Numerous problems have been created due to the economic crisis that almost everyone in the United States has been suffering from. San Diego in particular, hit hard with the crisis, has faced a number of foreclosures and evictions which have consequently increased the number of homeless people on the streets. “America’s Finest City” has always faced a homelessness problem, but like all chronic problems with the homeless, it is merely acknowledged in times of recession and economic demise. In down times like today, focus is on the struggling middle-class homeowner, not on the housing problems of the longstanding ill-housed population” (Shaw). USLegal. com defines “homeless” under Section 11302 of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act as an individual “who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence or a person who resides in a shelter, welfare hotel, transitional program or place not ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodations, such as streets, cars, movie theatres, abandoned buildings, etc”.
Our deteriorating financial market has led to more and more people being laid off of work, leaving the homeless community to grow in San Diego. But although the financial crisis can deepen the homeless situation in San Diego, it is not the sole reason for it. It can be said that at San Diego could even be the creator of its own chronic homelessness problem. The homeless population in San Diego can be attributed to a number of factors, such as the attempts to attract tourism or to keep San Diego “America’s Finest City”. What people do need to focus on is creating a solution to this problem.
Even during the prosperous economic times in the Clinton administration, the number of homeless people was still high and there have been many proposed solutions to pacify the problem, yet pacifying the problem is not enough. We must not only prevent homelessness, we must accommodate those who are already without a dependable place to live. The city of San Diego must increase its minimum wage to reflect the rising average rental costs, provide more low income and permanent homeless shelters, as well as provide more menial jobs.
Without doing so, the streets lining downtown San Diego will become more crowded and the beauty will be taken out of America’s Finest City. One strong example of how San Diego has created its own chronic homelessness problems is the creation of Petco Park. The stadium itself has become an icon in San Diego culture. It lies in the heart of the city alongside the San Diego Bay and it changed the face of the East Village area it was built in. The area used to be renowned for drug users and prostitutes, yet as the building of the stadium began, construction workers began to take over.
The stadium has become apart of the trendy urban style in the city through its location in the urban city rather than being built somewhere inland by the suburbs. The culture of San Diego is based on its touristic aspect and within a few miles of Downtown are Sea World, beaches, the World Famous San Diego Zoo, Legoland, and high end designer malls. In accommodating the increase in population, Petco Park catered to the baseball fiends of San Diego with Petco Park the same way that Qualcomm Stadium does so for football fans.
Alongside catering to the rise of people choosing to live the city lifestyle like that of New York and San Francisco, the city of San Diego built high rise condominiums nearby Petco Park as a means to promote the urbanity of the city. “To attract tourists, it is important for local boosters to be able to project a ‘place identity’ that can transform ‘ordinary places and times into extraordinary tourist worlds’” (Judd 280), and San Diego has taken much efforts in attracting tourism this way.
The attraction of the city not only brings tourists, but it also draws in potential residents of the city. Not every person who packs up their belongings and moves to the city achieves their goal of starting a new, lucrative life. “San Diego’s adult homeless male population was composed largely of young men from the West and Midwest who had come to the Southwest in search of jobs” (Homeless 5). When the goal of the city is to attract more tourists and residents, it is critical to keep in mind that an increase in job opportunities will be necessary alongside a growth in population.
If the city does not provide more jobs, not only will there be increase in population, but also an increase in the homeless population. At first, it was thought that Petco Park would somehow alleviate the homeless situation of Downtown by boosting the economy, but in reality the gentrification has only pushed out the homeless to the peripherals of the downtown merely masking the economy with beautiful high rises. The closing down of shelters and churches that helped relieve the homeless populations in the East Village left the homeless to search for other places to inhabit.
Areas like Barrio Logan and Sherman Heights felt the movement of the lower income families and the homeless as the redevelopment of the East Village area of downtown caused them to move outward. High priced rentals and condominiums were the foundations of the economically driven gentrification and areas like these are suffering from greediness. Anthropologist Neil Smith says for the urban frontier of today “gentrification and urban redevelopment represent the most advanced example of the redifferentiation of geographical space” (264). The area that East Village was built upon received a complete makeover.
