Skip to main content

Homeless Count, Measles In California, Refugee Stories

Cover image for podcast episode

The number of people who are homeless in San Diego County has decreased since last year according to this year’s Point-In-Time Count. However, the accuracy of the report is being called into question. Also, most guns used in homicides in Mexico come from the U.S., a new California measles case involved travelers, how California seniors are rethinking getting around and young Central American refugees share their stories in their own words.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 What law enforcement can and can't do to monitor terrorist.

Speaker 2: 00:04 Oh, the questions about San Diego's homeless count. I'm boring Cavenaugh

Speaker 1: 00:07 and I'm mark Sauer for jade Heideman. This is KPBS mid day

Speaker 3: 00:11 issue.

Speaker 1: 00:22 It's Wednesday, May 1st Saturdays deadly shooting at a Poway synagogue. Similar recent tragedies and threats resulting in arrest have placed hate crimes and the spotlight once again, district attorney summer stuffing says some violent crime standout

Speaker 4: 00:38 as prosecutors. We deal with violence on a daily basis, but when the target of violence is an entire religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, the victim pool becomes very large.

Speaker 1: 00:55 In another case, the Department of Justice arrested a former US army soldier who was planning to detonate homemade bombs at a white nationalist rally in Long Beach. This weekend. Investigators say the Internet is commonly used to spread hate messages and engage with likeminded extremist. Darryl Foxworth, a retired FBI special agent spoke with KPBS reporter Prius Schreder about the commonalities between the synagogue shooting and the arrest in Long Beach. Here's that interview.

Speaker 2: 01:23 It seems like both of these two suspects were using chat rooms to talk to other extremists. Are Law enforcement monitoring these chat rooms?

Speaker 5: 01:33 Well, you know, first let me say, when you look at both of these cases, they appear to have some similarities. The first thing is that it appears that they're both homegrown violent extremists. And what we're talking about, we're talking about individuals who are self radicalized through the Internet. And now how this, how does that occur? Uh, through a number of ways. I mean, they go on the Internet, they identify chat rooms, social media sites, things of that nature. And they start, you know, ingesting this, digesting this internally, and then they find some reason to identify with these groups and take violent actions, uh, against others. So first thing you're looking at is that these violent extremists that are basically homegrown based here in the United States. And that's the major threat that we're seeing today. When you talk about terrorism, last year, the director of the FBI spoke and he said that they had 5,000 terrorism cases open.

Speaker 5: 02:26 Of those 5,000, 1000 had to do with domestic terrorism and homegrown violent extremists. So this is a very, very serious problem. And the problem with these cases when you're talking about these individuals is that they're very hard to detect because you have these people that are, uh, operating oftentimes alone. There's not a lot of sophistication they can commit these acts with a knife, a gun, uh, vehicles. So there's not very sophisticated when it comes to the way that they go about executing these plots. The other thing is that there's less dots connect. You're not dealing with an organization, you're not dealing with a lot of co conspirators. So there's less communications to intercept or people to go out and identify and interview, conduct search warrants on. So these individuals, they're being self radicalized, they're in taking this information and off the Internet. And then the problem that you have is you don't know when they're going to go out and commit that violent act. And that's what really causes problems per law enforcement.

Speaker 2: 03:25 And so even those, these suspects aren't necessarily being tied to an organized group. They are using chat rooms and in many cases, these chat rooms seemed to be very popular with that kind of ideology. Is there a list of those kinds of chat rooms that, you know, federal agents are sort of surveying,

Speaker 5: 03:45 uh, you know, I can't speak to if they're surveying any particular one, but, uh, are they aware of, you know, chat rooms, social media sites that are utilize? Yes. And, uh, if there's, uh, a legal basis, Dan's law enforcement where they're talking about federal, state, local, if there's a legal basis and they have lawful authority to go in and monitor, you know, certain communications in connection with a, with an investigation, then that's something that they consider. And that's something that, that they would do.

Speaker 2: 04:15 I know I was about to ask you about that. I mean, what can be done if people are actually making threats online? Is it actually a crime or could people just claim that, hey, this is freedom of speech and how do you know when a threat that's made online is actually a credible threat?

