When a 15-year-old girl was killed by a semi-truck in Otay Mesa in 2014, no one asked why she was walking in the far-flung industrial area in the first place – news reports instead focused on the fact that she was distracted by her phone.

But it turns out that the teenager was walking home from school, and her home was in a junkyard.

Many families in the region find themselves in these type of unsafe living situations. It’s hard to pin down the problem and come up with the right solutions, though, since most service agencies don’t define these families as homeless.

“Junkyards, storage containers and unused plots of land have become refuge for people who can’t afford to live in San Diego,” Maya Srikrishnan writes in a story that kicks off a new series on the hidden homeless families of San Diego’s South Bay.

The series took months to put together and includes in-depth stories, a short documentary, a podcast episode, photos and more multimedia elements made in collaboration with VOSD contributor Gabriel Ellison-Scowcroft.

Srikrishnan exposes a problem with how homelessness is defined and how families found living in makeshift housing are often being handled.

She explains that there are a variety of reasons families find themselves living in these situations. Mixed immigration statuses can put up barriers to accessing support, credit problems, a history of incarceration and other factors can make it hard to find conventional apartments or homes in our high-rent region.

These families “will do anything not to end up on the streets with their children,” Srikrishnan writes. The makeshift housing that becomes the solution, though, is unsafe and illegal, which means if cities discover the living situations, the families often get booted.

Veronica Medina, the San Ysidro School District’s homeless liaison who works with many students dealing with inhospitable living situations, says when the families are forced to move, they aren’t getting the help they need.

“These families – there needs to be a better system to help them,” Medina told Srikrishnan.

SoccerCity Gets Its Day on the Docket

The fate of the SoccerCity proposal to redevelop the Qualcomm Stadium site is set to be decided Monday.

San Diego City Council will either approve the proposal outright (something most Council members have publicly said they won’t do) or put it in front of voters, mostly likely on the 2018 ballot.

In advance of the meeting, the Union-Tribune looked into concerns about the legality of the concessions, or enticing promises of cool things to include if the City Council approves the project, made recently by the investors behind the SoccerCity deal.

Of course, the politics surrounding SoccerCity have mostly played out by now, and it appears the opposition will emerge victorious. The investors behind the deal said a vote in 2018 will be too late, and a special election looks unlikely.

Yet a look at SoccerCity’s social media streams shows that supporters of the project aren’t ready to give up. Free food and T-shirts are being offered to fans who show up to the City Council meeting Monday to back the plan, and so far a few hundred have said they’re going.

A Welcome Water Flow from Mexico

Lately, Mexico’s sewage spills seeping into local waters have been making headlines.

Meanwhile, the Otay Water District has been working on a different kind of water deal with Mexico.

The U-T has an update on Baja California’s plan to build a massive desalination plant in Rosarito Beach, which would include a cross-border pipeline to import the desalinated water to southeastern San Diego County.

The plan was recently granted a needed U.S. permit, but it will need to clear many more permits and approvals before it becomes a reality. VOSD’s Ry Rivard has written about how at least one local water official worries that the desal deal with Mexico will only worsen the country’s sewer water problem. He’s also covered how the end of the drought has slowed momentum for desalination projects in the region.

Weekend News Roundup

One of the Navy officers ensnared in the “Fat Leonard” bribery scandal was sentenced Friday to 41 months in prison. Details in the officer’s plea deal show how contractor Leonard Glenn Francis bribed officers and scored U.S. diplomatic immunity, which he used to do all sorts of illegal things. (Washington Post)

• District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced her resignation this year. NBC 7 talked to two attorneys seeking the the interim district attorney position about why the role is important and why they say it shouldn’t be filled by anyone with plans to run for the seat in 2018.

 Two of the sailors who were killed when a cargo ship and a Navy ship collided Friday were from the San Diego region. (U-T)

 This Desert Sun columnist says San Diego is the epicenter of the war raging between California and the Trump administration.

 Here are some highlights from the Dalai Lama’s commencement speech at UC San Diego Saturday. (U-T)

 The tons of nuclear waste currently stored at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station could finally (maybe?) get moved to another location. Secret talks between the majority owner of San Onofre and advocates who want the waste gone are under way. (U-T)

• San Diego is already a big biotech town, but this week a conference will bring in even more biotech industry types. (U-T)

 The region’s refugee population was celebrated in City Heights on Saturday. (U-T)

 So can Portland finally admit that San Diego is the real craft beer capital of the country? (Times of San Diego)

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. She also managed VOSD’s podcasts and covered...

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