This week, we’ve got updates from the highly anticipated safe camping site put in place by the city of San Diego.
The city opened the site to provide unhoused residents a safe place to camp, made to be more attractive than sidewalks. The first of two such sites, it precedes stricter enforcement to get tents off city streets and away from sensitive areas like schools.
Voice senior investigative reporter Lisa Halverstadt joined the podcast this week to spill the deets. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said 20 people are camping at the site as of Thursday morning. The current intake rate is about three people per day.
Some advocates suggested this site was rushed and wasn’t ready to accept all who want in. But Gloria this week highlighted the site’s amenities, such as access to water, hand-washing stations, daily meals and connections to services — and said the current intake pace is by design and should ramp up over time.
Halverstadt, along with fellow senior investigative reporter Will Huntsberry and hosts Andrea Lopez-Villafaña and Jakob McWhinney reviewed how this site came to be and its ties to the camping ban that will go into effect later this month.
About that ban: Halverstadt had a story this week to preview what the ban might feel like for many homeless folks. The camping ban, by design, will fuel more police interactions. Advocates and City Council members say they’re worried this will disproportionately affect Black San Diegans.
According to the latest census numbers, six percent of the city’s population is Black. Yet Black San Diegans make up 27 percent of the unsheltered population, per the latest annual homeless count.
Further, Halverstadt found that from 2018 – 2023, people identified as Black received nearly 28 percent of arrests and citations for encroachment, the most common charge the city uses to police homelessness.
Halverstadt also shared personal experiences of those trying to live in San Diego, navigate police interactions, and stay connected to services.
The other side of the homelessness coin: long-term housing solutions.
Huntsberry’s latest story examined one big chunk of housing the city of San Diego wanted in Mission Valley.
The city, of course, wants to find solutions more permanent than safe camping lots. And thanks to a state funds from Project Homekey, cities can turn hotels into homes. San Diego wanted to use an Extended Stay America motel in Mission Valley.
In the show, Huntsberry cracks open the history of the owners, H.G. Fenton Company — and how its covenant and current outlook axed what could have been a critical housing solution.