Speaker 5: 04:29 Well, that, that's a very good question. And a yes, we always have to be aware of the civil liberties and we have to be, we have to be aware, uh, freedom of speech. Sometimes we don't like what you know people are saying, but the thing is that may be covered on a freedom of speech where it crosses the line is when he started talking about doing specific actions with that going out and doing something that's usually where you, you see that or they're about to do something. So while we do have that freedom of speech, you know, that speech can cross into criminal activity.

Speaker 2: 05:02 We heard reports in this situation that happened in Poway that the suspect could have potentially been using coded language and some of the chat rooms that he was using. What are some of the other challenges that law enforcement face when they're dealing with people talking in chat rooms or on the Internet and what changes need to be made in the future so that we don't continue to see these kinds of things happening?

Speaker 5: 05:24 Well, like, so when you, when you talk about the, you know, using coded, you know, messaging coded language, it's one thing to use coded language. I mean, you can decipher that. Um, you know, oftentimes there's intelligence, uh, uh, analysts that are able to be able to assist the investigators with knowing what the vernacular coded words, things of that nature that the challenge comes with the technology piece when you start using different technology to prevent or try to prevent law enforcement from intercepting that communication. So it's all about the partnerships, the information sharing and the technology. So the intelligence and information part of that, when you talk about the coded language, you know, you can defeat that. That can be, that can be done with, uh, um, with, with cooperating individuals through, through other means in information gathering. So you can kind of, you know, decrypt what that information is. Uh, the challenge is on a technology part when you start using a peer to peer in some of these other, uh, private Mesa communicate. So law enforcement always has to stay abreast of that and make sure that you have the technology so that you can intercept and decode that the messages are in the communication.

Speaker 6: 06:39 That was KPBS reporter Prius Sri, they're speaking with Daryl Foxworth, a retired FBI special agent.

Speaker 7: 07:01 The release of the results of this year's point in time. Homeless count was overshadowed earlier this week by the synagogue shooting in Poway and at first glance, the number of homeless individuals reported in San Diego County show some good news, but a new method of counting and questions about how accurate last year's count was. Put a cloud over numbers showing a decrease in the homeless population. Joining me by Skype is voice of San Diego reporter Lisa Halverstadt and Lisa, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. There was a slight drop in the number of homeless individuals in this year's count. Can you tell us about the numbers?

Speaker 6: 07:38 So this year the regional task force on the homeless had more than 1,500 volunteers go out a few days in late January and they counted approximately 8,100 people who were living on city and county streets and also in shelters. And that number is lower than last year, is that right? Yes, it is lower than last year. But one thing that I have been hearing a lot is these numbers are released as that it is not apples to apples. With last year's number there was a different approach. Um, and there was actually a push from the federal government to take another tack with this count than had been used in past years.

Speaker 7: 08:18 Right. They asked the people in the regional task force for the homeless to change their methodology. What were those changes?

Speaker 6: 08:26 So for years, I'm the regional task force on the homeless and it's volunteers had gone out usually or in the early morning hours and late January one morning and they would count people that they saw sleeping outside and then count tents and vehicles that they saw that looked like they were housing people. And then they would go and survey at a later time about 20% of the unsheltered population and use that to come up with some averages that they would then use as a multiplier. If you saw a tent or you saw a vehicle, you might say, oh, on average there are about two people staying there. So they would use that to help calculate the numbers. And then of course, as they still do, they would go and get information from homeless service providers about the number of people staying in shelters or other programs. But this year the push was to try to talk to as many people as they could to count people rather than vehicles or tense as in years past also last year, people living in Rvs were left out of the count and this year they were added.

Speaker 6: 09:29 Yes. This year they were included. The issue last year was that the task force was really grappling with this population. There had been some conversations playing out among homeless organizations like the task force and the federal government, uh, agency Hud, which oversees counts about how to best count people living in RVs because there are some people who live in Rvs who consider themselves homeless. And then there are others who may be travelers are in a different situation. Um, and ultimately after some debate, the task force last year did actually count RVs but decided not to include those numbers in its count, which was a difference from previous years. They had typically included RVs and applied the multiplier that I talked about a moment ago. Um, but decided not to include them and it didn't really come out until after the numbers came out last year. So there was a lot of concern about that and questions about whether that could have potentially resulted in hundreds of people being left out of the county who otherwise would have been counted in past years.

