San Marcos one of first to move forward with encampment ban after US Supreme Court ruling

SAN MARCOS, Calif. (FOX 5/KUSI) — Just weeks after the Supreme Court granted more power to local leaders over the ongoing homeless crisis, San Marcos has joined the growing list of communities with an encampment ban. Tuesday night, in a four to one decision, the city council voted to impose new restrictions on homeless encampments.

The annual Point in Time count shows that San Marcos has seen a rise in its homeless population over the last year. Now, the city has more authority to address the issue.

Lee Mild has been living beneath the San Marcos sun for around 20 weeks. It’s summer now, and highs are in the 80s, but it’s home. 

“I would say I’m homeless, but I know I’ll be fine for the night,” Mild said.

She is one of 35 people in the area who have transitioned to living outside over the past year. The region’s annual Point in Time count shows this is a growing trend. In 2023, that number was only two.

Now, San Marcos is looking to follow the example of its neighbors down south. Tuesday night, leaders discussed limiting encampments like Mild’s with more authority.

“With the adoption of the ordinance, we would ban camping for anyone in public spaces,” one official said.

Initially, citations were only allowed if there was shelter available, but following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in late June, tickets don’t need to be tied to the number of open beds.

“We’re trying to move this from a crisis to a manageable situation,” said State Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones. “Every time we clean up one of those encampments, there’s an opportunity to get that person off the street and into permanent housing.”

The decision has revived movement at the state level, where Jones hopes to implement a statewide camping ban with Senate Bill 1011.

Advocates like Holly Herring, however, have been pushing against the move, calling it criminalization.

“You’ve gotta come up with something more than just criminal enforcement,” Herring said. “Before, we were offering a punitive punishment for not accepting something that was available; now, we can offer that punishment regardless.”

It’s a new age of governance over the homeless, and the changes could soon begin in San Marcos, meaning Mild will need to find a new place to stay.

The ordinance now moves forward for final approval at the next city council meeting. Once given the final green light, the ordinance will go into effect 30 days later.

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