What has changed?
By Anna Daniels
Yesterday, August 17, twenty of San Diego’s media outlets participated in a focused effort to call attention to the tremendous human, financial and societal costs associated with homelessness in San Diego. If we were writing about another country, we would be referring to the humanitarian crisis posed by a growing number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), but this is sunny San Diego.
It remains to be seen whether the well greased wheels of San Diego politics and commerce are altered in any way after yesterday’s concerted effort, but I can speak with some certainty about a few things that haven’t changed today.
San Diego Free Press sent out a call to our citizen journalism contributors to submit articles for Homeless Awareness Day. Anne Haule spent time talking to people at a Hillcrest recycling center. She wrote:
“Theresa has been homeless for 4 years. She sleeps in Balboa Park. She makes $20-$25 per day recycling. One day she made $60. She doesn’t smile because she doesn’t have front teeth.”
Odds are that Theresa slept somewhere in Balboa Park last night, will do the same tonight and tomorrow night unless she is moved voluntarily, or otherwise, to some new location. Odds are that she will return to the Hillcrest recycling center to cash in another day’s work. What will change?
For tireless activist, Amikas founder and SDFP contributor Jeeni Criscenzo, awareness of homeless people and homelessness is a 365 day a year commitment. She spent much of yesterday at a Tiny Home demonstration in North Park. Jeeni also submitted a detailed critique of what the city of San Diego has failed to do in meeting its obligation to provide emergency shelters and transitional housing which we published yesterday.
In March of this year, Jeeni was recognized as a Women’s History Month Local Hero. “Criscenzo’s nomination was from the Women’s Museum of California for her work defending women’s rights and aiming to create economic justice. Part of these efforts are with San Diego’s homeless community.”
When Jeeni woke up today, her life’s work of addressing the needs of San Diego’s homeless men and women resumed. What has changed?
What are we willing to change?
The recurring question of “What has changed?” isn’t meant to imply that nothing can change. That change needs to start with compassion and empathy toward the men, women and children who are unhoused, for any reason. Ordinary citizens, the same people we ask to submit articles about their truths in their communities, must also recognize that our communal ability to address homelessness and the underlying lack of affordable housing and jobs begins in our respective communities.
Does your community plan recognize the need for affordable housing? Does your local planning committee include renters? When any of our respective communities are unwilling to recognize and accommodate the housing needs of low income, working class and yes homeless residents, nothing will change. I am looking at you, Clairemont.
How many of us have attended panel discussions or community input sessions about potential development and have been told that “affordable housing doesn’t pencil out”, that addressing the issue of homelessness is recognized as a significant factor in an area, but “outside of the purview of this plan” and that developers need more “certainty”? Maybe it is time to say “Bullshit, unacceptable!” and walk out, en masse from the panel discussion, the community input session. That is what it will take for something to change.
The next time you hear a developer whine about “uncertainty”, tell him to talk to the unsmiling Theresa, who woke up this morning in Balboa Park.