Until last week, casual observers wouldn’t have suspected that Morro Bay had a homeless problem. The only visible reminders of the very poor were a few panhandlers that could sometimes be seen in the Albertson’s shopping center and the road-ragged hitchhikers standing alongside Highway One looking for rides.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- CLEANED FROM THE CREEK : On Aug. 24, the Morro Bay Police Department and California Conservation Corps pulled nearly enough trash and supplies from illegal campsites along Morro Creek to fill two large dumpsters. Also found were 18 syringes, four pipes, and 10 buckets of human waste.
For the most part, homelessness was kept out of sight, out of mind.
That changed on Aug. 24, when the police department led a major cleanup effort at Morro Creek. According to Commander Bryan Millard, workers almost filled two large dumpsters with trash, junk, tents, and supplies. They also found 18 syringes, three crack pipes, a weed pipe, and 10 buckets of human waste.
A total of 17 illegal campsites were dismantled and removed from the area, forcing the homeless to dwell elsewhere. No altercations occurred during the operation, Millard said.
“We don’t want to issue citations, but we will monitor the park and discourage re-occupation,” Millard said. “We understand they’ll come back eventually, but the goal is to keep it as minimal as possible.”
New Times obtained copies of inter-departmental e-mails that set the cost of the operation at $3,000 and show the city had been considering the cleanup since at least February. Millard postponed the operation to avoid displacing people during the rainy season.
The department also sought advice from the San Luis Obispo Police Department, whose two-officer team is in charge of patrolling transient camps three to four days a week.
The manager of a restaurant near Morro Creek told New Times she’s had less trouble with homeless people taking napkins and plastic ware in the days following Aug. 24, but a supervisor at a grocery store downtown said she’s seen a sudden, drastic increase in panhandlers.
Homeless advocates estimate that roughly a dozen people had been living in semi-permanent shelters by the creek at the time of the clean up. Five of the sites were believed to be abandoned.