San Diego declares homelessness a public health crisis
S1: How homelessness is a public health crisis.
S2: It really impacts their ability to be productive and actually work towards addressing their homelessness and get into a safe place.
S1: I'm Jade Hindman with Andrew Bone. Maureen is off. This is KPBS Midday Edition. The fight over a voucher program to house people with no shelter heats up.
S3: So I appreciate the attorney general saying you're not going to violate every state.
S4: And federal housing law.
S3: Not here in California.
S1: A new report reveals problems with Imperial County's 5150 holds. And a new children's book about Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. That's ahead on Midday Edition. The San Diego Board of Supervisors passed a proposal today that would declare homelessness a public health emergency. While the move won't release additional funds to address homelessness , the declaration will allow the county to focus resources on the numerous health issues plaguing the community. Regional leaders have said that addressing these needs are critical to ultimately breaking the cycle of homelessness. Joining me now with more is Hunan Scrapper , the regional director for People Assisting the Homeless or PATH. Hannan , welcome to the program.
S2: Thank you for having me.
S1: You know , we hear a lot about how mental health challenges are such a big problem for the unhoused population. But how do physical health issues also keep people stuck in the cycle of homelessness.
S2: Having direct access to adequate health care and having a safe place to sleep ? They really go hand in hand. We really need are our clients , individuals , people to really be living in a safe environment in order to access equal health care. And when we think about each one of us , when we're not feeling well , we want to be able to stay home and sleep , get some rest. And that's just not available to our clients. And we see various health issues through when we do street outreach. We see some issues related to open wounds that really get worse over time and get infected. Cellulitis , you know , chronic health conditions such as heart and liver disease , just various health issues that our unhoused individuals are experiencing. And it really impacts their ability to be productive and actually meet their goals in life and being able to actually work towards addressing their homelessness and get into a safe place.
S1: And homelessness is often framed as a housing crisis.
S2: It is a housing crisis. A lack of adequate , affordable housing is an issue in addition to health care , right. Access to health care for our unhoused population is really critical. And when they don't have a safe place to stay and if you're out on the street , your chronic health condition or even a small wound can get really worse. So health care and housing all tied together. In order for us to address homelessness in our community.
S1: Outreach workers often talk about how members of the homeless community are reluctant to address mental health issues. Is this the case with basic health care needs as well ? Yes.
S2: And I think in some cases , people may not have had a great experience accessing health care. And similar to when we're not feeling well , we may go to our primary care physician or a doctor. And in our unhoused population , they don't have a doctor to go to. They have not suitable that level of care. And so they may go to the emergency room to get their basic health care needs met. And so we need to change that framework so that people do have access to physicians. People do have access to going into a clinic or health care center to receive those basic medical needs. And by making health care accessible , it really helps people improve their health. Access to medication , access to wound care and follow up services and medications. These are all critical services that our unhoused and actually all humans need.
S1: And older people who are homeless are particularly vulnerable to health care complications. Why is that ? Yeah.
S2: So our recent 2022 point in time data show that 25% of the unsheltered population is 55 and older. And so , as you can imagine , the health conditions that come with being outdoors and some of the health issues that I brought up earlier , those tend to get worse over the years as people haven't been able to get their health needs met. And so working closely with our federally qualified health care centers and our health plans closely to really address the population's need will really help that older population access these services and be able to stabilize in a safe and healthy environment.
S2: And so all of our outreach teams are very well versed in knowing how to help someone get their health care insurance reinstated or even established to begin with. So what we've seen to be successful is actually accompanying individuals into these federally qualified health centers to establish a primary care physician , to establish regular care and follow up services. We've seen tremendous success in that. And programs such as AM , which is a state funded program that is funded directly to the health care. Which allows us to provide mental health , substance use treatment and community supports. That's really looking at social determinants of health has really been a huge service in our communities for making sure individuals know these resources are available to them and ensuring there are outreach specialists out on the street are knowledgeable about these health care resources.
S1: A San Diego's homeless community in recent years has been plagued by a few notable outbreaks of sickness.
