Shopping carts and other belongings sit along the curb of an East Village street in 2017. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Several years ago, I spent a good deal of time diving into what was then a new and novel platform, Nextdoor, a site that connects neighbors.

In those early years, plenty of concerns and disturbing stories surfaced laying out the ways in which the site can be a hotbed of racism and racial profiling.

In the years since then, the site seems to contain just as many outraged posts about people not picking up dog shit as ever, but the bulk of the paranoia and seething hostility in my feed has largely shifted to another group of people: the homeless.

In one post, helpfully titled “HOMELESS JOINING SOCIETY” a man says he was putting up lighting “to help protect our families and children” (huh?) when “a crazy homeless person came along with a bat and smashed them as he was walking down the walkway screaming at people that weren’t there. Pathetic!!! When will something be done? I feel like rational human beings need to stand up and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!”

It’s not quite clear what he’s advocating for, but the disdain is plain as day.

Just as often, posts will address something completely unrelated – a local park, a home break-in, events at the library – and they’ll somehow devolve into bitter bickering over the homeless. A neighbor, for example, posted a Union-Tribune story about a crackdown on billboards advertising marijuana. Without missing a beat, someone quickly replied “Crackdown [sic] on homeless meth heads and we can talk.”

Just as San Diego is far from alone in experiencing homelessness, it’s not alone in being a place where Nextdoor interactions devolve quickly into a cesspool of homelessness hate, as a piece on the new Medium platform OneZero detailed this week:

“Across the country, Nextdoor is being used to actively surveil, police, and spread animosity against local homeless populations. … the platform’s private setting means that posts simmer and boil over into a mob-with-pitchforks mentality. It has all created an environment where landlords, homeowners, and renters feel safe to vent their frustrations and unfounded suspicions — actions that can have direct consequences for the homeless.”

As journalists, we’ve rightly focused on holding our elected officials accountable for making meaningful progress on homelessness. But those elected officials certainly take cues from the communities they serve. Cruel policies that appear to be motivated by this type of disgust, though, don’t serve anyone well in the long run – as a settlement agreement being hashed out over the city’s decision to ticket the homeless as if they’re no different than a stray garbage can shows.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Our former intern – after fighting for it for two years – got her hands on a bombshell investigative report showing a Southwestern College professor kept a trove of nude photos of him and students, plus videos of him having sex with a student in his office. The college let him quietly resign and agreed not to mention the report to prospective employers.

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We just can’t quit Ry Rivard. We published his two final pieces this week: A look at the weird, wild world of water vending machines – where the water is rarely inspected and the competition is fierce. And finally, he wrote a fantastic piece detailing the lessons he learned from four years of covering water in the West.

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Our investigation revealing that a South Park doctor wrote nearly one-third of all the medical exemptions in the state led to a new state law that restricts medical vaccine exemptions. Here are the local schools and doctors likeliest to be impacted when the new law goes into effect.

The potential impacts of a bill to ban private prisons in the state, however, are far less clear.

Speaking of new state laws, here are a bunch of them written by San Diego lawmakers that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed this week.

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District Attorney Summer Stephan walked back part of her comments regarding just how much she knew about SDPD’s decision to lower testing standards for certain rape kits.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“Do you have a lot of money laying around that you want to part with? Are you oddly attracted to garbage people that sing barely passably but dance pretty well? Are you indifferent to the idea of supporting unrepentant abusers? If you answered yes to all of the above, then, by all means, go see Chris Fucking Brown.” – Behold, the greatest newspaper calendar entry ever.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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