Dozens of tents and packed shopping carts line sidewalks and underpasses in gentrifying East Village. Homeless men and women, some of who have lived here for years and others more recently, gather for impromptu meals and overnight encampments.
Meanwhile, residents with often new condos and businesses look on, overwhelmed and unsure what to do. Many of them are new to the neighborhood, too.
Welcome to East Village, the front line of San Diego’s homelessness crisis.
Street homelessness is up countywide but the problem is growing at a particularly rapid clip here. The neighborhood’s homeless population has spiked nearly 80 percent – from about 480 to more than 865 – in the last year alone, according to a downtown business group’s monthly count.
Here’s a look at how much the unsheltered homeless population has grown in East Village in recent years – and how much this year’s growth is outstripping past trends.
Local leaders and nonprofits that serve the homeless are reluctant to point to any single reason for the upsurge in homelessness in East Village. The neighborhood’s long had a large homeless population. They say there are likely a number of reasons – everything from a dearth of affordable housing to stagnant wages and much more.
We Stand Up For You. Will You Stand Up For Us?
For all the rent I PAY in East Village I'm tired of looking at blocks of trash on17th and Fst. It's funny no homeless camps around the police station.
Perhaps another reason homeless people come here are because they are encouraged to do so by all the TV and print ads put out by the Tourism Marketing District. Those are targeted to convince people living in colder climes to come here during the winter months. Poor people have access to TVs and print advertising in other parts of the county. To what degree to all the ads portraying San Diego as a warm, sunny carefree place to live attract more homeless people from other parts of the country to come here, especially during the colder months of the year?
Here is a question for Lisa to follow up on: Is the County Detox Center still located in East Village? From what I've read, the county detox center has always served as a regional magnet bringing drunks downtown. If someone is picked up for being drunk in public anywhere in the county, the police transport them to the detox center, then refuse to return them to their pick up point after they sober up. For example, if a drunk is picked up in La Mesa, El Cajon, or Chula Vista, they are driven to the detox center in East Village, and left there when they sober up. In the past, some politicians have looked at changing to a decentralized system of detox facilities, but gotten their heads kicked in for their troubles. For example, when she sat on the city council, Valerie Stallings volunteered to take a satellite detox center in her PB/Clairemont district. The blowback from her constituents forced her to withdraw the offer.
Find out of the county's detox center is still located in East Village. If it is, it keep bringing drunks into the area, adding to its homelessness problems. I'll be interested to see what you find out. Perhaps poll the county supervisors on why they have maintained this centralized detox system.
I don't want to derail the very important points in the article, but I do want to challenge the use of the term gentrifying in the title. You are in a unique position to use words in a precise and defined way from a place of real knowledge. If by gentrifying you mean solely that property values or residential incomes are going up, that's important to say and to provide support for. If you mean that people are being displaced from homes - either by choice for other options or involuntarily - it's important to say that. The title can suggest that the issue in East Village is driven by physical improvements in East Village rather than woefully inadequate local funding and unwillingness to champion financial measures that could have a meaningful impact locally. Just wanting to nudge a little on the title for clarity.
I see another comment on a similar - but not at all the same - point. Just want to distinguish that I am not taking the position that the solution for lack of affordability is for people to leave.
@Omar Passons Perhaps I sound a bit harsh. I feel for these people, I really do. But as a city, we have to make a choice: Do we say Welcome or Not Welcome to the overwhelming number of people, and their various situations and takes on street life, who are coming here to camp. They say they don't like rules. Tough. San Diego has some of the best resources to get a bed, a shower, and go out there and do something to make money. If you still cannot afford rent after that, you are a vagrant. Stop saying that homelessness is not a crime. It most certainly is, we have just gone soft on enforcing the laws on the books. People say you can't arrest the problem away. That's BS. San Diego is a city that does not have a coordinated program. Other sunny warm cities get bus tickets for these people and send them on their way. If they return with a vagrancy charge, then they are in trouble. You have to get tough to solve a tough situation. Leaving a city because you cannot afford it is not a violation of your human or civil rights. We've got to stop pitying the problem, and put the responsibility where it lies: On the homeless person. You will see the problem clear up, and then all that are left are the incompetent. Then you can start looking at state programs that may help these mentally challenged people. It's not fair that people who can buy the nice residences downtown have to put up with the filth and squalor of people who do not know how to live properly. Call me an elitist, but I am simply being pragmatic.
@Omar Passons, I didn't read the title as setting up an argument that gentrification is causing the spike in homelessness, at all. And after reading the article, it's clear that Voice intended to highlight the tension between the residents who are increasingly of means and the homeless population. If the title was "East Village Gentrification Leads to Rise in E.V. Homeless Population", you'd have a legitimate complaint. But it's not close to that. Words are important, of course. But this seems an unnecessary quibble.
@Kenneth Gardner, pragmatist? Nah - but, an elitist for sure. As an East Village resident fortunate enough to have been able to buy in the neighborhood, you can spare me your pity for my "not fair" circumstances. These people that sleep on the streets around us are our forgotten neighbors, relatives, and citizens. We're going to get them help, despite you.
@Andy Kopp @Omar Passons I am not making any claim about what the title is intended to suggest, only that we throw the term 'gentrification' around alot and I think it's important when used in such a meaningful context to be sure about what's being said. It isn't clear to me that bringing gentrification into it improves the understanding of what the article is about. Gentrification - the-forced-displacement-for-wealthier-"new"-residents kind - is ground zero for alot of disputes. The point of this article does not seem to be about a clash between new well-to-do residents and homeless people. It seems to be about a spike in homelessness in that neighborhood.
@Andy Kopp @Kenneth Gardner Well, good for you, Super Hero. I actually let a homeless person into my home the other day, fed him lunch, let him take a shower, gave him a new pair of shoes because the soles were literally falling off, and a new wardrobe including jeans and shirts. What have you done specifically to even put one dent in this problem? Nothing, that's what; because you are happier preaching from the pulpit of idealism to make yourself feel all warm and fuzzy. "We're going to get them help?" When? Name a date, and how. These people that you claim to care for will remain "forgotten" to you, because you are happy with words. And "despite" me? I offer a practical solution for stirring these people off the streets, and of course it strikes you as offensive and draconian because you like to nice everyone to death, except someone who is in a similar position to offer a solution.
You feel for these people? If so, you have a bad way of showing it. Your lack of humanity is shameful.
From Wikipedia: "Gentrification is a trend in urban
neighborhoods, which results in increased property values and the
displacing of lower-income families and small businesses. This is a
common and controversial topic in urban planning." I see no correlation in your article to this definition. We called it urban renewal in my day, when the decay and malaise of the 1970's gave way to a new movement of taking the cities back, and making them into vibrant urban hubs. Not only have we lost that spirit the past few years, they have started teaching you in college that the downtrend is somehow the new normal and we should accept it. Trying to downplay, pander to, and otherwise pity away this housing crisis is not an answer. You only make it worse by implying to your readers that it is all right, or someone else's fault. If these people cannot afford to live in San Diego, so be it. If they want a job, get one where you can afford one. Don't come to San Diego because it is warm and sunny and you can lounge on the street or pitch a tent. If you pitch a tent, don't pitch a fit about the people who can actually afford to drive the real estate market here, and thus keep this city alive and vibrant. I don't know when it became fashionable to be a bum, but it doesn't work the majority of the time. I shouldn't be guilted with bleeding-heart liberal pap because I can afford to live here. Thank you.