S2: That will allow people to have a place to stay clean and healthy , as well as having resources in terms of shelter and permanent housing. I think when we have so many folks who are unhoused living on the streets , the streets aren't meant to be. Homes are meant to keep people and provide a safe space for folks. So when you have a lot of people who are living unhoused on the streets , it really increases those chances of public health risk for everyone.
S1: I've been speaking with Hernan Scrapper , the regional director of Path Anon. Thank you so much for joining us.
S2: Thank you so much for having me.
S1: As you just heard today , the San Diego County Board of Supervisors declared homelessness a public health crisis. And against that backdrop , the fight over a San Diego County program that gives motel vouchers to unhoused people seeking shelter in El Cajon is heating up. We've told you that the city of El Cajon is threatening to find hotels and motels participating in the county's bridge motel voucher program. Well , on Friday , Attorney General Rob Bonta sent the city a warning that it is violating state and federal housing laws. El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells's response , that assessment is , quote , egregiously false. Joining me now to talk more about this is KPBS reporter Alexander Win. Alex , welcome.
S4: Oh , thanks for having me.
S1: Remind us why El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells was threatening to find hotels and motels that accept county housing vouchers.
S4: Well , he claims that the county is dumping unsheltered people in his city. According to him , El Cajon only has around 5% of the county's homeless population. But 45% of the people participating in the voucher program are in the city. So to put things into perspective , there are 18 motels and hotels participating in the voucher program. Eight of them are in El Cajon and about four are in the city of San Diego , and the rest are scattered throughout the county. And he says that it's not about homelessness , but this is a public safety issue. According to the city , more than 20 people have been arrested at or near participating hotels and motels in the past 10 to 15 days.
S1: In response , the attorney general , Rob Bonta , sent a letter on Friday to El Cajon saying the city is violating the law.
S4: And basically what he's saying is that the city is violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act and basically people who are using vouchers to pay for the hotel , that is their basis for income. And by discriminating against them , that is discriminating against their employment or their way of paying for the hotels.
S1: I mean , so which is true.
S1: And the voucher program is a San Diego County program.
S4: About 95% of the people who are participating in this program are from the East County and , you know , the city of El Cajon. So that's why they're staying in the East County. So Nathan Fletcher says that this is just a publicity stunt from Bill Wells.
S1: Also on Friday , the Regional Task Force on Homelessness sent a letter to El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells , co-signed by seven other groups.
S4: And they point out that in the most recent point in time , homeless count homelessness in the city of Oakland has increased by 69% since 2020 , from about 775 people do about 1300 people.
S4: Yesterday , he sent out a statement that says that the attorney general's assessment is egregiously false and that is one sided. But he has also rescinded the warning to hotel owners after what he described was a productive meeting with the city.
S1: You know , we haven't talked about the people who receive these vouchers.
S4: And she said it is a life saver. She says she has to take insulin and you have to keep it cold so she can't be outside. And we talked to her , you know , our colleague Matt Hoffman talked to her during the heat wave that affected the county back like two weeks ago. So she can't be outside where it is hot. She has to keep the insulin's cold. So she says it's frustrating that the city of alcohol is doing this.
S1: I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Alexander when. Alex , thank you very much.
S4: Well , thank you for having me.
S5: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Andrew Bowen with Jade Hindman. Local and state lawmakers have been trying to retool the behavioral health system to address long standing failures in the treatment of people with mental illness. In a crisis , authorities have the ability to hold someone against their will to prevent them from harming themselves or others. But a new investigation from a news source found that Imperial County's use of psychiatric holds may be more than just inadequate. In many cases , it may be illegal. I'm joined by Jennifer Bowman , investigative reporter with Eye News Source. Jennifer , welcome back to Midday Edition.
S2: Thank you. Good to be back.
S5: What is a psychiatric hold or a 5150 , as it's often referred to ? And what could lead to someone being placed into that hold ? Yeah.
