Steve Watelet unfolds a quilt made of t-shirts that once belonged to his son, Kellen Watelet, in Mesquite, Nev., on Friday, May 20, 2022. / Photo by Miranda Alam for Voice of San Diego
Steve Watelet unfolds a quilt made of t-shirts that once belonged to his son, Kellen Watelet, in Mesquite, Nev., on Friday, May 20, 2022. / Photo by Miranda Alam for Voice of San Diego

With more than 100,000 troops, San Diego has the largest military population of any city in the United States. And as Will Huntsberry uncovered earlier this year, a disturbing trend is affecting the youngest troops, who’ve signed up to serve their country. 

Military leaders long boasted that troops have a lower suicide rate than the rest of the American population. That is no longer the case. 

What we found: In a series of stories, Huntsberry revealed that young men serving in the military were nearly twice as likely to die by suicide as young civilian men in 2020. Young women troops are more than twice as likely to take their own lives as young civilian women — a problem that has persisted for several years. 

Over a six-year period, at least 31 people took their own lives on Camp Pendleton alone. More than 20 died by suicide in communal barracks housing. Naval Base San Diego has nearly the same amount of troops as Camp Pendleton, but had just two suicides on base over the same period, according to county death records. 

“Those numbers reflect a serious, persistent and tragic problem, with concrete cultural change long overdue,” one psychologist and veteran said. 

Read the full story here. 

Schools Are Stepping in to Fill Holes in Housing Supply

San Diego Unified offices in University Heights on Oct. 24, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

From community colleges to K-12, schools are taking big leaps into housing. 

Multiple K-12 districts have passed bond measures with funds earmarked to build teacher housing and nearly every community college in the country has received grants to plan for student or employee housing — both of which would be a first in the region. Four-year universities are also working to significantly expand on-campus dorms. 

Why this is happening: The momentum is driven by the fact that many educational institutions actually have land — a key stumbling block when it comes to housing projects. And they have quite a bit of it. It’s by no means a panacea, but housing projects on local education agency land could amount to a decent chunk of the heap of housing San Diego, and the state, needs to build. Especially if districts like San Diego Unified branch out from simply offering employee housing to offering housing to district families, which some SDUSD officials hope to get to over the long term. 

But all of this production brings up a philosophical question. Given what education officials characterize as the chronic underfunding of public education, should schools seek to make profit on housing? 

For Dana Cuff, founder of cityLAB, a center in UCLA’s architecture and urban design department that focuses on urban growth and on affordable housing, the answer is a resounding no: “We shouldn’t expect housing to underwrite education.” 

Read more about how schools are stepping in to build housing here.

Elsewhere In the Super Happy Holiday Fun Zone

  • San Diego home sales and prices continue to drop, erasing most of the gains from last year. One real estate agent said some owners have decided to rent out their homes rather than sell because of higher interest rates. (Union-Tribune) 
  • County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher spoke to U-T columnist Michael Smolens about the changes he helped oversee as chair, including more money for social services and attention on underserved communities. He attributed many of the changes to a county that’s now “more aggressive and assertive.” 
  • San Diego Unified students are dealing with a significant backlog of special education assessments, with many students having to wait longer than state law allows. (inewsource)

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, Jakob McWhinney and Jesse Marx. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.

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