Tommy Rodger, 63, has been fighting devastating illnesses for many years, and while he would prefer to be inside, he is just glad to be alive.
Tommy Rodger, 63, has been at the North Magnolia Avenue camp with his girlfriend for about a week. He was one of dozens there on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. / Photo by Peggy Peattie for Voice of San Diego

East County has the second-largest homeless population in the region, according to San Diego’s latest countywide homelessness census. Despite the need, there hasn’t always been a lot of urgency to address the problem, especially among elected officials.

“If you go back, nobody gave a shit,” said San Diego County Supervisor Joel Anderson.

That may be changing, as Jakob McWhinney reports in a new story. 

The Board of Supervisors at a February meeting approved a pilot program that would provide $300 a month for seniors at risk of being priced out of their homes, to help keep them from ending up on the streets.

Anderson also pushed for more spending to develop shelter services and emergency housing solutions in East County. And last year, the board unanimously approved a new regional homeless action plan, including an estimated $1 billion on homelessness-related services. The plan includes an increase spending on treatment, outreach and prevention efforts and new emergency, interim, and supportive housing services.

There are also indications the region may be working to collaborate more efficiently instead of treating homelessness like an issue that ends at a city’s border. Advocates argue it’s a vital step for the region to make real headway on the issue.

Even so, the collaboration still has cracks. Earlier this month El Cajon mayor Bill Wells spoke to the media at a growing homeless encampment on county land on North Magnolia Avenue, just over his city’s border, to highlight the difference between his city’s approach and the county’s. The catch? Those living there say they were pushed there by El Cajon police.

Read McWhinney’s latest story here. 

Racial Disparities at the Border

It’s been long known that there are disparities in the U.S. asylum system. 

But it has most recently been on display at the U.S.-Mexico border as Ukrainians are being let in from Tijuana to the United States, and as people of other nationalities are turned away, under a new practice implemented by President Joe Biden’s administration, writes Kate Morrissey for The San Diego Union-Tribune. (Note: The link to this story is for subscribers only) 

Morrissey writes that under national and international laws, the United States is supposed to screen people who qualify as refugees if they are in fear for their lives. But that’s changed since a policy known as Title 42 was implemented in 2020 in response to the pandemic, which allows for asylum seekers to be turned away without the need for screening them. The policy has also given Border Patrol agents a significant amount of discretion about who gets let in and who doesn’t. 

Critics of Title 42 argue that the policy has left vulnerable people, even more so. But as Morrissey reports, it’s not hitting everyone the same way. She found that people from countries such as India, Turkey, Romania, Ukraine and Russia are almost never expelled under that policy, while people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are expelled often under it. 

Related: KPBS spoke to a Ukrainian woman about the inequities she witnessed. She told KPBS that she was outraged that asylum seekers from other countries were not being let in. 

And other border news: Sandra Dibble, our fantastic Border Report contributor, took the week off but she will be back soon. You can sign up for her bi-weekly newsletter about the border, immigration and the San Diego-Tijuana region here.

In Other News 

  • The San Diego County District Attorney’s office announced a three-point plan to address the correlation between homelessness and crime. The strategy is based on two years of county data that shows that homeless people were more likely to be crime victims and perpetrators. (City News Service)
  • State lawmakers introduced a bill that aims to protect inmates in San Diego jails. The “Saving Lives in Custody Act” comes in response to a recent report by the California State Auditor that details 185 deaths in county jails from 2006 to 2020. (Union-Tribune)
  • An apartment complex for formerly homeless seniors opened in Clairemont with 52 units. The Ivy Senior Apartments will remain affordable for 55 years for households with an income of up to 50 percent of the San Diego median income. (City News Service)
  • City officials are clashing on whether to ask voters this fall to overturn a 100-year-old provision that gives most single-family homes free trash pickup. Council President Sean Elo Rivera is leading the effort for a November ballot measure, but both Councilman Raul Campillo and Councilman Stephen Whitburn voiced significant concerns with the move at a meeting last week. (Union-Tribune)
  • San Diego officials announced Monday that 90 percent of city employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, which means the city can accommodate some exemptions. That means that some 790 employees, who asked to be exempted from the city’s mandatory vaccination policy, won’t have to get it, and instead must comply with weekly testing. (City News Service)
  • A Superior Court judge has ordered a lobbyist working for the city’s 101 Ash St. landlord to sit for another deposition – with a court-appointed referee keeping tabs. (Union-Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by Jakob McWhinney, Andrea Lopez-Villafaña and Tigist Layne. It was edited by Andrew Keatts. 

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