two decades. She said, “There’s a lot of people who have mental issues. I commend all the people who are helping those, and I agree with that, but there’s a lot of them that are looking for the free ride and we’re feeding ‘em.”

“The way I look at, if you have a hundred homeless people and you talk to 10, and 10 accept help, you’re making progress,” Lakeside resident Richard Abraham said. “But right now, doing nothing means they stay in the river bottoms and they’re just everywhere.”

If approved, the county would have to lease the property from the Lakeside Water District. Anderson told NBC 7 it’s unclear how many years the temporary shelter would be in operation but it’s likely between two to five years.

Anderson said he’s going to take tonight’s concerns to the county so that more hearings can be held. This project is still at least several months away from being approved.

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