The Homeless Raise Issues of Discrimination in Pacific Beach

Video Tom Abbott

Photos: Tom and Nadin Abbott

Dec 17, 2015 (PACIFIC BEACH) Reporting San Diego had the chance to talk to some of the homeless in San Diego. They raised issues of discrimination, in particular by one business. This is the McDonalds at 1121 Garnet Avenue. According to Nate Nicholson the restaurant does not like to serve the homeless, though it depends on what manager is on duty.

He told us of a homeless veteran. “he served in Desert Storm, came in here about a week ago to get a burger. They told him no, no they weren’t going to serve him. He talked them into serving him, but he was told to take his meal to go.” This is how our conversation started. Nicholson also said that this has been going on for 10 years, that he knows off, and that people go back in spite of the horrible treatment.

Nicholson also pointed out to the 30 minute time limit for people to eat their meals, which is only enforced on the homeless, according to Nicholson and a friend of his, Rando Cashloose. Yet, there is a parking sign on the parking lot that allows people to park for an hour.

Nicholson also said that friends of his who were paying customers, were charged to use the restroom. He compared this to his experience at Starbucks which is down the road. There, the “girls are super kind to me.” He also said that there is no homeless issue. People come, pay, get their coffee and move on with life.

Nicholson also said that he stopped going to that McDonalds after they started charging to use the restroom. He also said. “I feel that the homeless have been mistreated for too long, and that god is unhappy about it.”

Another thing that they did, is that they capped all the electrical outlets, becuase it was costing the restaurant too much. The restaurant has solar panels.

Cashloose talked about how they are also mistreated. He also added, “they make you feel unwanted.”

A third homeless also said the same thing.

Why this matters.

Now some numbers about the County of San Diego. The last homeless count had 8,742 homeless in the county isn January of 2015. The count for January of 2016 will happen.

According to this count, we had a 4.3 percent increase from 2014, and veterans made 15 percent of our unsheltered population. The majority of our unsheltered population lives in the County year round. and according to the report:

  • Roughly one-third of the unsheltered homeless have a physical disability
  • Two-thirds reported having health insurance
  • One in seven of the homeless are on probation or parole
  • One-fifth reported a severe mental illness
  • 17% reported substance or alcohol abuse disabilities; 9% reported substance abuse disabilities;
  • Roughly two out of three had spent time in jail or prison.

These are also critical definitions of what is to be homeless, and they come from the Housing and Urban Development. (HUD).

Definitions of homeless According to HUD, a person is considered homeless only when he/she resides in one of the places described below at the time of the count.

An unsheltered homeless person resides in: A place not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings, or on the street.

A sheltered homeless person resides in: An emergency shelter, including temporary emergency shelters only open during severe weather. Transitional housing for homeless persons who originally came from the streets or emergency shelters.

We did not ask if they had access to any kind of shelter or not. But it struck us of interest that at least one of the people we came in contact with is a veteran,

Here is the data for the city of San Diego as far as unsheltered homeless population. There ere 1249 chronically homeless in the city. 744 have severe mental health issues, 631 are veterans. There are also 4586 who are in some kind of a shelter. 1409 are in emergency shelters, 52 are in supporting housing, and 3125 are in transitional housing.

What about you? Well here is some food for thought. According to Home Aid America more than half of the homeless are families with children.

They also state that:

Homelessness is, in fact, caused by tragic life occurrences like the loss of loved ones, job loss, domestic violence, divorce and family disputes. Other impairments such as depression, untreated mental illness, post traumatic stress disorder, and physical disabilities are also responsible for a large portion of the homeless. Many factors push people into living on the street. Acknowledging these can help facilitate the end of homelessness in America.

For those living in poverty or close to the poverty line, an “everyday” life issue that may be manageable for individuals with a higher income can be the final factor in placing them on the street. A broken down vehicle, a lack of vehicle insurance, or even unpaid tickets might be just enough to render someone homeless.

Yes, the old adage that we all could be one pay check away from the streets is still very much a fact.

There is more, What we were told during the interview about the charging of some money to use the restroom, This is not an uncommon practice According to Christine Schanes, writing for Huffpost:

As the number of homeless people increased, the owners of fast-food restaurants began to lock their restroom doors and charge 10 or 25 cents per use. Of course, tokens to the restrooms were made available to restaurant patrons at the counter.

Some places have simply closed their bathrooms. There is more, the cost of hosing the homeless is actually less than the cost of keeping them in the streets. This, we understand, is counter intuitive. For example:, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

A study from Los Angeles, CA – home to ten percent of the entire homeless population – found that placing four chronically homeless people into permanent supportive housing saved the city more than $80,000 per year.

There is more, This is a population that will access emergency room departments more often, and face longer hospital stays. Even emergency shifter, at times necessary, is $ “$8,067 more than the average annual cost of a federal housing subsidy (Section 8 Housing Certificate).” So it makes sense to try to get more permeant solutions to homelessness. It is not just the humane thing to do, but it is fiscally sound policy.

So back to the interview at Pacific Beach. The issue is about a restaurant that has discouraged the homeless from frequenting the place While our sources pointed to the restaurant driving away their own customer base. you could make the argument the restaurant is trying to keep themselves viable for their housed clients. This is discrimination, They are correct in calling it that way. But we must look at this as a higher level policy mater. It costs more to keep people in the streets. It is also very difficult for people to leave the streets once they get to them.

In 2016, in January, we are going to have another Point in Time homeless count. It will give us more data, as to how the problem changes in raw numbers.

We are also embedding a short segment of the interview.

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2 replies

  1. This is simply a great article, thank you for reporting on this story. Thank you for writing it.

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