Theories abound about the reasons for booming homelessness downtown but no one can explain exactly why it’s booming.
Since January alone, a business group’s monthly census has shown a 68 percent spike in street homelessness downtown. The count peaked at nearly 1,400 in August and has since hovered around 1,130. More tents line city blocks and more homeless people cluster near freeway on-ramps, businesses and homeless services.
Some local leaders have said Proposition 47, a state ballot initiative that downgraded some felonies to misdemeanors in an effort to reduce the state prison population, is a significant culprit. Others have speculated about the impact of high rents, an influx of homeless people from other areas and even the way the homeless population is counted.
Homeless service providers and data gurus aren’t so sure what’s driving the massive uptick.
“We need a really comprehensive, in-depth look at what’s going on,” said Amy Gonyeau, chief operating officer of nonprofit Alpha Project.
Here’s what we know and don’t know about street homelessness downtown.
Support Independent Journalism Today
I am currently a professional welder and do a lot of back and forth work from east to west coast. I also used to live in San Diego for the 20 years I was in the Navy. I was also a member of both the Homeless Coalition and The Alpha Project in San Diego, Ca.
A few things I did notice that the ever growing Homeless Population encountered was:
1. the lack of adequate housing, especially for the Disabled, Mentally Ill, and Veterans. Most of the housing was either open bay, or SRO (single room occupancy) Hotels. The rules where very strict and if you had pet's or partners you could not even share the same room nor where you allowed pet's
2.the paper work difficult to fill out, and the wait times just to get a bed where very long sometimes months to a year of wait time
3. There was virtually no where to put the mentally ill where they could be housed and properly treated. If there was anything like for instance HUD housing the wait times are virtually unreachable!
4. As for those that where capable, the job search was tireless to almost impossible due to the policies that many companies both small and large had on Homeless
5. Although there where Drug and Alcohol Programs for those with such Habit's Re-habilitation Centers would release them but usaully Homeless would end up right back into the same addiction due to ending right back on the streets.
6. The new laws and budget cut's have limited the City of San Diego and made it Impossible for Homeless to get things like A Social Security Checks...Food Stamps....WICK...Especially for the Mentally Ill, and or Veterans.
7. I literrally watched Law Enforcement take blankets, Tents for temporary shelter, Personal Clothing, Personal Items and throw them into "locked Dumpsters" leaving Homeless to the eliments. How this helps Homeless I do not know? All I see it as a way to harrass and push and move the Homeless Population or corral them to a more undesirable spot where they are even more unsafe.
8. Yes it is nice that Churches and Organizations have feedings, but that should not be limited to just feeding homeless but also to re-habilitate and re-enter them back into main stream society as upstanding citizens.
Some Soluttions to the problems
1. Our economy is getting better and both Able Homeless and the communities could benifit from Employing Able Homeless by getting them into a special temporary shelter to housing while employing their services. For instance (A) Park and Recreation for I.E. the Bay Parks, and Balboa Park could benefit from employing the new "Ex-Homeless" doing park clean up, Trash removal even Lawn Maintenance. (B). The City of San Diego Sanitation Department, Local Sherrif Departments Could Benefit by Employing Ex-Homeless with Police Car Clean Up and Trash Removal.
2. Homeless Educational Programs designed to integrate Homeless back into Society through Free Education or Grant offered Educational Programs designed to not only take Homeless and transform them back into Working responsible Citizens.
3. Drug Rehabilitation Programs...And I don't mean Jail...Rehabilitation programs designed to not only clean up drug abuse but to "build confidence and Re-Employ Homeless to Re- Integrate them into Society. This also helps to stimulate our economy even more in a positive light.
4. Housing and Hospitals for the Mentally Ill. This is a Handicape How dare we allow the Handicap with disabilities and mental Illness to be Homeless...What Kind of Society Are Weto Allow this?
5. Instead of Police Harrassing Homeless, Jailing and Fining them, taking their belongings, let's work on a more positive note and Help the Homeless. If relocation is a must let's make sure we don't take their belongings, Identification Etc, that will displace them further, but instead let's help them back up.
Let's all do our part to help our fellow citizens of this "Great Country" I don't care if your Poor or Rich, Small Business Man, Civic Leader, Larg Corporation...We all need to help our fellow man. I feel that not one person should think that they are above another person.
I work in a multi billion dollar industry that thrives and grows off of failing our customers. We have failed so bad that our investor will now give us billions more to move the carnage we created behind closed doors and try to convince you it's over.
What industry do I work in and who is our largest investor?
I personally believe that the city needs to find some empty land somewhere the homeless can set up their tents. The city needs to tell them that if they wish to set up tents they must go there. Doing so would help alleviate the neighborhood blight problem..
I also believe the city should do more to encourage the developers to employ the homeless. There is lots of construction jobs downtown and some of the homeless skills could be used in some manner.
The rents are too damn high! I have been assisting homeless clients find places to live. In the year and a half I've been here.. I've seen the same crappy studio go from $800 - $1200. It's so sad.. to see the elderly homeless clients.. it just breaks my heart. And the landlords are just 'following the market' but not updating the units. It's freaking SAD!!
@Elaine Rosas Hi Elaine, I'd be interested in chatting more about your experiences with those elderly clients. Can you please give me a call at 619-325-0528?
My wife and I were downtown yesterday on 16th street and there were quite a few more tents in this area.
most of the tents were hot pink in color. Left overs from the Susan b. Komen walk? Drive through the area and you will see what I mean.
