In communities like Pacific Beach or the Gaslamp District, avenues lined with restaurants, bars and storefronts are bustling from sun up to sun down under normal circumstances.
However, since coronavirus-related orders have shut down the majority of businesses there’s next to zero activity along once heavily congested streets. Some say the near desolation has drawn unsheltered homeless to stake claim under vacant doorways and awnings, creating unsanitary conditions and a higher likelihood of COVID-19 transmission.
Pacific Beach resident James Carroll is just one person voicing concern.
“It’s becoming a problem,” said Carroll. “If people don't want to get off the street and get cleaned, that could perpetuate the spread of the virus."
San Diego Police Department Captain Scott Wahl heads the neighborhood policing team that includes the department's Homeless Outreach Team.
Despite some homeless people huddled in groups, ignoring physical distancing, Wahl said his teams have been out educating the homeless on how to protect themselves and others from the virus.
And in coastal communities like Pacific Beach that may attract transients, outreach programs are planned to help find housing for unsheltered individuals.
“Each person has unique needs and we try to match folks up with the right programs the right shelters and the right services to help them get on their feet again," said Wahl.
More than 900 homeless people are being housed in the San Diego Convention Center. The city first moved people from smaller shelters into the convention center, then shifted their focus last week to people still living on the street.
Another concerns of some residents is the litter left behind by people abandoning their sidewalk posts. It’s an issue Wahl claims his department is doing tis best to mitigate.
“When we connect folks with the resources that are available, we're able to come back and clean up litter and debris and in some cases sanitized if necessary, Wahl said.
Outreach teams will be visiting Balboa Park and Ocean Beach this week, and the Pacific Beach area next week, according to Wahl.
“No one wants anyone to get sick. No one wants anyone to die. Everybody, we’re human beings, we want people to get help if they need it,” said Carroll.
During the outbreak, SDPD said it’s offering shelter first, and issuing citations and arrests as a last resort.