S2: So a 5150 hold , that is kind of what it's commonly known as. That's a a nod to the section of state statute that actually governs these holds. So in California , if you're suffering a psychiatric crisis and you're found to have been be a harm to yourself or to others or gravely disabled , you can be held at a hospital or a designated health facility against your will for up to 72 hours. This is often kind of the most the first step someone might experience when it comes to involuntary treatment in California. And experts actually warn that it can be a quite traumatic experience and one that people may experience on multiple times.
S5: Your investigation focused on what are called serial or stacked holds. Can you explain what those are and what you found ? Yeah.
S2: So there are different levels to involuntary treatment. It starts with this 5150 hold we're talking about in it and it can build up to longer stays. So if a clinician wants to hold a person longer , they can seek what's known as a 50 to 50. And that's a 14 day hold. Ultimately , a person needs a formal hearing to be placed on that 14 day , 5250 serial or stacked holds is two terms that people use to refer to this practice. It's sort of a workaround around that 72 hour window. So instead of seeking that 50 to 50 and securing that court hearing , clinicians are placing people on back to back 72 hour holds.
S2: So in general , the only facility in Imperial County that should be taking people on 5150 holds is a county operated outpatient clinic with just seven beds. So that's an inadequate facility to handle what can be as many as a thousand cases of 5150 holds a year. That unit operates typically during regular business hours. It has some restrictive criteria. So if you are a person who may have a violent history or additional medical issues , for example , this already limited clinic , they will not serve you there. And that's where the emergency rooms come in. So the county has two hospitals. And what we found is that they act as alternative locations for 5150 holds , even though they're not officially designated to accept them. And these hospitals don't have the psychiatric staff to meet people's needs who are there on a 5150.
S5: I think they're pretty clear due process concerns with this use of just constantly restarting that 72 hour clock and somebody never getting a hearing for whether they should be kept in treatment against their will. Longer term , you spoke with some former and current mental health care workers from Imperial County.
S2: They're not getting that formal hearing. You're right. They are. They are not getting the due process that are in that they're entitled to. What I hear , however , is behavioral health officials tell me they have this dilemma and in exists in Imperial County. So you have that state law and obligation to get people that formal hearing. But you still need to find a person a long term bed if you feel they need to be held longer. And that does not exist in Imperial County. So anyone who needs to be held longer is sent elsewhere , like San Diego , for example. And what I heard from behavioral health officials , including a former employee at Imperial County , is that there's the challenge of finding that bed in that 72 hour time frame. And then there's a concern that alternatively , if you decide let's release the person that they still may be a harm to , they may still have harm to themselves or to others , and that it can result in death is what these officials tell me.
S5: Jennifer , we've talked a lot on this program about Governor Gavin Newsom's care court law , which he signed just two weeks ago. And these new courts are having the power to force people with debilitating psychosis into longer term treatment. Could that law result in authorities using. Serial 5150s less often.
S2: Yeah , I think just like you said , there's been a lot of things kind of potential solutions kind of thrown at our system as we look at the failures and challenges of treating folks with serious mental illness in California , care court is one of those , and I think it really kind of shines a light on all the problems we're seeing within the system , like Serial 5150s , for example. The people that we will probably see who find themselves in front of care court , a 5150 will not be new to them. This is often the first step , the first step in involuntary treatment. It's the first step ultimately to people who may be placed under a conservatorship , which is a possibility if you do not complete a program or flunk , for lack of a better word , care court. And so I think it's just a really it highlights just a lot of the problems that the mental health system in California has. And the idea with care court is to try to provide early care , not to get to the point where you might be being placed on that aspect 5150s or you might be being placed on a conservatorship. And so time will tell if that if that's the case. But the people you'll see in front of care court , a 5150 will not be something they are unaware of. I would bet.
S5: State legislators have taken notice of some of the problems with psychiatric holds in California.