Speaker 6: 10:31 So this year the task force did go out and actually try to engage with people staying in Rvs. And did you know to ask them, do you consider yourself homeless? And they would also make observations to see does it look like this person could be considered homeless? There may be staying in an RV that's not in great condition and they counted 74 people in Rvs, which is a number that's a bit smaller than a lot of folks expected. Lisa, remind us why this point in time homeless count is conducted in the first place. So the federal government requires that, uh, regions across the nation conduct this homeless count in order to qualify for federal funding. Um, and more recently it's been used to, um, at a state level to try to figure out how much money a region might be eligible to receive as part of some of these bursts of homeless funding at the state level.

Speaker 6: 11:23 Considering all the changes we've been talking about and more that we haven't talked about, how reliable is the point of time count? You know, one thing that I hear a lot is, you know, it's one data point. It is a snapshot in time and even the regional task force will say, you know it best. It is the minimum number of homeless San Diego against that we have living in our community. What I'm hearing a lot more folks talking about is about year round numbers. So this year's press conference was interesting because they weren't just about this point in time number, but Tamar Kohler, who's the new CEO of the taskforce, brought up another number a year round number. They, I'm looking at their homeless management information system that they oversee. We're able to determine that last year, 27,850 people used homeless services across the county. That is a much larger number than the 8,100 that I spoke of earlier and there's a lot of interest in digging into this bigger number, more learning, more about that and in some ways it's easier to track what's happening with those folks in that larger number because they're in a system that allows for more tracking of what services they're obtaining and what sorts of outcomes they're getting.

Speaker 7: 12:37 On the policy side of this, just yesterday, the county board of supervisors approved doubling its low income and homeless housing funding from 25 to $50 million. How has that money been used so far?

Speaker 6: 12:51 Well, thus far, the county says that about 453 affordable housing units are in the works. They're hoping to get a total of, um, from each of these $25 million burst at least 1000 affordable housing units. Now I would note that this is a pretty significant thing for the county. So back in 2017, the county voted to institute this fund are actually pulling money from their reserves to support affordable housing, which is a first time thing for a county that has had a pretty large bank account and not really gotten super involved in the housing game. Um, so a lot of folks are watching this and seeing that the second vote to add another 25 million pulling it from the reserves again is a pretty big deal for the county.

Speaker 7: 13:34 Is it too soon to tell what kind of impact of these housing projects are having on the number of homeless people in the county?

Speaker 6: 13:42 Well, that's a great question. I would say that there's a much greater need than just 2000 housing units, but significant, you know, to have another 2000 units if they do come online in addressing this problem.

Speaker 7: 13:55 I've been speaking with voice of San Diego reporter Lisa Halverstadt. Lisa, thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 8: 14:09 Okay.

Speaker 7: 14:09 President Trump continues to press for a wall to stop immigrants and drugs from coming into the u s but yesterday and the first of a two part report. We explored the connection between the soaring violence in Mexico and US guns pouring south across the border. Today, KPBS border reporter gene guerrera looks at what's being done about it.

Speaker 6: 14:31 Matt, Clear Lens and active shooter Defense School in San Diego. He was in the military for 12 years and worked eight years as a police officer.

Speaker 9: 14:40 Guns in Mexico or just like drugs in America. Okay. They're freely flowing across that border. That's completely unprotected. You know, and I don't want to get on the wall subject, but basically we need something

Speaker 6: 14:52 clear says he doesn't think making us gun laws more restrictive is the solution to stopping the smuggling of guns into Mexico. He says that only creates problems for law abiding gun owners like him.