If so I would say again Enabling is not a good strategy
@Mark Giffin Enabling? Where are these people suppose to go? Are they suppose to just lay on the streets exposed? At least in a tent they have enclosure. heartless
@Mark Giffn @Elaine Rosas Mark nails it with his comments on enabling. There is a pervasive culture of enabling the Will Nots. When you treat a Will Not like a Can Not its lights out...you lose.
Thats right Elaine. Enabling. And the tents are a good example. Do we, or do we not, want people living on the sidewalks in east village?
Good intentions aside, providing them with tents says we do and further entrenches them. It looks like a third world country
The county spends over 200 million and the city over ? million a year and what do we get? an expanding problem.
Until there is the political will to solve this it will continue to get worse. Laws need to be passed on the city,county,state and federal levels to be able to remove the mentally ill from the streets and institutionalize them. Same goes for homeless drug abusers and chronic alcoholics.
The funds that are available need to be used more efficiently. Appears from the stories on this subject show a fragmented,uncoordinated and dis-organized approach. the Homeless population has many categories and they need different and deliberate approaches.
If tents are good enough for a step up then why for instance can't the city set up a temporary military stye camp on that open park land up by the city nursery/golf course to process the homeless population? Because you cannot force people to do what they do not want to do.
This is why the political will needs to be there to change the laws to make that happen.
Until then we continue to enable and the problem grows.
As to your elderly homeless clients the county has a whole section devoted to their needs. have you used these resources? There are options for the elderly.
It is also very sad, that the Main Greyhound Bus Terminal, is right in the middle of this area. For the hundreds of visitors to San Diego, who arrive this way, it is their first sight of our city. Those lasting impressions, certainly give San Diego a bad name. We can and should do better.
Five other California cities had iniatives on the ballot this November that addressed homelessness. Los Angeles passed a $1.2 Billion initiative! The leaders of the City of San Diego, which has one of the largest homeless populations per capita in the country, didn't even discuss putting such an measure on the ballot. It is time that we stop discussing tax payer money for new stadiums and convention center expansions, and start to discuss expanding the resources available to address homelessness.
San Diego is rich but has been suckered by the City of San Diego into believing that no local government funds exist to end Homelessness immediately. Today.
The Hoarding of Successor Agency, Low Moderate Income Housing Asset Funds (LMIHAF), and Housing Trust Fund (HTF) assets and revenues has to be understood by local media through independent investigation.
Purposeful default and sabotage by Civic San Diego, Oversight Board, San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC), City Attorney Goldsmith, Strong Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and the City Council for the Successor Agency (SA) to the former Redevelopment Agency (RDA) have liquidated $0.5 BILLION in Redevelopment Property Tax Trust Funds (RPTTF) into Residual Distributions for the General Funds of the City/County/Schools/Special Districts. All Outside of the annual Budget process. Also the $500,967,008 RPTTF Residual Distributions are not documented as part of monthly Budget Monitoring Reports. Shady. Plus several violations of City Council Policies, Municipal Code, and the City Charter.
Civic San Diego has also diverted ROP-9 and ROPS-10 distributions for Line Items 626 and 628 to the City of San Diego's General Fund instead of to pay off the $215 Million in approved HUD OIG Audit Debt Repayment to CDBG Program Income. City staff is literally stealing from the poor to pay off extra Pension debts. Including Pensionable Pay Raises during the supposed 5-years Freeze (2013-2018).
The end of Redevelopment in 2011 was for justice for the Homeless and poor, by paying off the $1.6 Billion in SA Debts. And use of Housing and Non-Housing Bonds hoarded for decades (1995-2010). Instead of Justice, the end of Redevelopment was, and still is, an opportunity for the City to pad its Administration Budgets. While funding Pensionable Pay Raises during the 5-year Freeze, that never happened. Sad.
@La Playa Heritage what you are describing is not simply sad. It is heartless, and illustrates why people are both discouraged and outraged by the lack of a coordinated response to homelessness in San Diego.
This is a humanitarian crisis. The people living on the streets are families: seniors, children, veterans, parents who are the working poor, trying to get back on track after a job loss or illness or other set-back.
One organization not mentioned: County of San Diego. They are sitting on nearly $200 million of Prop. 63 money, intended to assist people with mental illness. Many of the people described in this article as using drugs are self-medicating, using street drugs/alcohol to manage diagnosis of bipolar, depression, chronic pain and other ailments. (for how Prop. 63 funds may be accessed for supportive housing, see: https://www.mendovoice.com/2016/10/strategies-for-accessing-2-billion-revealed-at-forum/)
The streets near the County's Rosecrans Ave. Health & Human Services office are filled with many people seeking help. Prop. 63 funding could be used to treat many of these cases.
So the question needs to be raised; where are the Supervisors in this, providing treatment and support to help people get off street drugs & alcohol, better manage their mental illness, and be able to seek and maintain work?
Great article. I'm sharing on my FB page to make my friends and family more aware of this increased homelessness in San Diego.
If someone wants to help the homeless in San Diego, who do they contact? There are such a wide variety of services offered downtown, but not much focus on how individuals can help out. Thanks again for a well written article.
@Jennifer Spencer Thanks, Jennifer. Here's a document the Regional Continuum of Care Council created to share with folks who are homeless: http://nebula.wsimg.com/2298dba42d41749817e2c41949794fe0?AccessKeyId=84F4D43D27BED21A7BD2&disposition=0&alloworigin=1 That regional group suggests calling 2-1-1 for details on immediate shelter options and that homeless folks report to one of several locations in the county to take a housing assessment meant to connect them with the service that's best for them.