Tami Grobarek at Motel 6 with her dogs North and Rags in El Cajon on May 19, 2023.
Tami Grobarek at Motel 6 with her dogs North and Rags in El Cajon on May 19, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

On Wednesday, May 10, I got a text message from Tami Grobarek.

She wrote, “Last night it rained well poured for a short time. It was awful. Woke up with a night terror gasping for air. My nerves are shot especially having to be out in a tent. With coyotes and spiders. OMG … Scary … But we got through it.”

I introduced you to Grobarek and her fiancé William Pendarvis before. (Here’s my first story on the couple.) They had been living in their car for almost a year, and parking at night at a county safe parking lot in El Cajon. But their car broke down, so they were officially on the street. She told me they slept in a tent in a grassy area for a couple nights.

After I shared their story in my newsletter, the nonprofit that runs the safe parking lot moved them to a motel and helped get the car to a repair shop.

Their Story Isn’t Over

Tami Grobarek and William Pendarvis sit in their broken down car in El Cajon on May 9, 2023. /
Tami Grobarek and William Pendarvis sit in their broken down car in El Cajon on May 9, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Grobarek told me last week that she’s anxious. Her partner can’t work because they don’t have the car. And they don’t have anywhere to go after the car shop repairs their vehicle. They will likely go back to living in the car and parking at the lot.

“On one side, it’s good, but it’s only temporary,” she told me.

This week, I teamed up with Lisa Halverstadt to tell their entire story. It captures the complexity of a system that is supposed to help people experiencing homelessness. It just takes one thing going wrong for someone to end up in a worse situation.

Read the full story here.

Background: We first came across Grobarek and Pendarvis’ story when she emailed our newsroom. If you have your own story to tell, or would like to send us a tip, email me at andrea.lopez@voiceofsandiego.org.

Dusting Off The Archives

Carmen Battle, 55 years old in her room at Alpha Square in downtown on Jan. 11, 2023.
Carmen Battle, 55, in her room at Alpha Square in downtown on Jan. 11, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Before I worked at Voice of San Diego, I was constantly amazed by the number of stories or topics I was researching for a story, only to find that Voice had already written about it. (Darn, why are they so awesome, I thought.)

Anyways, I wanted to dust off an explainer Halverstadt wrote in 2019. You’re going to start hearing some terms often as officials on both sides of the aisle debate how we should house the homeless.

But first, chismecito: The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to help the city of San Diego purchase four hotels to house homeless residents. Only one supe voted against it and that was Republican Supervisor Jim Desmond.

His take: “As a county entity, I think we should really be focusing our money on treatment and services, not on taxpayer hotels as homeless housing that does not require treatment.”  He’s not alone, other Republican elected officials disagreed with the county’s move.

That’s because they oppose the so-called “Housing First” approach. It’s basically a model that the federal government pushed some eight years ago that focuses on, you guessed it, housing people first rather than years-long interventions first. That doesn’t mean that housing first options don’t offer services, though.

So, what do we mean when we talk about housing the homeless? Halverstadt has you covered. Read the post here, and bookmark it, because it seems this conversation is driving a wedge between some elected officials. You’ll be hearing more.

We also explained this disagreement, and offered up a lot of context, in the latest VOSD Podcast episode. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.

More Chisme to Start Your Week

  • San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria is considering reforming the city’s historic regulations and plans to transfer the program to a new department. Jesse Marx explained what this all means, and why historic properties are again a battleground for housing. Read the story here.
  • Column: This week I also wrote that there is no indication that there will be an influx of immigrant children enrolling in San Diego schools. My column was in response to a KUSI segment that aired on Monday suggesting that thousands of migrants were enrolling their kids in local schools, and that it would drain our systems. But they had it wrong. Here’s why.
  • Tigist Layne published a profile on Escondido Mayor Dane White. He’s the city’s youngest ever mayor. He also used to be homeless and addicted to drugs years ago. Those experiences are shaping how he plans to approach homelessness. Read it here.
  • Divorce is never easy. And this one certainly will be complicated. MacKenzie Elmer reports that two water districts want to leave the San Diego County Water Authority. As Elmer writes, it’s up to a little-known government body to decide if the divorce can happen. She explains how that body functions. Read about it here.

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

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