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San Diego misses deadline to apply for homeless housing funds

 February 8, 2022 at 5:10 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:01)

San Diego leaves, state funds for homeless housing on the table.

Speaker 2: (00:04)

San Diego region just couldn't get things together in time. So now they'll have to compete statewide for money.

Speaker 1: (00:10)

I'm Andrew Bowen with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is K PBS midday edition A plea to speed up selection of new members for San Diego's commission on police practices. It

Speaker 3: (00:30)

Is taking a lot longer. I mean, it is a complicated process. I think part is the city council wants to make sure that they're getting it done correctly.

Speaker 1: (00:36)

Why the Marine Corps is investigating a former San Diego, G O P leaders and a children's book tells the story of a burned out forest slowly coming back to life. That's ahead on KPBS midday edition,

Speaker 1: (01:00)

Roughly 61 million in funds. Earmarked for permanent supportive housing in San Diego county has gone unclaimed that's after the county and city governments failed to submit any proposals for projects that would give affordable homes to people experiencing homelessness. The free money would have come from project home key, a state initiative aim using federal COVID relief funds and state dollars to convert existing properties into permanent homes for homeless Californians. While the program isn't over, it's less clear now whether it will deliver any money to help with San Diego's homelessness crisis. Joining me now is Lisa Hals stat reporter for voice of San Diego. Lisa, welcome back to the pro. Thanks for having me, Lisa. This seems like a really big fumble. How did San Diego miss this deadline and end up leaving millions of dollars and free money in home for homelessness relief on the table?

Speaker 2: (01:55)

Well, it basically just comes down to not being able to meet a big deadline. As you said in the intro San Diego officials knew for months that they had a good shot at about 61 million in project home key funding, but they needed to submit an application by January 31st. That was because there was a so-called geographic allocation. If regions supplied, um, by January 31st, they would essentially only have to compete for funds with cities and counties within their I'm told that there was a lot of hard work to try to bring together projects by the January 31st deadline, but San Diego region just couldn't get things together in time. So now they'll have to compete statewide for

Speaker 1: (02:37)

Money. Can you remind us again, what is project home key and what does it hope to achieve?

Speaker 2: (02:43)

So project home key is go in our Gavin Newsom's initiative to use federal COVID relief funds and state money to convert properties, namely hotels, um, which has gotten the most attention into permanent housing for homeless people. And indeed it has helped to move thousands of homeless people across the state, into permanent homes, including hundreds in San Diego

Speaker 1: (03:04)

Project home. He has been as you noted hailed as a, a big success in creating new homes for people getting out of homelessness and doing it quickly. But the program has some controversy in San Diego county. Tell us about that.

Speaker 2: (03:17)

It has had some con, so back in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, the city of San Diego got nearly 38 million to quickly buy two residents in hotels, but it later came to light that a broker helped with one of the purchases invested in the company that the city bought. One of those hotels from which obviously gives him an alleged conflict of interest. The city housing agency also relied on property assessments that were done before the pandemic for that hotel to decide how much it should pay for it, which created concerns that the city paid an inflated amount. There have also been concerns about whether the city is providing adequate supports for the people who are now living in those two hotels. And that's just the city, San Diego county withdrew its so application last go round back in 2020 after officials in LA Mesa objected to a plan to convert a hotel in their city because they said they just felt blindsided by the county's plan.

Speaker 1: (04:12)

What are the kinds of obstacles that stand in the way of getting these housing projects off the ground?

Speaker 2: (04:18)

Well, it's important to note that these projects are always very difficult to make work. The financing is very complex. There's a lot of things that need to come together. But developers that I talked to said, project home key requirements, make things even more challenging. Project home key requires that they have to finish any upgrades that they need to do within a year of getting home key funds, which can be, be really difficult if you need to get permits to do that work. Or if there's a lot of rehab needed. Developers also told me that the hotel market is drastically different than it was back in 2020 when we can all recall tourism here, basically ground to a Hal. So now hotel owners want more money and the price has to also be right for developers to ensure that this project, if they're working on will work over the long haul because it's not just a matter of making a project work physically, but they need to be able to operate it and fund services there over the long haul. Lisa,

Speaker 1: (05:12)

What is permanent supportive housing and how does that fit into the solutions that we have in front of us with our homelessness crisis?