While old inhabitants displace to areas in the outskirts such as Sherman Heights and Barrio Logan, the prices and reputation falls. Because the East Village area was considered one of the lower end areas of downtown, developers tore down the neighborhood because of its cheap price and rebuilt to a price level that previous renters would not be able to afford. The cycle only repeats itself as the outer cities fall in prices and reputation. Therefore, more and more people are forced out onto the streets of San Diego as becomes nearly impossible to pay rent without the necessary money,.
This proves that the attempt to beautify and revamp the face of San Diego has only resulted as a mask, hiding the fact that there still is a problem of the ill-fortuned population. While there are various solutions to the problem of chronic homelessness, America’s Finest City is instead sweeping it under the rug. During the 2007 wildfires, Petco Park, along with Qualcomm Stadium, served as a place of refuge for those whose homes were in danger. Local news reporters and blog rings reported that at these shelters and places of refuge, homeless people were turned away.
It is a disturbing to think that places like Petco Park, which have caused much displacement within the county, can turn down the same people that they forced out. It is as if the city of San Diego turned its back to those in need. In Downtown San Diego, you can find sidewalks on either side of the street lined with trash bags full of old possessions and sleeping bags and blankets with the ill fortuned buried underneath. To most residents of San Diego, and of large metropolitan areas in the nation, this is nothing out of the ordinary.
Homelessness is something that has seemed to become an accepted part of the city, and the majority of the ill fortuned find themselves within the gridlines of Downtown San Diego. In a 2005 study at the University of California, San Diego, researchers found that Chronic homelessness is most often associated with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, substance abusers and people who have no publicly funded health care. Men are also more likely to be homeless than women and, tragically, at least 22 percent of San Diego’s homeless citizens are veterans (Oliver and Sawyer).
It is ironic that a city whose foundation lies upon its various military bases could find a number of its veterans wandering the streets homeless. San Diego is well recognized as a city with its roots in the military, so it’s no wonder that less than 30 years ago two veterans began what is now known as the Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD). The Village is a facility that offers opportunities for housing and guidance for job seeking. Although VVSD is a wonderful resource for the homeless of San Diego, it extends its supports only to the veterans.
This is wonderful for those of the veteran status, but a service is still necessary for those who are not. San Diego needs programs geared towards the entire homeless population. Instead of focusing of ridding the homeless population one section at a time, San Diego should concentrate its effort to help give every citizen an opportunity to make their life better. The city of San Diego has tried many solutions to ending its problem of chronic homelessness. In 2005, almost 70 million in funds were distributed to the homeless in cash assistance, food stamps, transitional housing, health services, and food (Oliver and Sawyer).
Although these services provided much help to those in ill-need, the small fraction of chronic homelessness in San Diego (approximately 1,440 chronic homeless in 1995) consume nearly 50 percent of the resources the city provides (Oliver and Sawyer). San Diego needs a solution in which the homeless would not only depend on for food and shelter, but would use in assistance to a change in their life in which they themselves would be the providers for food and shelter. What is necessary is a program and service that one could not just consume and move on to the next. Permanent, low income housing is necessary.
Job skills and life counseling are necessary. Long term and permanent change are necessary. Alongside the distribution of funds, another implemented solution to the homelessness problem in San Diego is the Homeless Court Program (HCP) that was created in 1989. Before, the normal routine to reprimanding the illegalities of the homeless would constitute of finding the homeless, citing them, removing them from the area, to having the majority of the defendants absent from court. This would result in circles as law enforcements would have to start over as they find themselves reprimanding the same homeless from different areas.