Speaker 9: 15:04 The laws are so convoluted and ever evolving that I can just be sitting at home doing nothing and is if I'm not going down to my gun store every day asking if there was a new law, I can immediately become. Yeah,

Speaker 6: 15:15 a felon. It's against Mexican law to take us guns into Mexico, but tier one is police departments as nearly all of the 2000 weapons at his Cs in crime scenes over the last three years are from the US. They pour in through ports of entry where there a few inspections. Yes. The reality is affecting real people and see [inaudible] Sanchez shows me a picture of her 29 year old son Fernando, who was fatally shot in Tijuana. No, no. It's lucky they showed him one time in the temple and then he died. She says, the problem with her son started when he began to struggle with drug addiction in the u s get Guinness. Also, Neil says, I wanted to recap [inaudible] Tanium robot, but it's too expensive to do it here though. She was killed in Tijuana after she sent him there to be treated. David Shirk is a researcher with the justice in Mexico project who says, lacks US gun laws are contributing to Mexico's violence hitting an all time high. Last year,

Speaker 10: 16:16 Mexico has a homicide by firearm epidemic, and one way to help address that I could epidemic is to address the problem of firearms.

Speaker 6: 16:26 He says, American gun lobbyists have blocked legislation to fix the problem because they profit off the black market in Mexico.

Speaker 10: 16:33 Well, one thing that could be really helpful, which we do not do, um, in the United States, is to register firearms and to track firearms. It's actually illegal in the United States for the ATF to main rate, maintain records of who has a gun in the United States.

Speaker 6: 16:53 But gunshop owners like lean Moise, Safra of gunfighter tactical gun law restrictions just hurt his business without doing much else. He says, gun shops do plenty to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. He remembers a man who stopped by once.

Speaker 10: 17:08 He said out loud, um, I want to buy that rifle to take back to my ranch in Mexico. And we said, no, you can't do that. You cannot do that. There's laws against that and I'm not going to sell you a gun. Now

Speaker 6: 17:19 it's some people think Mexico would be safer if it's government made it easier for citizens to buy guns like in the u s Bob Marvin is a self described vigilante in east county. He says Mexico's problems of violence stem from it's restrictive gun laws.

Speaker 10: 17:34 I would like to see the Mexican people be armed so they could take their government back. The kick take their country back.

Speaker 6: 17:41 The head of Mexico is customs agency. Ricardo Peralta. Since the new administration is installing x rays and other surveillance technologies

Speaker 11: 17:50 at the ports to capture more information about vehicles coming in from the US. Previously, there were very few inspections of southbound vehicles

Speaker 1: 17:59 in El Paso differ in the past. They had used technology like we're using now and which we're planning to expand. We would have avoided so many deaths and Mexico

Speaker 11: 18:09 clear of the active shooter training. School says he has another solution. I'll tell you right now, here's the answer. It's a just, hey, America's stopped doing illegal drugs. That's it. That's your answer. Every drug addict out there quit, stop buying illegal drugs. He says that will stop the violence in Mexico. Gene Guerrero KPBS news Mexico's customs agencies in the process of trying to get funding to install the technology to detect us guns flowing south into Mexico.

Speaker 1: 18:57 Nearly 20 years ago, measles was declared eliminated in the United States. Now the highly infectious disease, which ones affected millions each year is back. More than 700 cases have been reported nationwide. The highest number since 1,994 so far about 40 cases have been reported in California though none in San Diego County. Joining me via Skype is Dr. Mark Sawyer and infectious disease specialist with Rady Children's hospital and you see San Diego. Dr Sorry, are welcome. Good to join you. So far they haven't been any reported measles cases in San Diego county, but health officials here still are on alert. Do you think it's just a matter of time before a measles case turns up here?

Speaker 12: 19:38 Yes, it is. Just a matter of time. We've been lucky so far, but we have our fair share of unimmunized populations and all it takes is one person traveling from one of the many, many states in the United States that are having outbreaks or from other countries. If they get off their airplane here and say, yeah, go, we're going to start to see cases here

Speaker 1: 19:58 and remind us how this disease typically presents itself.

Speaker 12: 20:01 So measles is a very typical viral infection of young children and prior primarily of young children. And it presents at first with a runny nose and a cough, but soon after that, uh, they'll fever develops. And then the characteristic rash, which people have come to recognize is measles starts on the face and then moves down the body over three to five days.

Speaker 1: 20:25 La Officials declared an outbreak last week. Some people may have been exposed, they were told to stay home, others were quarantined and most have been released. Now how would health officials here work with the county to set up a quarantine should one be needed here in San Diego?

