CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Chula Vista city leaders are trying to get ahead of the growing homeless population. This comes after San Diego began enforcing its encampment ban. Now, the South Bay city says it’s looking to its neighbor for reference.
“Earlier I was passing by, and I saw these guys and I knew I had to stop and get them dinner,” shared Jake Stonebreaker, a longtime Chula Vista resident who was providing food to the homeless Monday evening.
The area and people he’s referring to are a group of unhoused people camped right across the street from the county’s Health and Human Services building along Oxford St. It’s where Chieko Tanaka and her husband set up their tent Monday as she and others flock to the South Bay; some, choosing a tent over shelter for now.
“It’s not safe. You’re actually more at risk going into the shelter than you are on the street,” Tanaka said.
After San Diego’s controversial encampment ban, Chula Vista Mayor John McCann says more unhoused people are migrating to the city of Chula Vista. He’s now pushing for a similar approach given the ongoing rise.
According to city data, the homeless population jumped from around 200 to 300 from last year to this year.
“If there is an open space, a park, or a city open area…we won’t have the homeless create an encampment…We want to make sure we get our homeless off the street, give them housing, give them the ability to get better,” McCann said.
However, like the debate brewing in San Diego, not all agree with this tactic; especially after closing down Harborside Park, a known spot for the unhoused.
“A camping ban is the exact opposite of what we need here,” shared Sebastian Martinez who is the executive director of local homeless services nonprofit called Community Through Hope. He warns the city is unable to accommodate proper housing solutions if the ban were to one day take effect.
“If a camping ban happened today, we would just be going up, citing somebody, probably removing them from their property, and there is no room for them to go,” Martinez went on to say.
The city of Chula Vista is currently looking to turn a local motel into a housing option, along with transforming the parking lot into a safe sleeping spot. It also opened a 65-unit bridge shelter option, but homeless advocates say it’s not enough.
Moving forward, the mayor says council will receive a report from city staff within the next month to help decide how council will draft a similar ordinance.