The Homeless Court Program differs from the traditional legalities in that the usual way of dealing with the homeless involves force whereas the HCP involves helping the homeless help themselves. The program is usually held at Homeless shelters and requires a cooperation with drug, job, and life skills counselors. The HCP does not allow felony cases, only misdemeanor and the judge decided whether the defendant’s self -rehabilitation is an acceptable substitute for punishment (rather than jail time or more fines). The HCP is an amazing aide in helping the homeless community of San Diego.
In fact, other cities in California, such as Ventura and Fresno, and around the nation, such as Salt Lake City and Albuquerque, have mimicked San Diego’s Homeless Court Program. Although this program serves magnificent in helping the homeless, its main drawback is that it relies upon the homeless people who have had run-ins with the law. The city of San Diego needs a program or a service that provides aide in preventing homelessness as well as aide to those who already are homeless but have not had encounters with law enforcement.
In 2006, a proposal to help the homeless was widely debated among the politicians of San Diego. The proposal called for “Homeless Zones” in which certain areas downtown would be deemed safe havens for the homeless where it would not be allowed to be given citations for loitering or sleeping on the sidewalks. The homeless would be allowed to sleep in these zones without the fear of being cited for illegal lodging. The proposal received much debate between the city mayor and attorney as Mayor Sanders disproved the plan because he believed it would cause an increase in crime and promote more homelessness instead of change.
City attorney Mike Aguirre believed that the proposition would help manage the homeless population of San Diego. Aguirre had noted that at that time, San Diego was trying to build a new home for the Chargers, the city’s football team, and yet not thinking about building shelter for the homeless population, showing how San Diego has no morals (Barrera). Each side has its points to make, but regardless, the solution does nothing to help the homeless help themselves. Instead of debating the issue, Mayor Sanders should have come up with a different solution to end the chronic homelessness problem.
San Diego lacks a solid solution to poverty. Previous proposed solutions have seemed to either only provide resources to a certain fraction of the homeless population or merely give out cash assistance of some sort, but a solid solution would incorporate long term change and less people out on the streets. If America’s Finest City adjusted the minimum wage to reflect and comply with rising rental costs, more people would be inclined to find a job, unskilled or not, because they would know that their hard work would have much benefit to their lives.
Alongside an adjusted minimum wage, San Diego should build more low income housing and homeless shelters spread throughout the county, instead of being concentrated in Downtown San Diego. This would in turn provide more job opportunities in that more grocery stores, whether welfare-based or not, and shopping centers would be built to help assist the lower income class, and since these create unskilled jobs available, people would me more capable at paying their rents and making a better life for themselves and for their families.
If San Diego would implement these practical solutions, the benefits would definitely outweigh the costs. Economically, we would see the bottom of the social ladder grow as the lower class would push out towards middle class, therefore balancing out the lower, middle, and upper income class and bringing some sort of stability to our dwindling economy. Politically, San Diego would have to endure the long process of passing propositions that would allow for funding for creating and building these low income housing.
Funding would ultimately stem from taxes paid by the citizens of San Diego, and although this would be an issue for taxpayers, the payback would be profound. Socially, the dynamics within San Diego would be so diverse that the city would lose any negative stigma it may have. If these solutions were implemented in San Diego, our streets would be rid of loiterers and the downtown free from streets lined with homeless people in sleeping bags. This would add to the beauty that comes from America’s Finest City.
It would not only come from aesthetics; the fact that our city has been “cleaned up”, but it would become the beauty within: the fact that instead of improving the look of San Diego, the city would also deepen its heart by enriching the lives of each and every citizen of its county though helping others. America’s Finest City would be beautiful inside and out. Works Cited Anderson, Kevin. “Homelessness, the Economic Crisis and Voting. ” The Guardian 12 Oct. 2008. The Guardian. 12 Oct. 2008. 21 Nov. 2008 . Barrera, E. A. “Aguirre Calls for a€? Homeless Zonesa€? … Endorses Propositions a€? Ba€? and a€? Ca€?. ” 6 Oct. 2006. 4 Nov. 2008 .
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