Speaker 12: 20:40 Well, we have experience with that. We had an a small outbreak in 2008, and which we exercised a lots of, of the things that can be done. So the key in containing an outbreak is to identify susceptible people who've been exposed and then prevent them from subsequently exposing somebody else. So that involves checking immune status. If somebody is not immune, then they're isolated at, usually at home until they have finished the incubation period so that they won't then turn around and give it to somebody else.

Speaker 1: 21:11 How long they have to stay at home.

Speaker 12: 21:12 Well, it can be up to 21 days after exposure. So it's a long time. And, uh, that's one of the reasons measles is so challenging is people can be infectious or contagious for many, many days. And uh, we, uh, and if they're out in the community during that time, then they're going to spread the infection.

Speaker 1: 21:32 Now, most of the cases in California been linked to travel, but how much of this latest outbreak can be blamed on parents who delay or do not vaccinate their kids, do to misconceptions about vaccines?

Speaker 12: 21:42 Well, the majority of the cases of measles that we've seen in the u s this year though, 700 cases, you referred to our unimmunized individuals. Some are children, some are adults, but uh, the children in that group are generally in that category of children whose parents have decided intentionally not to immunize them. It's not an issue of people not having access to vaccine or not having had the opportunity to get vaccinated.

Speaker 1: 22:07 As this has been in the news, the uh, idea of this Wakefield generation has come up and there's a big focus now on what's taking place on college. Campuses explained that to us, uh, this generation and this particular group of individuals.

Speaker 12: 22:21 Well, the origin of the general concern or hesitancy about vaccine is attributed to a British researcher named Wakefield who published a paper back in 1998, I believe, linking measles, mumps, rubella vaccine to autism. Now that study has been refuted completely and many, many, many other studies have been done since then. That show there is no link. But those people who you know, grew up in that era, their parents may have been exposed to this incorrect information and decided not to immunize them. And since that was in the late nineties early two thousands those kids are now in college and college is a great place to transmit infection just because people are generally living in close quarters interacting with lots of people all day long. So I'm not surprised. We've seen mumps outbreaks in college campuses as well for the exactly same reason.

Speaker 1: 23:16 And there may be older adults who may be under immunized against the measles, right?

Speaker 12: 23:21 Yeah. Most adults who have been immunized probably only got one dose of vaccine and although one dose is very effective, close to 94 or 5%, it's not as effective as two doses, which gets us up to 98% of protection. So certainly adults who are traveling to places where we know measles is circulating the advices, they should get a second dose and if they're not sure when in doubt you should get another dose of vaccine. Okay. And there is a test for that fee to find out if you're truly immunized. Right? Right. Blood tests can be done to determine if you're susceptible to measles. So, but for some people it's just easier to go ahead and get a second dose. There's no harm in getting a dose of vaccine, even if you're already immune.

Speaker 1: 24:06 And finally the A, if the number of measles cases continues to climb because the progress we made on this disease be reversed, how bad could this get?

Speaker 12: 24:13 Yeah, that's the trouble with measles. Once the genie's out of the bottle, it's really hard to get it back in because it's so contagious and because on average, each person with the measles can transmit it to between 10 and 20 other people, you had blossoms very quickly and once it's up and going, it's hard to control. And, and we've seen that story play out over and over again. Right now in France for example, they're having an extended outbreak with thousands of cases of measles because they're in an even worse situation than we are with regard to under immunized population.

Speaker 1: 24:48 I've been speaking with Dr. Mark Sawyer and infectious disease specialist with Rady Children's hospital and UC San Diego. Thanks doctor. Sorry. Thank you.

Speaker 13: 25:00 Yeah.

Speaker 1: 25:06 The aging baby boomer generation is expected to transform almost every aspect of life in California. The population over age 65 will nearly double in our state over the next two decades. Many seniors are concentrated in suburbs and rural areas. We're driving is pretty much the only way to get around. So what happens when older adults can no longer get behind the wheel in a generation that expects to be more active and independent? As part of our series about grain, California KP CC's, Megan McCardy Carino brings us to this profile.

