Rocks were placed along a stretch of S. Oceanside Boulevard this week to prevent homeless residents from illegally camping on public property. Instead, some were given a voucher to live in a hotel for free for a month.
The new anti-camping ordinance and emergency motel voucher program were passed last week as part of the city of Oceanside's new plan to transition the homeless community into permanent housing.
For 54-year-old Anthony Ramirez, it meant having to find another option.
“Yeah, it was a crazy day, man,” said Ramirez, as he sat in a chair along South Oceanside Boulevard across the street from a paint store.
“Having money, having my own place, I miss all that. I really do,” he sighed.
Ramirez said he has been sleeping in the tent next to his chair for about a week. There were eight more tents to his right.
To his left? A long row of large tan rocks.
The City of Oceanside removed almost 30 tents along that stretch Wednesday and replaced them with the rocks.
Oceanside City Councilman Christopher Rodriguez, who voted for the new plan, said that was to prevent the homeless encampment from returning. Under the new $600,000 city-sponsored voucher program, 28 people living inside the tents were given a room at a motel for four weeks and offered rehabilitation and assistance services.
The voucher program includes daily check-ins, monitors room cleanliness, personal hygiene and health of participants, among other criteria.
Rodriguez said the city doesn’t want people illegally camping on public property and the voucher program gives them the option of moving the people while giving them assistance. He said the homeless are humans and the city is treating them like clients.
Ramirez said he wanted to be a part of the first wave of vouchers, but just missed the cut off.
“It looks bad in the community, being set up here, living here,” agreed Ramirez. “I mean, it’s not what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to have your own place.”
Rodriguez said the city is working on finding money for more rooms for the others by next week.
Nathanael Soli owns and operates Oceanside Jiu Jitsu right across the street from the encampment.
“It’s been a struggle down here for about the past six or eight months. It’s been a struggle,” Soli said.
He said the homeless numbers have grown the past few years. Soli said most of them are harmless but admitted his clients and other businesses are concerned.
“Drunk people or people that are under the influence that will wander into the property,” he said.
Soli said he doesn’t think there’s a single simple solution for the problem.
“You should just approach the problem on a case-by-case basis and not generalize or think it’s just a group of people,” said Soli. “Being empathetic towards everybody, not just homeless people or the businesses. It’s got to be a compromise between everybody.”
“I just want to get over this, I really do,” said Ramirez.
He’s hoping his disability kicks in and he can get his own place.
“I will do anything to not be here, but I have no choice.”