Section 8 housing vouchers are supposed to give needy people access to places to live. But these days, they’re mainly giving people anxiety instead of a path to a better future.
“Housing vouchers are a critical tool for housing low-income individuals and families,” reports Maya Srikrishnan. “But in San Diego, where the housing market is becoming increasingly competitive for people of all income levels, people offering vouchers instead of cash are struggling to compete.”
The subsidies are designed to help poor families, seniors and the disabled, people like Keva Hubbert, who has work limitations due to a chronic lung condition. She and her 12-year-old daughter spend their nights in a Chula Vista parking lot where people are allowed to sleep in their cars. Her voucher would change their lives, but she’s spent months searching in vain for an apartment complex that would take it.
“Between July 2015 and June 2016, just under half of the people who received new vouchers in Oceanside could find an apartment that would take it within the 120 days given to find a place. Those who received the most recent batch of new vouchers in May still haven’t reached their deadline, but only about 40 percent of them have found a place so far,” Srikrishnan reports. “If you don’t find a place by the deadline, you have to give up the voucher and it goes to the next person on the waiting list. In San Diego, the wait to receive a voucher can be five to 10 years, depending which part of the county you’re in.”
• You’ll notice lots of stories about homelessness throughout the Morning Report. Wednesday was San Diego Homeless Awareness Day. News outlets across the region shed light on problems facing the region, and potential solutions. There are heartbreaking personal stories, a more uplifting story about one of the schools that focuses on homeless youth, an editorial cartoon, lots of op-eds and more. Check them all out here.
5 Ways to Help the Homeless
Our Lisa Halverstadt looked outside San Diego for creative ways to help the homeless, and she found five things working in other cities that could work here. Here are a few of them: Roommate matching for the homeless, shelter for those who don’t like staying in shelters (these come with fewer rules), housing where booze is allowed and a system that allows the formerly homeless to move out of permanent housing, making more room.
Ask the Experts: How Can We End Homelessness?
The homeless problem here is so big and so intransigent that the very idea of trying to end it is controversial. Maybe it can’t ever be ended, only — to borrow a phrase — mended.
Whatever their goals, ending or mending, local leaders and people who help the homeless have visions of an ideal future. We asked a bunch of them two questions: “What do you think is the biggest roadblock keeping San Diego from ending homelessness? And what’s a solution you think San Diego should pursue to reduce or even end homelessness?”
Lisa Halverstadt compiled their answers here. Common themes run through their responses: “Affordable housing, cash and a clear vision guiding it all.”
Opinion: How the City Failed a Homeless Man and a Helper
In a VOSD commentary, East Village resident Andy Kopp writes about his unsuccessful bid to help a homeless man in his neighborhood, where he estimates 250 homeless people sleep each day.
He tried to help a malnourished young man who was homeless and on drugs. “Between that phone call and when I left him about three hours later, we held out for any shelter to answer their phone to let me know there was a bed for him. None answered. We tried the non-emergency line of the San Diego Police Department hoping to get guidance from the Homeless Outreach Team. Our call was never answered.”
Kopp adds: “The shame I felt, both personally and as a citizen unable to get him the help I was told would be there for those who seek it, stays with me. Every time I told him there was a way to help — that it was just another phone call away — I was made a liar.”
What should be done? Kopp writes that it’s time for the city to expand the Homeless Outreach Team, force it to be more responsive and turn it into a 24/7 operation. (For what it’s worth, I had a similar experience to Kopp’s when I tried to help a homeless young man who was living in a car in Mission Valley. The less-than-helpful 211 service was unable to assist.)
Another Look at an Aid-in-Dying Death
Last week, our contributor Kelly Davis brought countless readers to tears with the stunning personal story in our pages about the death of her sister, who developed ALS and used a new California law to end her life — but not before an extraordinary farewell party.
Her story has since been reprinted widely. Now, The Washington Post has published a deeply moving article of its own It includes new interviews, an excerpt from the Voice of San Diego story and this from the invitation by the 41-year-old Betsy Davis, which forbade guests from crying in front of her: “I AM allowed to cry. One of the symptoms of ALS is uncontrollable laughing/crying. So, in effect, I’m not crying because of you, but merely because my neurons are having a meltdown. However, if I laugh, it probably is because of you.”
As the story notes, Betsy Davis did not cry herself that day until toward the end, as those who could say goodbye did so and left her alone with her family and a physician. “That was tough for her because she didn’t want anyone else to be sad,” Kelly Davis told the Post. “She cried a bit and we wiped her tears away.”
The drink came next, then a peaceful sleep and a four-hour coma, and then what Betsy Davis set off on what she called “my journey.”
North County Report: Putting Data to Work to Help Homeless
This week’s VOSD North County Report checks in with homeless advocates and finds that they’re using a database to coordinate their efforts: “the system decides who the highest-priority cases are and assigns them to a service provider, which makes the web of social services accountable and transparent, and removes any temptation to prioritize homeless clients who may be easier to work with.”
• Yes, that was North County’s Rep. Darrell Issa working, briefly, as a gas station clerk in an effort to spotlight issues facing convenience stores. Five gallons on 3, please! (U-T)
Quick News Hits: Sing a Song of San Diego
• The San Diego police officer wounded in the July 28 shooting that killed his partner is still recovering in a hospital. Officer Wade Irwin, wounded in the neck, has already undergone two surgeries. An online fundraising project aims to support him and his family through donations. (U-T)
• Some San Diego leaders would like to host the Olympics here someday, perhaps in a binational effort with Tijuana. Is that a good idea? Not at all, says the news site 538.com in a story titled “Hosting The Olympics Is A Terrible Investment.”
• “After losing a challenge to restrictions on carrying concealed firearms, gun owners in California filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday to block a state law that prevents most people from carrying guns openly in public,” the L.A. Times reports. The lost challenge was filed by gun owners in San Diego who couldn’t get concealed carry permits.
• San Diego isn’t a big song subject in popular music. Bruce Springsteen sang an obscure song called “Balboa Park” about the tough life of Mexican male hustlers who’d wander the park in search of tricks, and a variety of local sights have been name-checked by singers like the Beach Boys, (local boy) Tom Waits, Bing Crosby, Jan and Dean and Tupac Shakur.
Now an “alt-pop outfit” called The Darcys is out with a tune called “San Diego 1988,” that conjures a late-night trip to Mexico back in the decade of Mayor Mo and Air Coryell.
Speaking of that time and place: Back then, I was working part-time at Mex-Insur, a joint in Chula Vista that sold Mexican car insurance joint to American tourists. One day, I arrived at work to find a gaggle of customers in the lobby, including one guy who refused to get out of my way. So I semi-gently shoved past him, drawing a surprised glare, and went to get ready for work in the back office.
When I emerged, my co-workers were buzzing about the guy who’d just bought a policy. Who? The guy I just pushed out of the way and looked like he’d knock my block off. Who? Well … Sean Penn.
Now if we can just find someone to sing about my close call with a famous fist. Fellow native Chula Vistan Tom Waits, this one’s for you! You can even keep some of the royalties.
Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also a board member and ex-national president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.