Speaker 11: 25:40 77 year old Regina Jones might be a retired grandma, but it's not like she's spending her days knitting in a rocking chair. I've been busy every day. Neighborhood Association. I stay busy in that and a lot of friends, a huge family. She's hit with the Times. She even has a smart speaker. What do you use it for? Wait a minute. You're the youngster and she's working on a memoir about her life in the music industry. At the beginning of my career, published a black entertainment newspaper called soul from 1966

Speaker 14: 26:09 1982 as the world's most vocal, probably the Jackson five, but America's most soulful paper, but Kgfj fold on sale now, super

Speaker 11: 26:19 featured, all the biggest stars. Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, James Brown. I got super bad. Really? No, no, I don't know. I really don't Cheetahs, but about 10 years ago, her life hit a sour note. Joan's injured her back in a car crash. It just stopped me. She developed severe anxiety and couldn't get back on the road. Just stopped doing things.

Speaker 10: 26:45 I was also in a depression, a horrible depression. It was a very low time for awhile.

Speaker 11: 26:52 Jones lives in central Los Angeles, a place well served by public transportation, but her physical limitations make transit challenging. It's hard to walk to the bus stop and when she gets there, places to sit down while you're waiting. That's major. She also has access to two paratransit services run by the city and the county, which provide door to door rides for seniors and others with disabilities. I'm so grateful it exists. Let me be real. But as she healed and wanting to do more, these services weren't cutting. It rides have to be scheduled by phone at least a day in advance.

Speaker 15: 27:25 Thank you for calling access para transit southern service area. Please stay on the line for the next available agent.

Speaker 11: 27:31 Pickups can only be scheduled within a one hour window like the cable guy rides are shared, so you never know how long it will take to get where you're going or not. Okay. For a super bad senior on the move, like Jones still, she says it's not as bad as asking for rides from family.

Speaker 7: 27:48 Often they kidnap you after whatever they've agreed to take you to and then they say, oh, I want to stop here for just a minute. Okay,

Speaker 11: 27:55 so Jones has found an easier way to get around. We'll have a car in two minutes today. She's heading to physical therapy using her favorite smartphone APP. It's freedom for me. I just call Lyft freedom, but freedom comes at a high price. She spends more than $300 a month on rides, something she could never afford if she had to cover the high cost of living on her own. Several years ago, her daughter and son in law moved back into the family home to help pay the bills. It's a compromise. She's more than willing to me to at least feel like she's back in the driver's seat again. You need to get over a lane to the right. If I know my way, I do backseat drive a little bit in Los Angeles. I, Megan McCardy Carino.

Speaker 10: 28:38 The story is part of our California dream collaboration. You can find out more@greencalifornia.org

Speaker 13: 28:49 yes,

Speaker 7: 28:55 president Trump has called it a national emergency is talking about the hundreds of migrants seeking asylum at the u s Mexico border. His administration has introduced a number of programs aimed at discouraging people from making the journey to the border, but there's been little effort to explain why so many people are risking everything to try to enter the U s a new book documents. The stories of 15 young Central American migrants who several years ago left their home countries to seek asylum in the u s they reveal what they were escaping, what they endured along the journey, and what they found once they got here. The book is called Solitos Lolita crossing borders with youth refugees from Central America and joining me as the books editor, a Pulitzer Prize winning editorial writer for the San Diego Tribune. Jonathan Freedman. Jonathan, welcome to the program.

Speaker 16: 29:47 Thank you for having me.

Speaker 7: 29:49 I've been writing about the big picture politics of immigration for decades, but for this book that focuses on human stories, why, why that change?

Speaker 16: 29:58 Well, my co editor, Stephen Mayors and I, uh, became very concerned in the year 2014 when suddenly thousands of children of young people, teenagers, mothers with kids and kids as young as nine and 10 years old, started crossing the u s border right at San Diego. And of course, the news was shocking, but having written about this for many years on the border, I saw a new group of people. These are young people. Why were they coming? Who were they? What had happened to them inside their lives, in their, in their homes to make them leave and why were they crossing, you know, the very dangerous Mexico to get here and what was happening to them when they reached the border us border and what was happening to them inside United States.

Speaker 7: 30:47 This book is made up of stories coming from interviews conducted with a number of these young people. Can you tell us about what drove some of the people profiled in the book to make the journey?

