San Diego's first ‘Safe Sleeping' site opening Thursday in Golden Hill

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At least two dozen tents, complete with a bed and blanket, were set up on the back lot inside the city’s Central Operations Yard ahead of the opening of a new safe sleeping site.

The plan is to pitch up to 136 tents to accommodate up to 150 unsheltered people at the lot at B Street and 20th near Pershing Drive.

“The safe sleeping site is not just a safe place to sleep, it's a place for people experiencing homelessness to be connected to the services they need to get off on their feet,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said during a news conference.

The site is a critical piece of the recently-passed ordinance that bans camping near schools, parks, homeless shelters and transit centers.

“This is about preventing disease,” Mayor Gloria said. “This is about preventing canyon fires. This is about keeping homeless people safe from the violence and exploitation of predatory drug dealers.”

Currently, hundreds of tents line the streets of Downtown San Diego.

“Everyone is out here for very different reasons,” said Kathy Parker, a resident of the Alpha Project shelter.

Parker was living with her husband in a tent downtown up until recently after being evicted from their apartment last year. Three weeks ago everything changed when her husband was killed on these same streets.

“My husband got shot and killed in cold blood,” Parker said.

That’s when she decided she needed to look for help with the Alpha Project.

“I hope it doesn't take a tragedy like it did for me,” said Parker.

Either way, in just over a month, most won’t have a choice.

Once the city’s new unsafe camping ordinance takes effect it will be against the law to camp out in most public places when there is a shelter bed available.

Police will first approach the people living in tents and offer shelter. If they decline, they will receive a warning. In the second encounter, police will issue a misdemeanor citation, and the third encounter will result in an arrest.

A second site at Balboa Park's “O Lot" is expected to open this fall. This site will count 400 tents. 

City officials say education about the new ordinance is already underway and that both nonprofit organizers and police officers are out on the streets making sure everyone is informed. 

The ordinance goes into effect on July 30.

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