Homeless people who face a ticket or arrest by San Diego police officers now get a chance to have the infraction cleared.
But only if they agree to live for 30 days in one of the city’s large shelters.
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The program could help fix lives and make people connected with services, while also allowing officers to enforce laws on the street, San Diego police Capt. Scott Wahl told the Union-Tribune.
“I feel like we’ve started this division because we wanted to be a positive impact on ending homelessness,” Wahl said about the department’s neighborhood policing division that was formed last year.
“We’re all trying to do our part in ending homelessness, and we want to do it in a way that’s compassionate, but also has accountability,” he said.
Wahl said about 300 people took the offer, but there was a problem.
“We noticed that 67 percent of people blew out the back door on the very first day,” he said about people who took the offer to avoid citations but had no intention of staying sheltered. “They’re circumventing the criminal justice system intentionally.”
People who agree to take the deal are free to come and go during the day, but they have to stay at night in the shelter.
The program arranged 50 of the 128 beds at a new downtown shelter operated by the Alpha Project is kept for homeless people brought in by police.
Some advocates for homeless people have shown concerns about the incentive program, they said that reserving shelter beds for people brought in by police reduces the number available for others who want beds.
Homeless advocate Michael McConnell said he is worried about people who walk away from the shelter before completing 30 days.They could find that prosecutors use that information against them in court.
Bob McElroy, president, and CEO of the Alpha Project, said, he believes people have been staying longer in recent weeks, and he sees some potential for the program.
“That month allows us to find out who they are, and they can find out who we are,” he said.
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