San Diego, heaven turned into hell for the poor |

Latara Brown was forced to leave her residence because the prices were too high.Photo: Radio Canada/Frederic Arnold

Latara is one of those left behind. I couldn’t pay the rent which kept going up, so I had to leave my house, and I lost everything. I first went to the shelter and ended up here.

It is a mental and physical struggle. The city crowds us, the other homeless rob us. There is no drinking water dispenser and no bathroom. People defecate all over the sidewalks. You have to stay awake and keep an eye on your things all the time.

Realizing the increasingly critical situation, Kristan Horney’s team drives through town on the organization’s truck Father Joe’s Villagesthat helps those who need it most.

The nurse practitioner notes that in the past two years, the number of homeless people has nearly doubled. According to her, the reasons are unfortunately common in all large cities. These are the prices for rentals and homes, but there are also increasingly addictive and increasingly dangerous drugs.

Among the homeless people I’ve met, the stories are quite similar. More jobs, more housing, and very quickly, it’s a downward spiral of despair.

Among today’s patients, there is Sheila, who has been on the street for three months. Mental health problems, deteriorating physical health. A fairly common example in the day-to-day work of Christian Horney. A bad day for us is when we let these people know we could have done more.

Furthermore, she meets Mitchell… a regular…

Mitchell, a regular customer of Kristen.Photo: Radio Canada/Frederic Arnold

Skin problem, lack of self-confidence. His mind isn’t always clear, especially when social services encourage him to show up at a job fair to try and keep him off the streets. Do you want to try going there tomorrow? Of course, but my mind tells me one thing and my conscience suggests another.

Kristan’s daily tours lead her to try to connect with those thousands of homeless people, whom it’s not always easy to get close. But it does try to react by providing them with toiletries or even what is needed to treat increasingly frequent opioid overdoses.

Street workers who work alongside Christian Horney are doing what they can to tackle this exponential growth of street poverty.

We see more and more families and children. We also see pregnant women among the homeless. »

Quote from Christian Horney

Exactly, that morning, we meet Ray, a drug addict, 40, who thinks she’s pregnant. His immediate need is very simple. She would like to provide more showers for her and her peers.

Waterfront in San DiegoPhoto: Radio Canada/Frederic Arnold

San Diego’s homeless population is dangerously close to 10,000, according to some estimates. In the county as a whole, the number is about 40,000.

San Diego now ranks fifth on a lackluster list of cities with the largest homeless populations in the United States.

For merchants, such as Romina Ruiz in the East Village area, this is not a good thing for the city’s image. They may not be in the way, she says, but there is a lot that needs to be done.

Behind this postcard image hides a very different reality from the thousands of poor people.Photo: Radio Canada/Frederic Arnold

San Diego’s Third District Council member Stephen Whitbourne thinks the solution starts with grants to help those who are struggling to pay rent and who are about to end up on the streets. He estimates that the city has doubled its shelter slots over the past two years, but he would also like to create safe villageskind of pool tents.

Those who prefer to stay in a tent rather than a shelter will have a place such as a fenced car park, where they can pitch their tent and have access to restrooms and securityStephen Whitbourne explains.

Pending the final launch of this project, San Diego’s homeless are transported twice a week by the city to clean sidewalks where dirt and litter accumulate.

The city says it’s dealing with the problem head-on, but there’s resistance, says Tamera Coleher, executive director of the Homeless Task Force. The solution is social housing, the solution is simple. Getting there, keeping it and getting the resources is another challenge entirely.

Resistance comes not only from residents who do not want to see social housing near their homes, but also from the homeless. Achieving sufficient housing is a challenge, and obtaining the level of support among the street dwellers themselves is an equally great challenge.

Scott, who is originally from Ohio, hopes to be able to go home and see his son.Photo: Radio Canada/Frederic Arnold

Scott is one of Christian Horney’s regular patients. He left Ohio to perform the pilgrimage to scatter his wife’s ashes in the places they loved most.

Last Christmas, Scott exhausted his resources and found himself on the streets. He still had time to send his 19-year-old son to Ohio. I didn’t want him to go through what he was told. I’m about to be able to go see him again. How long? I hope next month.

Christian Horney knows that she will not be able to save all these homeless people from their daily misery. No, but we try, we do everything we can every day. I think we need to create safe environments for these people, and we talk to many people about this every day. Their things have been stolen and they have been beaten and they cannot rest their heads.

I think we have to find a solution where they can feel safe somewhere. »

Quote from Christian Horney

The sun sets over the Pacific Ocean off California.Photo: Radio Canada/Frederic Arnold

The upside to the California dream isn’t great, but here, we remain convinced that the homeless aid projects on the table will make it workable. But the task will be difficult.

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