San Diego

Serra Mesa Residents Demand Resolution on Homeless Encampments in Canyons

Many tell NBC7 homeless encampments continue to grow in canyons and bring danger

What to Know

  • 17 people have died and 461 cases have been confirmed in San Diego's Hepatitis A outbreak
  • A third of the cases involved people who used illicit drugs and are considered homeless.
  • As of September 23, more than 42,000 Hep A vaccines have been administered in San Diego County.

Serra Mesa residents expressed anger and frustration at a community forum Wednesday night about the growth of homeless encampments in their neighborhood. 

At the forum with San Diego police officers, residents said they worry about fires starting in canyons, and the spread of the Hepatitis A outbreak, which has left 17 dead across the County.

"If we have a Santa Ana, the whole neighborhood would go up," said Serra Mesa resident, Monica Fuentes.

Authorities have found several encampments in canyons. 

Deborah Martin, who has been homeless since 2006, lives in one of those canyon encampments.

She's been residing in Serra Mesa for the past few years, even after police gave her a notice to move. 

"They came in July and put a note up that said I had to move," Martin recalled. "So I took the whole house down and they never came back. So I just put it back up."

In many cases, police have to provide 72-hours’ notice to people living in encampments to vacate the area, before they clean it out.

Residents told NBC7 that at times, it takes police weeks to get back to check on the notices, so it's even harder to get the homeless out because the rule is not being enforced.

The threat of a brush fire -- something that concerns many nearby residents - is real. The canyon is filled with household items, clothes, candles and more. 

Martin said fires have broken out in the area recently.  

"I had a little house that was in the back, all the way up until March of this year, and someone set it on fire, and I lost everything," she said.

Many are also concerned about the ongoing Hepatitis A outbreak, one of the worst to ever hit the County.  

Martin told NBC7 she's taking precautions but knows many who are not taking the same precautions.

"I have hand sanitizer and I have a little system of water that I use to wash my hands,” she said. 

See NBC 7's coverage of the Hepatitis A outbreak here. 

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