Speaker 2: (05:20)

So permanent supportive, how housing is really considered a really core piece of the state's homelessness response. Permanent supportive housing is essentially an affordable housing unit that comes with services attached to it. Now that can be services at that location, maybe supports where there's a case manager who comes and talks to the person staying there. There is food services or benefits workers who come and, and assist that individual. Sometimes this all happens at one site and sometimes it happens, you know, in distributed sites, but this is really considered to be the crucial response for people who've been on the streets for a long time and have a lot of needs, permanent supportive housing doesn't require that people living at these properties, um, participate in the services that they're offered, but typically most people staying in them do access those services.

Speaker 1: (06:15)

Now this missed deadline with project home key doesn't mean that San Diego will get nothing out of the latest round of funding. What happens next?

Speaker 2: (06:24)

Well, I have to say that San Diego leaders are adamant that they are not giving up. They say that they are working very hard to try to pull together projects. It's just that now they will have to compete with other statewide for funding in this round. The new deadline that they're looking at is early may or until the funds run out, which ever comes first. There will also be another shot for San Diego this summer when a third round of home key funds is expected to be released. So bottom line, there are still opportunities for San Diego, but there are fewer guarantees of funding in this latest round.

Speaker 1: (06:59)

I've been speaking with voice of San Diego reporter, Lisa Hal stat. Lisa, thanks for joining us.

Speaker 2: (07:04)

Thanks for having me

Speaker 4: (07:16)

As the long transit to a new San Diego police review board continues. Members of the old board are issuing a red flag warning members of the old review board have been acting as transitional members of the new commission on police practices, but there's a catch. The original 23 members have dwindled soon down to 13. The commission chairman says that's not enough to keep up with a growing caseload of complaints against police and rules on appointing. New commission members may not be approved by the city council until next year. Joining me is commission chair, Brandon Halpert, and Brandon. Welcome to the program.

Speaker 3: (07:56)

Thank you. Glad to be here.

Speaker 4: (07:58)

Why is the commiss on police practices losing so many transitional members

Speaker 3: (08:03)

Back before we had measure B that passed, we sent a memo to the city council, letting them know that both, uh, the city attorney and our outside council had basically suggested once that measure passes, that we would not be able to add new commissioners until the city council had created and passed and input implementation ordinance. So right now the city council is currently working on that process. That's the reason why we're we're in that little bit of a, a holding pattern. So basically, you know, ever since the ballot measure passed, uh, we have not been able to add any new interim commissioners. So our, our volunteers, usually we, we try to say normal times, people volunteer anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of month. Uh, right now for many of our volunteers, the minimum is probably 20. And in some cases, people are doing anywhere from 80 to a hundred, uh, hours a month with

Speaker 4: (08:47)

So many commission members leaving. What kind of caseload is each remaining member handling?

Speaker 3: (08:52)

Yeah, it's, it's increased. So, um, typically in an average year, uh, we'll probably close about 60 cases. Um, and that includes everything from individuals complaining that they were arrested when it shouldn't have been. It also includes officer involved shootings and in custody deaths. So the number on average, it is usually about 60 year. Um, last year in fiscal year 21, we closed about 125. So it has increased quite a bit. So it's just, we're kind of in this sticky area where we can't add new commissioners, especially as we've lost some, so the workload's going up, we have fewer people doing it, which is taking longer for us to be able to do our review of cases, uh, which, you know, as, as you probably know the community, I think expects and demands that there is civilian oversight of police officers and, and complaints against them. How,

Speaker 4: (09:35)

How do you think this situation affects the public?

Speaker 3: (09:37)

Well, I think part of it is it's, it's very frustrating when someone files a complaint because it does take quite a long time. I think people feel that, you know, once you file a complaint it's gonna be addressed and, and investigated and, and you know, maybe two, three months later, they're gonna find out what the resolution is. It takes a long time. So sometimes we've had, you know, almost a year before someone who filed a complaint for finds out what the resolution of their case is. And, you know, that's obviously very frustrating. You wanna find out if you think something happened that was done incorrectly, you would like to know sooner than later, you know, that, that an officer, you know, either was exonerated, meaning that maybe they did it, but it was within policy or if it was stained, meaning that they did do it and they will be disciplined.

Speaker 4: (10:13)

Do you know why it's taking the city council so long to establish the rules for selecting new commission members?