Speaker 16: 30:58 Is he young woman named Soledad Castillo? She was growing up in Honduras. In her family, had the poorest house in the barrio as a young girl. She was sexually abused by her stepfather. She was sent to work as a child labor in the, in the nearby capitol and she got sick. She recovered and begged her father who had worked in the United States to bring her to the United States. She was 14 at the time. Yes,

Speaker 7: 31:28 Jonathan, do you think you could read an excerpt for us from solid odd story?

Speaker 16: 31:33 I'd be very, very happy to the sec syrup just called. I just remember their hands. It took more than one month to get to the United States. The three of us left Honduras and went to Guatemala on the bus. My Dad sat in the front seat and I sat behind with other people. There were gangsters on board. First One guy took out a gun and then the other guys did too. They put a gun to my head, telling me to give them all my money. I didn't have money, but they didn't believe me. They took my pants off. I don't remember their faces. I just remember their hands. I remember hands touching me all over my body and I couldn't say anything. At that time. I was 14.

Speaker 7: 32:24 Jonathan Freedman reading from the book, he's edited. So solita and Jonathan, I want to ask you a question about that title because what we hear mostly about today, our caravans, uh, of of young people at people from Central America to seek asylum in the u s yet the title of this book means alone alone. Can you talk about the significance of the title?

Speaker 16: 32:49 Yes. We were interviewing one of our first, um, refugees, a young man named Adrienne who had been shot and stabbed and left for dead by a gang in El Salvador who are neat. We interviewed him. He told us his story, why he left and he kept muttering to himself. So Lita Solita, that means alone alone, he's, there are thousands and thousands of people who are refugees. Each one is traveling alone. These stories are important, we believe because each is an individual person. They have very, very different stories, but they are all in a sense are traveling alone.

Speaker 7: 33:32 The excerpt that you read for us, that terrible experience that Solidad Casio had on her way to the u s she's actually made quite a success here in the u s she's now a u s citizen. Isn't that right?

Speaker 16: 33:44 Not only is she a u s citizen, she put herself through community college, City College of San Francisco, and then graduated from San Francisco State University.

Speaker 7: 33:57 Jonathan, what's happened to some of the other people whose stories are told in the book? Are they all happy endings, like solid hours?

Speaker 16: 34:06 I wish they were, but they're not. This is a book of real lives and real lives have many different kinds of endings. One of one of our narrators, Nim posts way came here. He idolized his father who was a coconut grower and he had to flee because of the gangs and when hosts we got here, he just told me how much he loved his father, how you wanted to be like his father, and a few months after our first interview, he got word that his father had been murdered by the gang back in El Salvador

Speaker 7: 34:37 and book we've been talking about is Solitos Alita crossing borders with youth refugees from Central America. It was edited by my guests, Jonathan Freedman and by Stephen Myers. Jonathan, thank you very much for your time and for talking to us about your book.

Speaker 16: 34:53 Thank you so much.

Speaker 13: 35:02 Okay.

Speaker 7: 35:03 Sharing a personal story of loss with others can be healing. It can help forge connections and encourage others to reveal themselves. As part of our first person series, Nanda Maita describes how speaking publicly about a taboo subject made her stronger and let her to encourage other women to share their own stories on stage. People around me, close friends, they knew what I was going through. We tried to conceive for, um, about 10 years from the time we started. And then IVF was very new at that time in late eighties,

Speaker 17: 35:38 early nineties. It was still considered experimental and it was such an amazing process to go through that I would share that. And emotionally I would get support from friends and family. And so I spoke about it openly. I will, I wasn't afraid to talk about it. The reason I decided to share it is because there was a lot of secrecy amongst friends that would come and ask me, oh, are you talking about this? I'm like, why not? So that's when I decided to come out and literally talk about it openly.

Speaker 3: 36:21 Ooh,

Speaker 17: 36:23 my name is [inaudible] and I am the founder and director of Ohana, which is a nonprofit organization that creates and cultivates awareness and acceptance of the South Asian culture. You oniki bud is actually translated as talk off the Vaginas, which is vagina monologues. Evens Lear is a phenomenon that it was started, um, decades ago. Some ladies in San Francisco calling themselves South Asian sisters, got the blessings from events and said we'd like to use that platform for our South Asian community because these are things that people don't talk about in our community. When I moved to San Diego, I said, this area doesn't have the South Asian communities is a very close knit community. It's a very closed community. So I wanted to bring that out and encourage women to come forward and talk about it because they don't know it at that time. But once they go through the process of the workshops for four months, it is amazingly transformative. So my story starts with where the third IVF attempt ended, where the doctor said, you know, they had five fetuses that they had put back in me and they said, no, I'm sorry. It's um, you've lost all five.

