FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 12, 2017
Contact: Dan Rottenstreich, firstname.lastname@example.org
San Diego Leaders Call On County Government To Step Up Response To Homeless Crisis, Hepatitis Outbreak
· Coalition of federal, state, local lawmakers and community leaders call for dedicating $150 million in County funds previously offered for a Chargers Stadium to combat homelessness and Hepatitis crises.
SAN DIEGO – A broad coalition of San Diego’s leading lawmakers and top community leaders gathered on the steps of the County Administration Building today to call on San Diego County Government to increase funding and step up its response to the homeless crisis and Hepatitis A outbreak.
Leading today’s coalition, former Assemblyman and current candidate for County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said:“County leaders cannot sit on the sidelines as America’s Finest City becomes America’s worst homeless crisis. If County politicians could offer $150 million for a Chargers stadium, then they can certainly invest that same amount in real solutions to the homeless, hepatitis A, and housing crisis affecting all of San Diego.”
Over the last two years, San Diego County’s homeless population has surged to over 5,000 homeless sleeping on the streets with a chronic homeless population of over 1,750 people. Since summer, San Diego’s Hepatitis A outbreak has taken 18 lives and seen nearly 500 reported cases of the deadly disease.
Scott Peters, Congressman, said: “Ending the homeless crisis in San Diego can only be achieved if every public agency does its fair share. In Washington, I've successfully fought to deliver more homeless resources to San Diego and City Hall is working nearly every day to open new shelters, deploy more social workers and combat the hepatitis outbreak. It’s time for County Government to start putting its considerable resources and know-how to work behind real action to tackle San Diego’s homeless crisis."
Reporting this week in the Voice of San Diego revealed that City Hall’s requests for County Government’s support to fight homelessness and combat the hepatitis crisis have largely fallen on deaf ears, with County leaders maintaining that responding to the homeless crisis within the city limits is not the County’s official responsibility. While City Hall has launched numerous programs to house and treat the chronic homeless, declared a state of emergency and spent millions, a similar investment and focus from County Government has yet to materialize.
Barbara Bry, San Diego City Councilwoman, said: “City Hall needs the County as a strong partner in the fight against homelessness. We need to work together to protect the public health, save lives that hang in the balance, and invest in proven housing and treatment solutions to end the homeless crisis”
Michael McConnell, Homeless Advocate, added: “It’s time for County leaders to do their fair share as the public health agency for all of San Diego County and take real action to tackle the homeless crisis. We cannot afford for County leaders to sit by on homelessness while lives are lost, public safety is at risk and our economy suffers.”
In 2015, County officials offered $150 million in taxpayer funds towards a new Chargers Stadium, funds that were ultimately not used as the Chargers pursued their own local ballot measure and then moved to Los Angeles. The coalition’s ‘Emergency Action Plan’ [LINK], released by Nathan Fletcher at today’s press conference seized on the $150 million offer and laid out dozens of currently underfunded and understaffed housing, public health and social work programs that could be strengthened, expanded and directed towards ending the homeless crisis with the public money previously offered to the Chargers.
Ben Hueso, State Senator said: “Earlier this year, I launched a state audit into County Government’s chronic understaffing of front line public health nurses, which is putting our community’s health and safety at risk. Instead of offering millions to the Chargers or lining their reserve account with billions, County leaders must join the unified front of the city, state and federal agencies doing everything we can to end homelessness, combat hepatitis and invest in affordable housing.”
David Garcias, President of SEIU Local 221, the County Workers’ Union, added: “Our county has chronically short-staffed our community’s urgent public health needs while sitting on billions in unrestricted reserves. We need action now to bring on more registered nurses and social workers to fight the hepatitis outbreak and treat our homeless and at-risk populations.”
Joining the federal, state and local lawmakers at today’s press conference were representatives of San Diego’s business community, which has been clamoring for city and county leaders to significantly step up their response to the homeless crisis, which has presented significant operational challenges and potential long-term threats to San Diego’s hospitality industry and other industries downtown.
Cam Fomby, Owner of the CounterPoint restaurant and lounge in Golden Hill said: “My business is hurting because of the failure of our government to handle basic functions. It is time for the County of San Diego to step up and act. We can’t wait.”
Rafael Castellanos, Incoming Chairman, San Diego Port Commission added: “As incoming Chairman of the San Diego Port Commission, I’m deeply concerned about both the lives lost and neighborhoods hurt by the homeless epidemic, as well as the potentially profound impact the downtown homeless crisis and hepatitis outbreak could have on the Port’s annual $8 billion economic impact in the San Diego region. It’s imperative that every single government agency in the region, including the County Board, step up and do everything within their power to end homelessness and secure a strong economic future for all of San Diego County."
Gil Cabrera, San Diego Convention Center Board member said: “San Diego’s hospitality industry is strong because tourists the world over know this is where ‘happy happens’, but if County leaders don’t act now we will become known as the town where ‘homelessness happens’ and that will have disastrous consequences for our vital tourism industry. We need County leaders to step up and do their share to protect the public health and secure San Diego’s reputation as a top tourism destination so our hospitality industry can continue to grow and thrive.”
Faith and community leaders also joined the press conference calling for stepped-up action to the urgent homeless crisis that is taking lives and impacting communities Countywide.
Bishop Bowser of San Diego's Charity Apostolic Church closed out the press conference by remarking: “The scripture teaches us there is nothing more treacherous than a hardened heart. As a city and as a county we must tackle our community’s crises with fierce urgency and deep hearts to lift up the sick and homeless who can’t help themselves and demand that our elected leaders do the same.”