Speaker 3: (10:19)

We had initially recommended that the city do it in two steps, the first step being something that wouldn't really be controversial. And then you could hopefully implement a component of that. And you could create the criteria of how commissioners would be selected, how they would be appointed and confirmed. Ultimately the city council, uh, chose not to do that. They wanted to do all in one group, which I kind of understand part of it, but we also just know that once it goes through meet and confer, and especially with all the complexities that come in with this, this new measure, you know, the POA, the, the police officers union is probably gonna be taking a long time during meet and confer. Um, because we are going to be able to have the ability to independently investigate officer involved shooting and in custody deaths. So just that component along, uh, we feel is probably gonna take a decent amount of time going through, meet and confer. And we would prefer that the appointment of commissioners not go through that lengthy process, you know, and part of it too, is we have many commissioners who, who have been on, you know, you're only supposed to be on for a total of eight years. And since we can't add new people, we can allow people to stay on its commissioners and tell they're replaced. So we have some members who, who to be honest. I mean, they, they put in their time and, and I think they're, they're ready to move on to other opportunities.

Speaker 4: (11:25)

You know, when asked by the San Diego union Tribune, Andrea St. Julian who wrote the measure, B amendment said, supporters never wanted the old commissioners to act as interim commissioners because they didn't trust them. So she would like to see new commissioners appointed sooner too. Do you think that will help your effort?

Speaker 3: (11:44)

Well, it's not completely true. She actually did. When she wrote the measure, she did design the measure to allow all the existing CRB members to serve as interim commissioners. Now, uh, I would agree. I don't think any of us thought it would take this long. There is some community feedback that they wanna replace everybody all at once. Um, the commission did, you know, the interim commission did make a recommendation to city council. Um, we would think that it makes the most sense to at least keep some of the existing commissioners on because of the institutional knowledge that they carry part of it is, you know, and I always tell people, this is when I first started on, on the, the board at the time. It really takes about six months just to get up to speed and understand and learn what the policies and procedures are.

Speaker 3: (12:25)

And, you know, and I, I think, you know, in general it probably takes another six months to get good at it. So if you were to replace all of the commissioners all at once, you'd have potentially a, a year where you have, you know, community oversight that may not be fully up to speed on what policies and procedures are and you know, how the process works. So it is taking a lot longer. I mean, it is a complicated process. I think part of it's the city council wants to make sure that they're getting it done correctly, which is why I think we've already had three drafts of it going forward. But, um, it's, it's, unfortunately it's not as, yes, we expected

Speaker 4: (12:54)

Bottom line. Brandon, do you think the public is being hurt by this delay in appointing new members of the commission on police practices?

Speaker 3: (13:03)

Not yet. I mean, I do think, I mean, I, I do have to thank all of our commissioners because they've been putting in, you know, countless hours to be able to make sure that there is civilian oversight of, you know, our police department. And I it's important. Um, we do have several members who are, as I said, are officially termed out. Um, and a couple members have actually expressed interest to resign, but they've chosen to stay on because they feel it's very important that this, this type of community oversight continues. So we're not there yet. Um, you know, obviously if we're getting down to 13 commissioners, almost half of what we should be, you know, it is gonna put a strain on it. And, and, and as we were talking about earlier, you know, it's gonna take longer for us to be able to review cases, um, which can be problematic, especially if we had multiple cases that had sustained findings and we do try to prioritize those. So those go forward first, but to be honest, you know, all volunteer commission, can't keep up with the workload that we have. And especially if we have additional commissioners that have to, for any reason, you know, it's going more work on the existing commissioners that we have, which is gonna continue kind of the downward spiral and, and potentially make other commissioners decide to quit. If they can't continue the work effort.

Speaker 4: (14:05)

I've been speaking to interim commission, share Brandon Halpert of the commission on police practices. Brandon, thank you so much.

Speaker 3: (14:12)

My pleasure. Thank you.

Speaker 1: (14:19)

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Andrew Bowen with Maureen Kavanaugh. The Marine Corps has launched an investigation into the sun of San Diego's former Republican party chairman for ties to a white supremacist group. Victor KVA is a Marine Corps reservist he's accused of trying to join Patriot front a far right group that preaches racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia. The case is once again, highlighting the threat of far right extremism in the military and in San Diego county politics. Joining me to unpack this story is Andrew Dyer who covers military and veteran issues for the San Diego union Tribune. Andrew, welcome.

Speaker 5: (14:59)

Hi, thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: (15:00)

Let's start with how this investigation got started. So last month, a the progressive media collective unicorn riot published a trove of private chat, belonging to Patriot front. So tell us, what is this group and what was in those leaked chats?