Speaker 17: 37:54 I think I know the exact moment when the one drag the others with it as if cajoling them to come out and play. I was devastated. I don't know what went wrong. I had also followed every bit of advice on baby making, one-on-one solicited or otherwise as dished out by all well meaning aunties. Maddie bought Samba Beta it. Holly with jaggery every morning it will make your womb fertile. Said one wise auntie illegally. No, no set another specimen. Gotti Putta lime and ginger with a bit of honey as best my sister's brother in laws, daughter's friend had the same problem and after taking this mixture, she gave birth to triplets. I was in the presence of founding mothers of old wives' Tales. Obviously. I imagine the next step would be to practice and pop out that baby instead. It was seven stressful years of doctor's visits, specialists and hormone drugs.

Speaker 18: 38:58 Hmm.

Speaker 17: 38:59 The more you talk about it, it triggers memories and you do get emotional. And there were plenty of times where I did break down and cry while we were discussing it in the workshops, the writer's workshops, because I was talking about finding out each time that, uh, the IVF was not successful. The, the uh, the um, uh, losing five, five embryos at the same time was, you know, very hard. That was hard for me to share. But once you start writing and the whole process of just sharing it with the women who are also sharing their own stories, that whole workshop is very cathartic for us. It's very, it's a nonjudgmental space and that really helps to talk about your story. But at the end of it, you'll come out strong and you're able to stand up in front of strangers, you know, 200, 300 strong and share your story.

Speaker 3: 39:57 Oh Oh

Speaker 17: 40:12 three stressful hormonally yo-yoing emotionally draining. Invitros later came the epiphany of adoption with blessings of all family and friends. The adoption process of my first child took as long as human gestation nine months. Exactly. With this remarkably coincidental timeline. I realized that inception was no different. Enjoy or effort from conception. Now imagine two columns, conception, inception, decision to conceive, decision to adopt our violation and copulation paperwork and applications, ultrasounds and checkups, social worker, interviews and references, gynecologists and hospitals, orphanages and Ostrom's, baby showers, baby showers, mad rush to the hospital, mad rush to India, birth of child. You get custody of child. That magical moment when you first hold your baby. That magical moment when you first hold your baby. Homecoming, homecoming, stretchmarks, no stretch marks.

Speaker 17: 41:40 I've spoken to a lot of women that want to go through that process. You know, what does it take even as much as asking, well what if you don't bond with the child and you know, things like that. Um, so that has helped a lot is just talking and connecting and letting women know that it's, it's fine and it helps me a lot to speak about it as well. My children have always known from the beginning that they were adopted once a four year old, Nicole asked me, mom, he must've been very sad when you lost five babies. I told him, yes, of course I was very sad, but if I had not lost them, you would not be in my life and I would not change a thing. Nina was more curious. She wanted to know why she was given up, why her birth mother did not want her.

Speaker 17: 42:29 I carefully explained, I don't know my Betcha, but perhaps she was too young and then married. Many people believe only married couples can have babies. But you know what Nina, I think she did a, did a very brave thing to give birth to you. You are special because you were chosen that seem to satisfy her immensely. In fact, should even use it to her advantage and playground pissing contests. I am special cause my mom chose me. You were just born hours was a miracle family. We were brought together when we didn't even share one atom of common DNA.

Speaker 7: 43:16 That was Nanda Maita, founder and director of a Honda, the fourth Ohana festival featuring a play in English by South Asian artists. Inspired by Eve Ensler is the vagina monologues takes place on Saturday at 5:00 PM at the Joan. Be crock peace and justice theater at the University of San Diego. More information is on our website coming up on KPBS evening edition at five on KPBS television off Holocaust Remembrance Day vigil at Sdsu. And join us again tomorrow for KPBS mid day edition at noon. And if you ever miss a show, you can find the mid day edition podcast on your favorite podcast app. I'm Maureen Cabinet and I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for listening.

KPBS Midday Edition podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.