S2: Both of them are on Governor Gavin Newsom's desk right now. Both have cleared state legislator. One seeks to improve overall the data collection for 5150s in California , with the goal of trying to identify disparities to actually get a good idea of what's happening with these short term holds. There's actually very little data available statewide on a very common piece of our involuntary treatment. Another bill seeks to clarify when this 72 hour window for a 5150 win that actually begins , the counties actually start that clock at different times. Some may start it at the time that you may be picked up by law enforcement , for example , or by the time you get into an official designated facility to take these holds. So it really varies across the state in both of those. Wait , wait , Gavin Newsom signature. The governor has hundreds of bills to consider by the end of the week. So I think we'll know soon if if they'll become law.
S5: I've been speaking with Jennifer Bowman , investigative reporter with I news source. And Jennifer , thank you.
S2: Thank you.
S5: California will not be joining 20 other states and making kindergarten mandatory for students before they enter first grade. Governor Gavin Newsom this week vetoed a bill that would have done just that. He cited the bill's cost , an estimated $268 million annually , which wasn't accounted for in this year's budget. Supporters say mandatory kindergarten would help students from marginalized communities. Here to break this story down is KPBS education reporter MJ Perez. And Meg , welcome.
S1: Good to be with you , Andrew.
S5: Now , I have to say I was surprised that kindergarten wasn't mandatory already. I thought it was. I went to kindergarten , didn't really have much of a choice in the matter.
S1: Like most states , California does not mandate kindergarten as it does other grades. California children who are five years old are eligible for kindergarten , but the law does not require them to attend school until they are six. Which brings us to the second part of your question. What about those students who enter school in first grade never having been to kindergarten ? The truth of the matter is they are at a real disadvantage because they are entering school at a late age , whereas many of their classmates have already had an experience of getting into routines , of following a schedule and so forth. So it is definitely a disadvantage. We visited an elementary school this week. It high tech high Mesa Elementary School. It's a charter school. And the administrators , the teachers that we talked to there were very supportive of a mandate for children to be in kindergarten. And they're a little bit disappointed that that the law did not pass and in fact , was vetoed. I talked with Monique Knight. She is the director of the school. That's what they call the principal in a charter school. And here's what she had to say.
S6: All of what they do is authentic work. Their play is authentic. Their talk is authentic. They think about what they've learned at home or in their in their own community settings , and they bring.
S2: It into the school.
S1: So what she's talking about there is really what you asked in in the question. And that is , you know , these kids are bringing all of that to a classroom setting. And if they miss kindergarten , it's a missed opportunity.
S5: How did kindergarten attendance change during the pandemic when schools were mostly closed ? Dramatically.
S1: The statistics show that in California , kindergarten enrollment dropped nearly 12% that first year of COVID , which is significant , that's a lot of kids. And so the idea behind this law that was vetoed was to encourage more parents to get their kids into a kindergarten setting , to give them the advantage of getting a jumpstart on their education.
S5: When he was explaining his veto. Governor Newsom said the state had not budgeted for the added costs of mandating kindergarten attendance , which again are estimated at $268 million each year.
S1: And it does come down to money. The budget did not have money allocated for adding up to 20,000 public school students. That would be the added number of kindergartners if this was to be mandated. And so he vetoed it because it was not allocated. However , he has supported and did lead the support for transitional kindergarten. Transitional kindergarten is the law that passed recently saying that by the year 2025 , every four year old in the state of California will be eligible and able to attend transitional kindergarten , which is really what it sounds like. It's an opportunity to get the child in a classroom setting to begin to learn those routines and the schedules in preparation for kindergarten , which hopefully they will continue to.
S1: Even if we had a crystal ball and we looked into it , we really wouldn't be able to determine that. What we know is that because there was such overwhelming support for this , it likely will come back in the next session in some form , whether it will be mandated kindergarten for all or maybe another semblance of that is still to be determined.
S5: I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter MJ Perez. And MJ , thank you.
S1: Thank you. Last week , the City of San Diego apologized for supporting the removal and incarceration of Japanese-Americans by rescinding a 1942 resolution that called for the FBI to remove them from the city. Council members say the 80 year old resolution was racist and hateful. I'm joined by Koji of the Japanese-American Historical Society of San Diego. Welcome to Midday Edition.
