Dear Randy: Moms Around Town Refer to Santee's 'Homeless Park'

Resident: "I am writing you with my concerns with Town Center Park and the transients within the park. I want to enjoy the park as a community member and I feel that they are disgracing our parks!"

Town Center Park in Santee
Town Center Park in Santee
Santee Mayor Randy Voepel responds to resident letters and questions in his no-holds-barred style.


Dear Honorable Mayor Voepel,

I am writing you with my concerns with Town Center Park and the transients within the park. I want to enjoy the park as a community member and I feel that they are disgracing our parks! Today I went for a run around the park only to be welcomed with pot smoke as I was trying to fill my lungs with fresh air.

Not to mention the transient that was sleeping in the bathroom at the softball field last month! Kids are at the park daily! It is a disgrace that the community paid so much for a park only for it to be de-faced by the transients. The rumors around the "mom" community it that it is called "homeless" park. How EMBARRASSING for Santee! Please help this park! Santee needs it.
Thank you for your time.

Reply from the Mayor: 
You are exactly correct. I/your City Council, City Staff and Law Enforcement/Fire have been battling the Homeless problem in Santee for over 30 years (16 for me).

For years there have been 12-15 homeless in the Riverbottom, mostly older folks and long time Santee Riverbottom dwellers. Those homeless were about 1/3 mentally impaired, 1/3 drug or alcohol impaired and 1/3 down on their luck.

Today, unfortunately that has changed for the worst. There are now 30-45 homeless, with a majority of them younger methamphetamine (methheads, tweekers, etc.) and also more young women. Many of these people are up from the San Diego river area, ironically the violence levels are higher in San Diego and many feel safer in Santee.

This adds greater danger to our children and more petty crime to support their drug habits. Our Deputy Sheriffs sweep through the Riverbottom fairly often. I go on sweeps with them periodically (I am a Vietnam combat veteran). These sweeps are muddy, dangerous, smelly (human waste & worst) rough going.

Here is the drill: We cite them for illegal camping or other violations. After three citations they are often arrested. These arrests receive various short/medium jail terms.

Some get Court orders to stay out of Santee. However these homeless have constitutional protections just like you and I have. Due process and their human rights must be protected by law.

The City is also suffering from higher copper thefts, RV batteries and other property thefts. The homeless are mainly petty thefts. There are organized theft rings that specialize in RV batteries, copper and other items. This is a never-ending struggle for Santee.

We are STILL one of the lowest crime rate Cities in the County (surrounded by much higher crime rate areas) but as they say in the US Navy at sea; "Eternal vigilance is the price of safety". So Ms. Knierim, Our City and our Deputies will continue to work very hard at keeping a "zone of control" over the Riverbottom. Remember, this homeless problem has been with us since biblical times.

Randy Voepel
Mayor, City of Santee

COMMENT: Have you heard Town Center Park referred to as "Homeless Park"? Do you feel safe using the park?

See related stories:
Send your questions or comments on any topic, preferably a local issue, to steven.bartholow@patch.com, and we'll pass it onto Mayor Voepel, or reach out to him directly here.
Matthew T. Saadeh January 23, 2014 at 07:31 PM
*not solving
Gary Strawn January 24, 2014 at 01:26 PM
Just finished the annual homeless count along the San Diego River in Santee, from Carlton Oaks Golf Course to RCP. Found 17 or 18 camp /structures, which is down from this time last year. We did not count the camp on Forester Creek or the ones on San Diego City property between 52 and Westhills Pkwy. The problem remains serious, but it appears that the Santee is doing a good job of controlling the problems. The FACTS show that the perception of a huge and growing problem is not true. Thanks to Friends of Santee River Park, San Diego River Park Foundation volunteers and the City of Santee for their hard work. Gary Strawn PS We don't harass the homeless, we just haul the trash out of abandoned camps.
Steven Bartholow January 24, 2014 at 07:30 PM
Thanks for the info Gary! And for all your volunteer efforts. I spun off your comment into this post: http://santee.patch.com/groups/around-town/p/santee-homeless-count-finds-less-camps-than-last-year-says-volunteer
Circus Freakshow January 25, 2014 at 12:26 AM
So you make it easier for them to stay and live in an area illegally. While people the parks were built for avoid them or have to dodge trash and shield their children from a problem you assisted in creating. Thanks for the help. Maybe we should get our own teams together and make them move from the area ourselves? You know...take back OUR neighborhoods where WE pay TAXES for where WE live. Where WE are upstanding citizens and where WE don't try to leech or scavenge off others. This is pathetic.
Circus Freakshow January 26, 2014 at 10:42 AM
Here are the 3 ways the homeless problem in the county should be dealt with. (taken from UTSandiego.com comment) 1. Place the lazy and the addicted on work parties paving roads and cleaning parks. 2. Place the mentally ill back into hospitals where they can get treatment 3. Jail the ones who dont want to participate in option 1 or 2. It's pretty simple.


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