Better serve our Homeless Constituents.
We can’t better serve our community experiencing homelessness until we better understand and respond to the very different reasons why people find themselves without a place to call home. There is not one “homeless community”; we need to ensure we provide resources that address a broad range of needs. Our current Safe Parking Lot Program is not the solution for everyone, and having one non profit organization serve all of our homeless community in San Diego isn’t setting them up for success. Our Trans community disproportionately suffers from homelessness, and we are completely unequipped to support them. Waitlists for shelters for our Trans constituents can be longer than a year - and that can be a matter of life or death. Our Criminal Justice involved population also fall into the cycles of homelessness once they serve their time and re-enter society. We need to have housing options for the formerly incarcerated to decrease recidivism rates in our City. Our city operated a 180 bed tent for homeless families with young children - is this really the best we can do for the youngest San Diegans who are living without stable shelter? We need to use the data we have to identify the data we need to develop targeted strategies for subgroups of our homeless neighbors, not just throwing money at shelters and beds that may not meet the needs of unique populations.
Mission Valley has the highest level of homeless constituents In District 7, and we do not have the necessary services nearby to serve them. Services must go to them. Our solutions must include local connections to food, toiletries, showers, needle exchange services, access to mobile medical units, introduction to mental health & substance abuse services. We are not healthy if we all do not have the same access to proper hygiene and health services. We can do a lot more to ensure our homeless neighbors can live with a little more dignity.
Protecting Tenant Rights.
Putting all hope into affordable housing to solve our housing crisis is not enough. Affordable housing is not accessible for our most needy, lowest income families. If rent goes up, that often means that residents and families are forcibly evicted, without an easy place to go. Our community members deserve to know where they’re going to live next year. We must look at what cities like Inglewood have done - enacting rent control at 5% with exceptions for landlords who have worked to keep rents below market rate to go up to 8% - as a model for what’s possible to stabilize out of control rents in San Diego.
In addition to stabilizing rent, every tenant deserves the right to legal counsel, the right to have protection when their landlord is potentially violating their rights. We need a citywide office of tenant protections to protect OUR rights. This office needs to conduct outreach so tenants are aware of what they can do to protect themselves. All San Diegans, regardless of their education level or ability to access information independently, should know their rights.
Finally, if a family is evicted due to a rise in rent (because rent control will not apply to all properties because of Costa-Hawkins, only units constructed before 1995), construction on the unit, because the owner wants a family member to move in, or because the unit is withdrawn from the rental market, the owner should help them move by providing them with a relocation allowance. Essentially, if a tenant is forced to move not through any fault or wrongdoing, that process should be made easier. An eviction shouldn’t be a sentence to homelessness.
Expanding opportunities for youth.
We need to make more significant investments in Parks and Recreation and Libraries so our youth have safe spaces to play and learn. In our District, Kelly St Park in Linda Vista, still has the same playground since when I was a child, no BBQ grills, or benches for families to gather. Our Parks and Recs need the proper care and attention so they can be safe spaces for all members of the community and visitors. We need updated playgrounds for our kids, tables and benches for our families, BBQ grills. When community begins to reclaim our parks, our violence in these spaces decrease. Our District has some beautiful libraries, but others need work. We also need to increase funding for library programming. We have 36 libraries in the city, and we only allocated $100,000 to programming, city-wide, in 2019. That’s far too low.
Additionally, the City should make a significant investment in a summer job program for youth. Similar programs in cities like Chicago, Boston, and New York have found that summer job programs for youth significantly improve youth’s connection to their communities, social skills, aspirations to attend college, and career readiness. They also found a positive correlation between participation in the program and school attendance. We can do better by our City’s youth - and we have a responsibility to them if we are committed to building a better future.
Only by empowering our youth can we build Safe Communities.