S2: Thank you. I'm really pleased to be here.
S1: This resolution came on the heels of President Franklin Roosevelt's executive order , which opened the door for this and the forced removal and incarceration of people of Japanese descent.
S2: I'm so pleased with the San Diego City Council for unanimously passing this resolution to rescind.
S1: And what initiated the city of San Diego's rescission.
S2: It came through a collaboration between the Central Library and the Historical Society. We worked on a really fabulous exhibit that was last fall into this January about Clara Brede , and she was a librarian back before World War Two , during and afterwards , and had befriended her students who came into the library , but not just befriended , but she just helped them. When they were forced to leave San Diego with their parents , upwards of 2000 Japanese-Americans were forced to leave the city. And she was there at the train station to see them off. She gave them small gifts of postcards with postage. She maintained lifelong relationships with these Japanese-Americans. And so this exhibit led to some research that the librarians did. And they uncovered Resolution 76068 , which had all of that hateful language. And they took it upon themselves. I like to think of them as our librarian activists who wrote the resolution to rescind. I worked with local people , meaning the Historical Society and the Japanese-American Citizens League , to get our input and support , of course. And that's where it all started. And I'm so grateful. And if you don't mind , personal privilege , I want to do a shout out to Steve Roman , Sarah Handy Jackson , Mark Cherry , Mooney Tong and Jennifer Jenkins. These are the five the team that really spearheaded this effort. And then when presented to the city council , Shawn Ella Rivera , council president through District nine , really led the charge and got all of the council members to support this resolution to rescind. Hmm.
S1: Hmm. And you've been deeply involved in this moment in history.
S2: 40 years ago. 40 years ago. Sounds like a long time. I joined an organization based primarily in Los Angeles , Nicky for Civil Rights and Redress nicknames the term for people of Japanese ancestry. We were a grassroots organization and I was a teacher for 30 plus years. We had housewives and gardeners and truck drivers and all manner of folk from the Japanese community who got together to fight to demand that the government apologize and provide redress and reparations. M.S. , RR. I was one of mainly the grassroots organization that involved the people who went through the camps , the people who really suffered. And as we learned their stories , because , as we well know , history really didn't talk about what happened to the Japanese people. They were only that they were removed. The more we learned. It just not only angered us , it fills us with sadness about the stories that we had never learned and heard because our parents didn't speak about it. They were too busy trying to recover after the three year imprisonment. My mom and dad with the San Diego Japanese were sent to post in Arizona. And , you know , having come to San Diego was a beautiful oasis , a beautiful resort town. To go to the horrible desert for three years. Not only was it a physical shock , but mostly it was an emotional shock for the losses that they suffered. And I do have to say the main one , besides the obvious property losses , was their dignity and their you know , they had a sense of shame of being targeted as being the enemy because of the actions of imperial Japan. And so even 40 years later , when I joined NCR , we learned about all that happened to them. The real story , the real history. And it just fired us up. And I believe that those testimonies , which happened through a federal commission and this is important. Jimmy Carter did us a huge favor of passing this federal commission to study what happened to Japanese-Americans. And this happened in 1981. The federal commission came to Los Angeles and we heard over 150 testimonies , primarily Japanese-Americans , about what really happened to their families. But this occurred. The commission went all over the United States , nine different major cities with Japanese-Americans. They collected over almost 800 testimonies. But the bottom line is the report that they were required to present , they concluded that our incarceration was based on race prejudice. They added wartime hysteria and the failure of leadership. And so. That really propelled us further to fight for redress and reparations. And I just want to say that I feel so lucky. Was born after the war. I didn't have to suffer through it as my parents , my older sister , the community , and upwards of more than 120,000 people.
S1: You know , I mean , you say when people hear about the forced removal of Japanese-Americans , they don't really understand the depth of trauma and pain that was and still is experienced. And , you know , I know that this issue is very personal for you. And you often talk about your parents. How were they impacted by this ? Yes.
