Hepatitis A, San Diego. Homelessness and Housing Policy



File Photo: Tom Abbott


Sep 26, 2017 (San Diego) by now you have heard about the Hepatitis A epidemic in San Diego. It is a real medical crisis that is now spanning the County. Public wash stations and power washing of streets has started in both El Cajon and the City of San Diego. However, this is a story of multiple failures.

The first failure has taken decades to take shape. San Diego has one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. This is great if you are part of what is called the innovation economy, mid-career, or near the end of your career. If you are a young professional who just graduated from college, there is no affordable rental housing in San Diego. If you are among the working poor, forget about it. Rental prices in the county are among the most expensive in the country.

This has created the perfect storm. We have the fourth largest homeless population in the United States. This population lives in the streets or insufficient shelters. Then the city has not done much to have public bathrooms available, and many businesses are closing their bathrooms, or making them available to only customers.

So far we have seen 16 deaths and close to 300 hospitalized. With 421 reported cases. Los Angeles has reported cases. Public health reports that 65 percent of those cases are homeless, drug users, or both. We have also seen exposures are a Pacific Beach restaurant, away from the downtown area where most of the homeless are concentrated.

The County is offering vaccines, and both the city and County are putting together other measures. However, this is fully man-made, with the plodding response we are used to when it comes to the poor and homeless.

There are a few things that government should consider at this point. Rental prices in San Diego are way out of step with wages. Rent control has to not just be talked about but has to be implemented. San Diegans deserve that, and more.

Free vaccines are not just good public health policy, but right now how do you reach the more vulnerable?

San Diego needs to start a serious rethinking of development practices and gentrification as well. Mostly it is pushing the most vulnerable to the streets. Chiefly, shelters and housing first most come, now, not in a year. This means again, rent control.

Campaigns to tell tourists that this does not affect them are also wrong-headed. We get it, The city is trying to stop conventions from canceling. But this could affect a tourist, easy. Moving the homeless out of downtown, where most of the paltry services are concentrated is not an option either.

The city has been slow to respond, because traditionally our city leaders (and county leaders) do not care about the poor and disadvantaged. They were not taken by surprise. This was engineered by the policies followed by the city.

If there is any real commitment to these issues, all those million dollars per apartment projects in the pipeline have to give way to affordable housing. We cannot afford to continue to be one of the most expensive places to live. Once we were not, and right now this will hurt business as young professionals are not able to live in this city.



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