The city hasn’t cleared the homeless out of East Village for years, because it didn’t have anywhere to send them.
Now, due to a deadly hepatitis A outbreak, the push is on. But the city still has no good place to put the thousands of people who had turned the streets of East Village into its own version of Skid Row.
For two years, tents, tarps and shopping carts covered sidewalks on both sides of a stretch of 17th Street. Police activity and human suffering ran rampant, and nearby resident and business owners complained constantly about drug use, violence and blocked sidewalks.
Now police have cleared East Village sidewalks, a move they say was spurred by the need to power-wash the area.
“We are trying to save lives,” Police Lt. Scott Wahl said. “We are trying to get on top of this hepatitis A outbreak.”
The city has for years resisted creating legal permanent camps where the homeless are allowed to set up tents without being cited by police. The hepatitis outbreak grew in part as a result of the illegal, makeshift camps that sprung up as a result.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
Another prime motivator is that several large condo and apartment projects are opening very soon in this very area. No doubt the owners of these projects are well connected with City Hall and have a de facto "understanding" to clean up this area at this exact point in time.
Isn't there a long history between law enforcement and the homeless in that area. I remember a few years back when it rained cops were cutting the rain flies off of tents. The guy handing out water gets accosted by the cops. The argument that homeless people don't want help is, well. Say you went BK and ordered a burger and it has a worm in it. You probably wouldn't go back. Or maybe you would.
Two detailed stories in Sunday U-T highlight just how much advance warning the city had about the possibility of this Hepatitis outbreak and what they did about it (hint: see above story). I think city attitude toward one temporary fix, porta-potties, which the city has resisted mightily, is summed up by a quote from a statement attributed to former council member Marti Emerald, a bleeding heart if I ever saw one, ""We're too classy a city to have a bunch of plastic porta potties around". Well, maybe.....
If this quote is inaccurate, Emerald might sue, but she'll have to get in line behind the relatives of homeless who died from Hepatitis, at last count, 17.
These actions are compounding a series of bad decisions by the Mayor, that has now created the deadliest hepatitis epidemic in the nation. The mortality rate is twice the national average. The last thing sick people need is to be "swept" and sent to jail. They need counseling, services and housing- ASAP.
Harassment, citations and arrests exacerbate the spread & severity of hepatitis by forcing people away from healthcare, counseling and other services. And San Diego County jails only recently began providing vaccinations to people in custody- after ignoring a Grand Jury recommendation to do so, back in 2013. When sick people go into detention, they carry the hepatitis virus into another vulnerable population living in close quarters.
This is why criminalizing homeless people by repeatedly arresting and incarcerating them for encroachment and other petty crimes makes them understandably fearful of authorities, and also can make them sicker. A criminal record also threatens their eligibility for programs and services to get them into safe, permanent housing.
In June, Martha Sullivan and I wrote an OpEd on behalf of "Voices of The City" coalition for this publication. (see: http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/opinion/theres-quick-way-house-homeless/)
We noted that "Currently, homeless people are not having their most basic physical and safety needs met in San Diego. They struggle with hepatitis, mental illness, exposure to heat and other hazards" and suggested solutions. We offered examples of ways Seattle has provided safe, secure temporary housing for people who are otherwise living on sidewalks and contributing to the sanitation problems that have contributed to the hepatitis epidemic.
While these models are not the perfect long term solution for homelessness, they make more sense from a health and safety perspective than the course of action the Mayor has chosen. Under his direction, it's more likely that San Diego will experience more exposures, more infections, and additional deaths from the hepatitis outbreak.
@lorisaldana "The last thing sick people need is to be 'swept' and sent to jail. They need counseling, services and housing- ASAP."
Shouldn't jail provide those things?
@David Crossley @Derek Hofmann @lorisaldana A 2013 Grand Jury Report (yes, another one) recommended changes to vaccination protocols in the jails, to avoid this type of epidemic. The Sheriff and the County's Chief Administrative Officer both declined to accept their recommendations.
"Many aren’t accepting shelter or other services.Wahl said just 31 of 182 homeless San Diegans police have encountered have accepted help." This 31 of 182 is actually a higher than normal number of people accepting help. Almost 15%!
The Alpha Project experiment in Hillcrest 2015/16 had over 8,000 (non-police) contacts with the estimated 1,200 to 1,800 homeless in the uptown Hillcrest neighborhood. Of that 18 (yes just 18) accepted longer term help and were moved into transitional housing. The vast majority of the current homeless population choose not to accept help to change their sleeping or restroom situations. Most will take food, water, & clothing, but actually moving off the street was not a popular option.
The Hep A health crisis seems to come on the back of a larger mental health crisis. Until that mental health crisis is addressed, we are where we are, and will likely stay there for a while.
Such a tragic state of affairs…. Cleaning up East Village – pushing the homeless and indigent population out of East Village to combat Hepatitis. I am not a medical person but it seems to me, that the powers that be, have just contributed to the spread of Hepatitis to outlying neighborhoods; Balboa Park, Golden Hills, Bankers Hill, Little Italy, Hillcrest, University Heights, North Park will soon be areas of new outbreaks. The homeless cannot live in a vacuum.