S2: The harms. Oh yeah. I will address the fact that my parents were one of the fortunate ones. They were 20 and 21 years old when they were forcibly removed. And they did not. They were very not wealthy people. They had no property by that time. So they did not have that loss. And because they had been raised in Japan , they were less aware , perhaps of the of the constitutional rights to which they should have been afforded. They made the best of it. And that would be the theme of our community. Two things , actually. They were proud Americans , so proud to be Americans that there was a sector who felt that the best thing to do to show our our pride and our loyalty , this country is not to make a fuss. But after the war , they were able to return to Barrio Logan. Logan Heights and one particular family , Japanese-American family had a home and another had a small market right on Logan Heights. And through the kindness of neighbors , the Navajo family got home and business was protected. So the high ashes actually were able to return to Barrio Logan , and my mom and dad were able to move in to their home. And that time , Japanese-Americans had no place to go. Everything had been taken from us except for those places that were protected by good people. And so we lived there first Barrio Logan. And as like many Japanese-Americans , as I said , my dad was involved with the fishing industry and my mom worked in the tuna counter canneries. But then with hard work , about ten years later , they were able to cobble together enough money for a down payment , and now they were able to purchase a home in Chula Vista. And actually , today , in my retirement from teaching , I have returned home. And actually I'm sitting here in my parents house , which is my house in Chula Vista , and becoming more involved with the San Diego community again.
S1: And your parents , they they did accept reparations from the U.S. government. Not everyone did.
S2: I think the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 , that was the legislation that we had fought for. And what it did , it was apologize. And that was huge. The apology was even more important to our community for the majority than the token reparations. And my mom and dad , they accepted the reparations gladly. The amount was $20,000. And some people I don't know how you react that amount , but it was nothing. It was so token compared to the three years of lost lives , businesses , opportunities , hopes and dreams. And most importantly , their freedom was taken from them for those years. So $20,000 was really nothing. But for them , you know , low economic people , they were very grateful. And I don't mind sharing that they were able to put a new roof on their house at that point , you know , and do things that people have to do and for which , you know , they were really , really didn't have a lot of extra money. They as a good person , good parents , where they gave their children , you know , a small amount of that money.
S1: I want to play a clip from city council president Monica montgomery step from the meeting on Tuesday. Yes.
S7: I do think that is our duty to use our platforms to speak out against hate and any form. And I also just want to briefly shout out my reparations task force fellow member Don Tomasky , who is an attorney in the Bay Area , who is really helping us. Do you know him ? He's helping us to really wade through what reparations looks like based on his experience and being a true ally in that fight.
S1: And you are involved with the State Reparations Task Force , and I wonder if you can talk about why it's important for you to be an ally for black Americans in this effort ? Absolutely.
S2: Yes. With and empty. Once again , we realized early on this is back in the eighties that it was our fight. But we had the privilege of having gone through the civil rights movement and learning the lessons of all those leaders and working with people of color students , you know , when they were starting ethnic studies programs on different college campuses. And those lessons were well learned. And so within our our principles of unity , of organizing were , number one , direct monetary reparations for the Japanese-American people who were who suffered at the hands of the government. That was number one. Two was education. Education about what happened. And because , you know , it was not written about the truth was not told there. And third , that we would support other communities in their fight for justice when especially targeted by the government. We feel that these are not isolated events. It's the harms are really based on a very , very damaged system in this country of white supremacy. And , you know , we really look to the Constitution and their promises of justice for all. And I think that. Is really , really one of our main points and certainly AB 3121 I think the time is right. I think now is the time that we we really work hard for some repair to our black communities.
S1: I've been speaking with Kochi of the Japanese-American Historical Society of San Diego. Kay , thank you so much for joining us and sharing your story.
S2: My pleasure. Thank you very much.
S5: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Andrew Bowen with Jade Heineman. The Little Book of Joy is a new children's book by two of the most significant spiritual leaders of the last century , His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu , who died in 2021. The book also features illustrations by San Diego artist and muralist Rafael Lopez , illustrator of 15 other children's books , including the best seller The Day You Began. Lopez joined KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Here's their conversation.
