[WOSD-Discussion] Media Release: HOMELESS ADVOCATES REACT TO MAYOR'S SOLUTIONS FOR HOMELESSNESS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 11, 2017Contact: Martha Sullivan, 858-945-6273, email@example.comHOMELESS ADVOCATES REACT TO MAYOR FAULCONER'S SOLUTIONS FOR HOMELESSNESS IN HIS 2017 STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESSWHAT: Press Conference & Performance by the Voices of Our City ChoirWHEN: THURSDAY, January 12, 2017, about 7:30-8:30pm (following Mayor's State of the City)WHERE: Horton Plaza Park (Near 4th & E/across from the Balboa Theater)After attending the Mayor's 2017 State of the City address at the Balboa Theater, Women Occupy San Diego, Voices of Our City Choir and other concerned San Diegans will gather nearby to share reactions to what he proposes as solutions to homelessness.Following our delivery last week of over 1,100 signatures on a Change.org petition1 calling for Emergency Humanitarian Action by Mayor Kevin Faulconer to suspend the ticketing, arrest or stay-away orders of homeless people:"Stacie Spector, Faulconer's senior adviser for housing solutions, later issued a statement saying that she's 'very appreciative of the community's passion in support of the unsheltered.
"'This is a growing concern that we share and city staff are working diligently every day to ensure services and beds are made available to homeless individuals,' Spector said. 'Mayor Faulconer has made addressing homelessness a top priority and plans to discuss solutions at next week's State of the City address.'"2This Petition now has over 1,300 signatures. As Mayor, Kevin Faulconer is responsible for the safety of the San Diegans who are left to our streets as a direct consequence of the decisions and actions by him and other San Diego government and business leaders over the past decade, which have decimated San Diego's affordable housing stock. This is a man-made Disaster, and requires Disaster Relief, NOT ticketing, arrest and stay away orders from services and resources desperately needed by homeless people.
- The Voices of the City Choir will perform, with co-founder, Steph Johnson, and other members of the Choir (homeless and housed) giving their reactions to Mayor Faulconer's proposed solutions to homelessness. PBS NewsHour featured the Choir last month.3
- The Hon. Lori Saldana, Member of the CA Assembly (Ret) representing San Diego 2005-2010 and San Diego Community College Professor who works with homeless people and others struggling to survive, will provide her assessment of the solutions presented by the Mayor in his 2017 State of the City address.
- Suzanne Morse of Heartfelt Voices will speak on how the Mayor's State of the City addressed the continuing trauma to victims of domestic violence who often wind up living on our streets.
- Jeeni Criscenzo of Amikas will talk about its proposal to the Mayor and City Council last year, similar to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's initiatives underway since 2015:"Mayor Murray showed leadership in declaring a state of emergency on homelessness in 2015 and putting forward landmark legislation to establish three legal and safe encampments. The mayor even offered up city-owned property in Ballard, Interbay and other locations."From a homeless person's perspective, living in a legal encampment with food, water, toilets, a kitchen, security, tiny houses (with doors that lock) and case management services is a far cry from trying to survive alone on the street. We now have a year's experience with the three city-sanctioned sites that have been operating in Ballard, Interbay and Othello. They house 160 people at any time, including singles, couples, seniors, vets, families with children and people with pets. Thousands of other people have been helped in the short term as they pass through, staying for a night or a week before moving on."Each location has a city mandated Community Advisory Committee (CAC) comprised of neighbors, businesses and church groups who monitor progress, give feedback and lend support. Each site has social workers helping families and individuals connect quickly to housing, employment and education so that living in a tent or a tiny house is not a dead end. My organization, the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), contracts with the city for services. SHARE and Nickelsville organizes the residents on daily operations, employing self-help requirements and democratic decision-making. Everyone has duties and chores, they must follow a strict code of conduct, and they are accountable to the community. No alcohol, drugs, weapons and violence are allowed."On December 1, Mayor Murray announced the establishment of three new homeless encampment sites in Licton Springs, Georgetown and Myers Way in West Seattle. These will shelter over 200 individuals and will prioritize homeless people who are currently living in dangerous and unsafe locations on Seattle's streets and sidewalks. The Georgetown and Licton Springs sites will open in early 2017, and both are planned with tiny houses instead of tents. Councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Debora Juarez are supporting tiny houses over tents for the sites in their district." 4BACKGROUND: As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, in the past 6 years, decisions by San Diego leaders of government and business eliminated 10,000 "affordable" units of housing, canceling out the entire amount added going back to 1979. Even worse, just 543 permanent units designated for homeless people have been added in the past 10 years. Since 2003, over half of the City's single-room occupancy units have been replaced by market-rate hotels, apartments, condos and office buildings. As a direct result of these policy decisions and priorities by San Diego officials, the population of homeless people in San Diego has spiked in the past two years, with a 19% increase in people who are unsheltered Countywide from 2015 to 2016. San Diego now has the 4th largest population of homeless people in the U.S.
School districts report thousands of students who have no place to call "home". Emergency shelter for families with children is non-existent. The number of people aged 55+ living on the streets has doubled in the past year. People of color are disproportionately represented. As bluntly put by the San Diego Union-Tribune's Business columnist:
"No, the magnets of great weather and lavish welfare don't explain such growth. Los Angeles County, with the same climate and larger subsidies, has cut its chronic population by 29 percent (to a still-catastrophic 12,354 people). Salt Lake City is down 98 percent, Houston is down 86 percent, and the U.S. overall is down 32 percent.
"In our burgeoning failure to house the most vulnerable, San Diego stands alone. We are a national disgrace."
The Mayor of San Diego's answer to the burgeoning population of people forced to live on the streets due to the his own decisions and actions over the past decade (2 years as Mayor, 8 years as City Councilmember) and those of his fellow officials and business leaders? Direct the San Diego Police Department to engage in an escalating campaign of ticketing and arrests for obscure offenses in the Municipal Code, as well as plea bargains by the City Attorney to include "stay away orders" to keep people with no home nor shelter away from the very services intended to help them. Concurrent with this campaign escalated in organized fashion this past March (leading up to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and Comic-Con in July), a downtown San Diego business group's monthly census shows a 68% spike in street homelessness since January of this year. So clearly, criminalizing homeless people for harmless, unavoidable behaviors of sleeping and sitting, has not worked to reduce homelessness on the streets of downtown San Diego.