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You’ve probably noticed we’re in the middle of rolling out pieces of our special report, Out of Reach, focused on San Diego County’s safety net.

Here’s a roundup of what we’ve shared so far. There are mini-conversations happening on many of these pieces, to which we’d love to see you add your thoughts:

  • First, check out this overview of how we began working on this series, our findings and how you can add to the conversation. Reader mariany shared a personal story of applying for aid, and hillcrester described the system as “so-SD”:

    This is a community that (somewhat less with each passing year) is suspicious of government and its programs, hates taxes with a passion, and believes that if you were meant to succeed (or even stay alive) you would surely be able to do it on your own.

  • Part One of our series focuses on the gaps in San Diego’s safety net, finding that San Diego ranks at or near the bottom in several areas regarding aid to the poor, among the 12 largest counties in the state.

    Reader Shelly shared these thoughts:

    During the current economic climate, many people are turning to these safety net programs who have never needed them before. To call them a “hand out” really demonstrates a negative and pessimistic attitude about the people who need these programs.

  • We shared more from our lengthy interviews with each of the county’s five elected supervisors. Readers on that post are commenting about the supervisors’ perspectives on these programs.
  • The county’s anti-fraud focus has tested constitutional privacy rights, as we detail in this post describing a class action suit that challenged the county’s Project 100% program, which was eventually upheld in court. The controversy attracted comment from the Harvard Law Review, The New York Times and even Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.
  • Here’s a look at the wider economic cost of low participation rates in public aid. A leading national anti-hunger group estimates San Diego County left nearly $110 million on the table in unclaimed food stamps benefits in 2007 alone.
  • Part Two of the story describes why things are the way they are in these social welfare programs, including an ingrained political culture and a battle between the county and state that’s dragged on for decades. Watch our audio slideshow about Christine Hyatt, a 27-year-old mom who applied for food stamps last fall.

Stay tuned here in Survival in San Diego for more pieces to come. And please, if you’ve got any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you — drop me a line at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org.

— KELLY BENNETT

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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