S6: So the little book of Joy began as a book for adults published in 2016 , and it was based on a visit between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
S3: So at one point , I think that Douglas Abraham traveled to South Africa and met with the archbishop , a bishop , and he said , Have you ever consider getting together with the Dalai Lama and have a sit down conversation because you two have so much in common ? And he jumped at the opportunity. He said , Of course , you know , I am there. So eventually they worked all their logistics out and they got together and it was pure magic. I was privy to some of the earlier takes of the video because they sent it to me to get a little bit of a feeling of their relationship and the bantering between the two of them , the sense of humor that they both have and the conversation. It was just so refreshing to see these two people that are so human , and we perceive them as this amazing figures , champions of humanity. But they're sitting down and they sound like the person that you want to be really close friends with. So it was it was magic in the making.
S3: It could become pretty overwhelming. And even in today's everyday life , with people that are not facing those horrible challenges , we do find things like lack of understanding , solitude. You know , all of us have faced that. And I believe that the message of Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama is that regardless of what you face , because let's think about it. I mean , these two people have faced incredible challenges in their own life more than you and I could ever face , I think , you know. So the fact that they were able to find joy by looking very hard and looking around and seeing joy in the most and the more insignificant things that surround us , you can find tolerance , you can find forgiveness , you can find reconciliation , like in the case of South Africa. And if they could if they could do it , why not send that same message to kids that face maybe a different level of challenges in their lives and remind them that the human character is very resilient and that we can find joy even at the darkness of time and and joy has the power to bring , like into the darkest of times.
S3: And I think , yes , you know , rainbows is especially the beautiful diversity or the diverse colors that we see after the storm , after , you know , everything is over and then the sun comes out and we see the rainbow. But I wanted and we all agreed to that we needed to actually not find it so easy because joy sometimes is not easy to find. So we conceptualized the idea that rather than having from the very beginning , this rainbow , which by the way , if you look at the book , once you see the book is not going to look like a rainbow , it's more like ribbons of color , which I was inspired by the beautiful ribbons and flags that you see in Tibet. But if you start the book in the beginning , you can see the joy. You can see that you need to find that it's there , but it's very hidden. It's whether it's either the color of this chimney here is a little bug or where there was a little football made out of like rags , the color. But it's very far away. And I wanted to create teachable opportunities for teachers to offer teachable moments where they can actually open the page and tell the kids , where is the joy ? Can you find the joy here ? I mean , and you know that my characters look sad and lonely , but there's joy out there. So we thought it was an. Credible opportunities to do that. Metaphorically , joy could be hidden , and slowly it starts to evolve as a rainbow of colors. Until it becomes very , very evident and it's right there in your face.
S6: So you have illustrated a lot of children's books and so many of your books Center on Encouraging and Inspiring Young Changemakers.
S3: Champions of peace , the world peace and and world understanding. So I was I was pretty floored. It took me a couple of days to realize the significance of doing this and incredibly honor. I thought that I needed to do my best work to really represent their message as best as I could. And I've always been attracted to stories of underdogs. I mean , being an immigrant myself. My mother was wanted to become an architect when she was in the 1950s in Mexico , where no one , no woman would ever dare to become an architect at the time. And , you know , they were all getting a man and having a kid with special needs as well. I like stories of people that can survive and become stronger and overcome so many challenges. So those are the stories that I'm attracted to when I read the street books , and this is definitely on the very top. I mean , because if you are aware and familiar with their stories of both both of their journeys since childhood , it's just amazing what they have been able to accomplish , not just for them , but for the rest of us in a very moral way , too. You know , their incredible messages about this hopeful message of peace , tolerance , reconciliation , compassion and kindness. So , yeah , everything just fell into the right place. And the challenge was a little scary , but I thought I could do it with a little bit of time and lots of meditation and relaxation.
S6: Raphael , thank you so much.
S3: Thank you , Julia. It was a pleasure talking to you.
S5: That was KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans , speaking with Raphael Lopez , the San Diego based illustrator of a new children's book , The Little Book of Joy. It comes out today.