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As a homeless man living in downtown San Diego, Tony Rodriguez says he gets hassled constantly by police officers who tell him and his girlfriend to move along.
As part of San Diego officials’ response to the deadly hepatitis A outbreak, which has hit the homeless community the hardest, police officers have ramped up homeless enforcement and are keeping people off downtown streets and sidewalks to facilitate cleanings.
Rodriguez says he understands the city’s actions, but that not being able to stop and rest anywhere has been stressful.
“It’s got to the point where you develop a kind of phobia,” Rodriguez said. “You just know that at any moment [the police] could stop and say, ‘You’re camping here, we’re going to take you in.'”
An interaction between Rodriguez and police officers who tell him to pack up his things and clear out is one of the scenes captured in “Tony – The Movie,” a new documentary that looks at life on San Diego streets.
In a bonus episode of the Voice of San Diego Podcast, I talk to Rodriguez and Dennis Stein, the director and producer of the film.
“Tony – The Movie” goes beyond simply putting a face on San Diego’s homelessness crisis. Stein and Rodriguez also explore long-term solutions to ending homelessness by going to cities like Houston, where leaders have successfully housed a large percentage of people living on the streets.
Stein said the process of making the film has caused him to advocate for the Regional Task Force on the Homeless’ plan to end homelessness, a document that lays out a strategic framework for ending homelessness in San Diego County. Stein even brings copies of the plan to the many screenings he’s been holding around town.
Also in the podcast, I talk to Lisa Halverstadt, who’s been covering the hepatitis A outbreak as it’s unfolded. She lays out the hep A timeline and describes the behind-the-scenes bureaucratic fumbling that prevented a faster response to the outbreak.
Halverstadt also talks about what’s happened since county and city officials kicked into gear, and some of the questions she’ll be asking moving forward.
“I’ll really be looking to see: What are the long-term solutions to this problem to make sure that we don’t have a crisis like this again?” she said.