View of a homeless encampment on Commercial Street in downtown on March 30, 2023.
View of a homeless encampment on Commercial Street in downtown on March 30, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

On Friday, I put the finishing touches on a version of this column that told the story of a couple on the brink.

Tami Grobarek and her fiancé William Pendarvis have been living in their car in a safe parking lot in El Cajon. They have recently feared losing the car.

Late Saturday night, I had to update this story after Grobarek texted me.

“This is what I was afraid of happening and it has,” she wrote.

Their car broke down, so the couple would not make it to the safe parking lot they go to in El Cajon.

“We are on the side of the road as I’m writing this. We can’t leave the car here with bad tags. It will get towed. So we are officially on the street with our dogs,” she wrote.

When I met Grobarek last week, she asked me if we could sit outside a Starbucks in El Cajon so she could be near her car. It has been her home for almost a year, and she was worried that any day now she might lose it.

She sat at a table outside the coffee shop and called over to Pendarvis and their dogs, North and Rags, a 10-year-old miniature schnauzer mix, to join us. We instantly bonded over our love for miniature schnauzers. I have two.

Grobarek told me that she was at her wits end. She is a resourceful person but has found it incredibly difficult to navigate the complex services and systems in place to help homeless residents. She had got an envelope filled with documents – programs she’s enrolled in, records of services she has sought and more.

Just a couple days ago, with a sense of absolute certainty, she told me they were going to lose the car. At present, the couple is getting by on the money Pendarvis makes working in construction.

“We’re going to end up on the street, how much more vulnerable does a person need to be before they can get help,” she said Tuesday, adding that it feels as if every structure in place meant to help people get out of homelessness is failing them.

They enrolled in multiple programs and services. But still, they find themselves in this precarious situation.   

Their car’s registration is not complete because it did not pass a smog check. They owe parking tickets. And the car needs repairs that are well over $2,000.

“Right now, we are losing everything pretty much,” she said.  

Behind Voice: I interviewed Grobarek because she reached out to our newsroom. I am working on a longer story, but I wanted to share some of what she shared with me that day. Her story is one of many we have covered of people who are seeking services to no avail. 

If you have a similar story to share, you can reach me at  

Homelessness Downtown Reaches a New Record. The Downtown San Diego Partnership released a new count of unsheltered residents in the city’s center. It’s a new record with 1,958 people in April.

The Politics Report has a chart you can view here to compare previous months.

FYI to read the Politics Report you must be a Voice of San Diego member. If you support the work we do, and want us to keep doing it, please donate today at

Stories to Read While Drinking Your Cafecito Today 

Electric vehicle chargers for class 8 electric trucks at Truck Net LLC in Otay Mesa on April 27, 2023.
Electric vehicle charging modules at Truck Net LLC in Otay Mesa. April 27, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Voice of San Diego contributor Sandra Dibble had a fascinating scoop on a conversation happening at the border. California has a plan to transition diesel-fueled trucks to zero emissions. It has cross-border truckers and their clients on both sides of the border worried about a crucial trade corridor. Read it here.  

Tigist Layne has been covering North County for a while now (and we love her for it). Back in November she was closely following a proposed sales tax measure in Escondido. It ended up failing. But she was curious about what that meant. At the time supporters were adamant that it needed to pass to help the city tackle a budget deficit.  

So, Layne wanted to know, since it failed … what is the city sacrificing? She found that maintenance and public works have been taking the greatest hit. That includes maintenance of parks, sidewalks, libraries and more. She looked at all of that in a new story and then wrote a profile on a former Escondido resident who is filling in maintenance gaps at parks, by volunteering to clean restrooms.   

Jakob McWhinney a couple weeks ago wrote about staffing changes at San Diego Unified School District. Basically, the district has decided to vacate its area superintendent positions and open them up to new candidates. The current superintendents can reapply for their jobs. The news of this change, though, surprised some people in the community. Read the story here.  

McWhinney joined me on the VOSD Podcast for a one-on-one interview about why the district is pursuing this change and we also caught up on what stories he plans to follow next. Listen to that here. He also put a callout for parents who want to talk about their children’s reading curriculum. Email him if you do, he’s pretty cool. Contact him at  

Stories to Start Your Week  

We had a full week of updates in our Morning Report newsletter, so make sure to subscribe if you don’t already. Here’s are some quick points:  

Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Andrea Lopez-Villafaña, Managing Editor, Daily News Andrea oversees the production of daily news stories for Voice of San Diego. She...

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