Emergency Humanitarian Action to stop criminalizing homeless people in San Diego.
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As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune last November, in the past 6 years, decisions by San Diego leaders of government and business eliminated 10,000 "affordable" units of housing, canceling out the entire amount added going back to 1979. Even worse, just 543 permanent units designated for homeless people have been added in the past 10 years. Since 2003, over half of the City's single-room occupancy units have been replaced by market-rate hotels, apartments, condos and office buildings.
As a direct result of these policy decisions and priorities by San Diego officials, the population of homeless people in San Diego has spiked in the past two years, with a 19% increase in people who are unsheltered. San Diego now has the 4th largest population of homeless people in the U.S.
School districts report thousands of students who have no place to call "home". Emergency shelter for families with children is non-existent. The number of people aged 55+ living on the streets has doubled in the past year. People of color are disproportionately represented.
As bluntly put by the San Diego Union-Tribune's Business columnist:
"No, the magnets of great weather and lavish welfare don’t explain such growth. Los Angeles County, with the same climate and larger subsidies, has cut its chronic population by 29 percent (to a still-catastrophic 12,354 people). Salt Lake City is down 98 percent, Houston is down 86 percent, and the U.S. overall is down 32 percent.
"In our burgeoning failure to house the most vulnerable, San Diego stands alone. We are a national disgrace."
The Mayor of San Diego's answer to the burgeoning population of people forced to live on the streets due to the his own decisions and actions over the past decade (2 years as Mayor, 8 years as City Councilmember) and those of his fellow officials and business leaders? Direct the San Diego Police Department to engage in an escalating campaign of ticketing and arrests for obscure offenses in the Municipal Code, as well as plea bargains by the City Attorney to include "stay away orders" to keep people with no home nor shelter away from the very services intended to help them.
Concurrent with this campaign escalated in organized fashion year (leading up to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and Comic-Con in July), a downtown San Diego business group's monthly census showed a 68% spike in street homelessness. So clearly, criminalizing homeless people for harmless, unavoidable behaviors of sleeping and sitting, has not worked to reduce homelessness on the streets of downtown San Diego.
The use of San Diego Police officers to address the consequences of elected officials' policies and actions has been criticized by many -- including officers themselves -- as contributing to the growing tension between law enforcement and the residents they are sworn to "protect and serve."
On Monday, December 12, 2016, before the formal inauguration of the Mayor to a full 4-year term, a new City Attorney, two City Councilmembers to additional 4-year terms, and three City Councilmembers to new 4-year terms -- a "People's Inaugural" was held in an adjacent public square (see Photo above of the Voices of the City Choir, made up of homeless people and allies) to call attention to this failure of City leadership, and ask for the incoming leaders, old and new, to do better.
Specifically, we call upon all of these elected officials to support the following:
"The Mayor of San Diego has the authority to direct the San Diego Police Department to suspend the Ticketing and Arrest of, and Stay Away Orders for, homeless San Diegans.
"We request that the Mayor do so as an Emergency Humanitarian Action until permanent and safe housing is provided to every San Diegan in need of shelter.
"This Emergency Humanitarian Action would be limited to the safe living conditions of unsheltered homeless people, and does not apply to any activity beyond that.
"We also request that the City grant amnesty for all tickets, fines, arrests and stay-away orders related to the living conditions of unsheltered people since January 1, 2013.
"We respectfully request that the City Council and City Attorney support this Emergency Humanitarian Action by the Mayor, and call upon Mayor Faulconer and the City Attorney to take this Action immediately."
We also delivered this request to the newly-inaugurated City Council at its first meeting that afternoon, before it adjourned for the rest of 2016. And we delivered it to Mayor Faulconer's office immediately afterward. We have continued to make this request to the Mayor and City Council every month since.
Please join us in signing this Petition to call upon Mayor Faulconer to take this Emergency Humanitarian Action immediately, in the face of winter weather. As Mayor, he is responsible for the safety of these San Diegans who are left to our streets as a direct consequence of the decisions and actions by him and other San Diego government and business leaders over the past decade, which has decimated San Diego's affordable housing stock.
For more information, see the San Diego Union-Tribune's story on the People's Inaugural: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sd-me-peoples-inauguration-20161212-story.html
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