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By one estimate, 1,850 people are sleeping in cars, RVs or other vehicles across the county, more than twice as many as there were in 2015.

Our Lisa Halverstadt visited with some of these families, including the Alarcons, made up of 41-year-old Alex Alarcon, his pregnant wife and their children.

The Alarcons live in a white van, which they now park in a lot in Chula Vista. Early on, the Alarcons tried a National City street each night but feared their van could be hit by another car and worried that their lives were on display for judging strangers.

One local group, Dreams for Change, has tried to make people in these circumstances as safe as possible. The group has a parking lot in Chula Vista that serves as many as 350 people a year who live out of their vehicles. Now, the nonprofit’s waiting list has hit an all-time high but even the people who do have a spot are vulnerable once again, since the space will soon be sold and everyone will have to pack up and move. The social service agency that’s now leasing out the overnight parking lot told Dreams for Change it plans to lease or sell the entire property. So, the group is looking for other places for people to safely park.

Dreams for Change has approached multiple churches and property owners in the South Bay, hoping to find a new home. No one’s welcomed them yet.

• Lewis Keller also lived in his van, even while working a full-time job. The Navy veteran said on the latest episode of the VOSD podcast that when he made the decision to live in his vehicle, he was making about $40,000 a year. But after taxes, child support and other bills, the only rent the recent divorcé could afford was moving in with a roommate. He opted for living solo in his van instead.

Keller, who now lives in an apartment at Alpha Square, the Alpha Project’s downtown complex that houses formerly homeless and very low-income people, said he believes the biggest part of the problem is the city’s lack of housing stock.

Cole’s Future Divides Generations

Since District 4 City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole said last month that police racial profiling is justifiable because of black-on-black crime, a split has emerged among Cole’s constituents over her political future.

As our Rachel Evans reports, younger residents have been wearing “Resign Or Else” shirts directed at Cole in the weeks since her remarks. But more established and older community leaders have urged reconciliation.

“I’m asking the young people today, let’s go meet with Myrtle, let’s give her an opportunity to change,” said Kathleen Harmon, 85, a longtime community activist.

Armand King, a half century younger than Harmon, sees Cole in a different light.

“I’m 35 years old and I’ve had to go through this since I was a kid,” King said at a recent City Council meeting. “Racially profiled, pictures taken of me, sat on the curb for no reason– not even committing a crime. This is something emotional and touching to me when I hear this come out somebody that’s supposed to be representing me. Please resign.”

Sacramento Report: Busy Firefighters Seek Better Benefits

As thousands of firefighters from Cal Fire battle blazes across the state, their union is trying to get them more money and better disability benefits. Surprisingly, these state firefighters are poorly paid compared with their peers at local firehouses across California, we learn in this week’s roundup of statehouse news. Firefighters said this doesn’t affect public safety but it does affect morale and causes people to leave Cal Fire for other fire agencies.

Also in the Sacramento Report this week: As the Legislature sprints toward the end of its session, it has passed a ton of bills on to Gov. Jerry Brown for him to either sign into law, or veto. Sara Libby rounded up the bills from local legislators that passed this week.

Opinion: Desalination Plant’s Critics to Blame for Its Cost

Kevin Dayton, a research analyst with the California Policy Center, joins the ongoing debate over the wisdom of the desalination plant that opened in Carlsbad last year and provides roughly a tenth of the region’s water. He argues that the $1 billion price tag for the plant — which now produces the most expensive water we use — “resulted from years of delays caused by environmental groups trying to stop the project with lawsuits and other tactics. Construction unions also took advantage of environmental laws and required Poseidon to hire union labor.” Poseidon is the developer of the plant.

A Clarification on 211

In Thursday’s Morning Report, VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga mentioned that he’d tried to help a homeless man and had trouble getting assistance from the 211 service. In fact, he says, 211 appropriately referred him to resources for the homeless: “I shouldn’t have blamed 211 for its response when the real issue was my feeling helpless when I couldn’t immediately find assistance for someone in need. I apologize for misdirecting my frustration.”

News From Elsewhere

• It’s the weekend, so if you didn’t have time this week to digest all the articles we and other San Diego news organizations published on homeless issues, please take some time and do so this weekend. There’s a lot of good stuff.

• Brooke Binkowski, who covers border issues for us, wrote an essay for the Washington Post about her job at Snopes.com, a fact-checking website that battles errors every day by “running down rumors, debunking cant and calling out liars.”

• People who drive anywhere in San Diego have surely seen the big red billboards advertising a “Hollywood Casino” opening soon in Jamul. And anyone who follows East County politics may have heard that Supervisor Dianne Jacob is not a fan of this new casino. But, wow, is she really not a fan. In a fiery commentary for the Union-Tribune, Jacob calls the road to the casino a “deathtrap,” its location “terrible,” the casino itself a “horror show” and says, “I don’t want blood on my hands.”

The Week’s Top Stories

These were the most five most popular Voice of San Diego stories for the week of Aug 13-Aug 19. Click here to see the full Top 10.

1. What I Learned Helping My Sister Use California’s New Law to End Her Life
Less than two months after the state’s new aid-in-dying measure went into effect, my sister used the law to obtain a lethal dose of drugs. “I’d rather be free than entombed in my body,” she told me. (Kelly Davis)

2. Scathing Audit Bolsters Critics’ Fears About Secretive State Gang Database
An explosive state audit confirms many of the fears that San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and others have long expressed about the state’s gang database: that it cannot ensure individuals’ privacy, that people can be entered in the database without proper substantiation and that people are kept in the database long after their names should have been purged. (Sara Libby)

3. San Diego Explained: The Future of Seaport Village
In this week’s San Diego Explained, NBC 7 San Diego’s Monica Dean andVOSD’s Andrew Keatts explain how developers – not public officials – areframing the discussion about San Diego’s waterfront, and why that hassome people concerned. (Kinsee Morlan)

4. How East Village Became the ‘Homeless Ghetto’
In the effort to revitalize the Gaslamp Quarter, city leaders made a concerted push to move services for the homeless into East Village. (Lisa Halverstadt)

5. Another Principal Problem, Another ‘Special Assignment’ at San Diego Unified
A San Diego Unified investigation found Serra High’s principal might have lied about his credentials. Instead of dismissing the principal, the district moved him to a “special assignment” position – a lateral move that allows him to keep his $143,000 yearly salary. At least 13 principals have been moved to similar roles, some after experiencing problems. (Mario Koran)

Ry Rivard

Ry Rivard was formerly a reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about water and power.

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