This is Part One in a series on the hidden homeless families of San Diego’s South Bay.
The evening of Jan. 29, 2014, 15-year-old Noemi Mendez and her older brother Elias stepped off the curb into a crosswalk as the walk signal flashed.
At the same corner, a semi-truck carrying produce from Mexico made a right turn as its light turned green. The driver didn’t see the teenagers. The front of the truck knocked Mendez to the ground. As her brother tried to help her flee the truck’s path, the side of the truck knocked Elias back and the rear wheels ran over Mendez, killing her.
The accident occurred in Otay Mesa, a heavily industrial section of San Diego that borders Mexico.
Those reports missed a tragic part of the story – the reason two teenagers were walking in an industrial area where few pedestrians ever go.
We Stand Up For You. Will You Stand Up For Us?
there are so many issues intertwined in this story. As a business owner and involved person in the otay mesa area for over 20 years, there are a few observations i would like to make.
1) You speak about the overcrowding in the schools and some basic services being provided by the schools in the south bay region. There is a large student population of students who cross the border daily from tijuana to san diego, just to attend school. They use "false" or temporary address. This is not fair to the students who live in those districts and whose education has to suffer because of this influx of students who have no legal right to be taught in these school districts. They also absorb and take up a lot of the services that are being mentioned in this article and subsequent articles written by the voice of san diego.
2) If you think the problem of kids vs trucks is a problem now in Otay Mesa. Just wait. The city rezoned hundreds of acres from industrial to residential in the last few years and hundreds of single familly and multi family residential units will be built immediately adjacent to all the industrial buildings, trucking yards and yes 1000's of trucks that use otay mesa daily to transact business. Though all these issues were "fought" out in otay mesa by interested parties over the last 15 years the City still approved this new updated Planning Document a few years ago.
3) I am not going to comment on the homeless issue, as i have no expertise on that subject. But allowing people to live in dangerous situations in the long run does not benefit any of us. People living in junk yards, onr unzoned vacant property, needs to be dealt with and not let the issue be swept under the rug.
Thank you for this report. Hard to believe this is happening in the 8th largest city in the United States.
Hidden homelessness is an epidemic that impacts not only these families, but our schools at many levels. Students often can't learn due to stress, poor health, inadequate/poor quality food etc. Then they drop out of school or move so often they fail to graduate for other reasons.
This is true in many parts of San Diego County as people live in converted/clandestine garages, makeshift storage units, etc. and are forced to move multiple times.
As for the stress this creates for the parents- this sums it up: "“I suffered a lot to make sure that I had food for my kids,” Rios said."
Thanks for researching this.
As I was reading this story, I kept wondering about the immigration status of the many people interviewed. As for the poor girl killed, it was ruled that she was not culpable in any way? I see idiots walking across the street daily, often against the light, and many are staring into the hypnotic cell phone or iPad, and I wonder why more don't get run down.
On that $10.75 mil judgement, who was sued, the trucking company, the city and/or county, and how was the penalty apportioned?
Good reporting - we need more stories of the homeless families and children to take the focus off what many consider just adult reprobates and addicts living on San Diego's streets. No matter what else, the children NEVER choose this lifestyle and yet they are consigned to live it.
Thanks for bringing this much-needed perspective on homelessness and those who live in the worst conditions amid the wealth of our city. .