Homeless Choir Sings In Solidarity With Hepatitis A Victims

Friday, September 29, 2017
By Elma Gonzalez
Photo by Elma Gonzalez / KPBS
Above: Voices of Our Choir gather for a practice to commemorate those who have died from the hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego, Sept. 29, 2017.

In a show of solidarity with those affected by San Diego's growing hepatitis A outbreak, dozens gathered downtown to sing.

The Voices of Our City Choir, which is mostly made up of homeless San Diegans, met at the Civic Concourse outside City Hall for nearly an hour dedicating their weekly, open community choir practice to those who have died in the outbreak. So far, 461 people are infected and 17 have died.

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Steph Johnson, co-founder of the group, said many choir members feel frustrated with the city’s response to the outbreak. She said the city should have acted to prevent it, by doing more, such as providing better shelters and health care to the homeless population.

“Once you’re in homelessness, it’s really hard to get out,” she said, “especially in San Diego where you are treated as a criminal and ticketed and arrested.”

This week, the city cleared the homeless from the East Village and bleached the streets. Earlier this month, Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced three large tents would be set up to offer temporary shelter to the city's homeless.

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Johnson said the choir will continue to perform until the city takes more permanent action to tackle homelessness.

“It’s real. It’s very real, so I think we have to,” Johnson said. “I think we have to say something, and we have to continue to honor the people who are dying while there is no action to get people off the street and put them somewhere where they are not going to be harassed and they can actually get services. That’s our wish. That’s my wish.”