Speaker 5: (15:16)

Well, unicorn riot is, uh, an activist kind of collective, uh, that, uh, you know, whose affiliates, infiltrate extremist groups, um, and once they're allowed in, they will run software and kind of scraped everything that they can find, um, in whatever app the group might be using to communicate. Their first big hit was in 2017. They got all of the chat logs from the, the unite, the right rally in Charlottesville, their planners. A couple years later, they leaked a bunch of chats from a, a video game for communication app, uh, from several different groups. And, uh, this latest one from Patriot front is kind of along the same vein. You know, the activists were able to infiltrate the group and once in they publish everything on their website that they, that they collect.

Speaker 1: (16:08)

Now, it was the activated podcast, which is based in San Diego. That first noticed similarities between one of the applicants to this group, Patriot front in these chats and Victor KVA. So tell us who is Victor KVA and what evidence is there to suggest that he was the one who was trying to join this white supremacist group? Oh,

Speaker 5: (16:29)

Uh, Victor KVA. Um, as far as I can tell, I, I, I didn't get to talk to him, but, um, you know, he, he's a college student. He is a Marine Corps reservist. He's had a couple different jobs, um, whether or not he still has those jobs is, is kind of unclear. Um, at one point he worked for a contractor for, uh, the department of Homeland security handling detainees. He also, um, is listed as, uh, an employee at his, his father's financial firm. So that's kind of, what's publicly known about Victor. Now, there was an incident in, in 2020 where activists at a black lives matter rally say he was harassing protestors. They, they published, uh, was of him and his car on, on social media at the time. And obviously the, the kava family is kind of known among the political community here and the kava sons, two sons of, of, of kava Victor and Oliver are known because Oliver was the head of, uh, San Diego state college Republicans. So these are people that were already kind of on the radar of, of activists. So when these chats were leaked, you know, the Southern property law center published a story about all of the people trying to join the group who claimed military ties. And one of the people highlighted in that story, just kind of, uh, the bill with what was publicly known about.

Speaker 1: (18:02)

And of course is the former chairman of the San Diego county Republican party. Uh, tell us, Andrew, how big is the problem of white supremacy and extremism in the military?

Speaker 5: (18:14)

You know, it's, it's tough to quantify because you don't know what people believe I in their, in their heart, but I know from the high level perspective of the Pentagon and the, so of defense, they see this as a threat to, to the military. Um, several people who have, you know, either participated in, in violence or, uh, shown to be members of extremist groups, um, are either prior military or, you know, current military. Um, there were several people pointed to from the January 6th, you know, capital insurrection. There's been other individuals that have come to light in the past. One of whom was as assaulted people, um, at that, you know, at the right rally in 2017 in Charlottesville. But, you know, these cases are really kind of case by case the military doesn't really actively, uh, pursue or investigate people. Um, they're not policing their social media posts. It's really the people that come to the attention of activists and journalists that kind of get the military to, you know, take action and, and, and by action is could, you know, investigate

Speaker 1: (19:32)

Now Tony KVA, the father of Victor KVA is no longer the chair of the San Diego county Republican party, but he was in that position for almost 14 years, have current officials with the San Diego county, G O P said anything about this story or about right wing extremism in their own and ranks. I

Speaker 5: (19:52)

Haven't seen it if they have, and it's never been established, you know, how much Tony kava may or may not know about the alleged activities of his, of his children. I, I, you know, I did send him an email with several questions about what's in these chats and, and another things that, um, have kind of been bubbling up through the years. And he, he, you know, he did not respond. So it is, it is tough to gauge how much this is really, uh, concerning to, to people within the party.

Speaker 1: (20:25)

All right. Well, lots, uh, still uncover with this story. I've been speaking with Andrew Dyer who covers military and veterans issues for the Sandy union Tribune. Andrew, thanks for joining us. Hey, thank you.

Speaker 4: (20:40)

A new California law will require schools to expand their mental health instruction. Educators say it would've been a welcome mandate before the pandemic, and it's even more so now, Robert GVA

Speaker 6: (20:52)

Reports looking back on his high school days, last decade in the San Gabriel valley stress was the only mental health topic that Matthew dip remembers his teachers ever mentioning. But dip does clearly remember his own struggles with mental health. In his early two,

Speaker 7: (21:07)

I was in the process of recognizing that I was, that I was gay and not having the acceptance in my life and in my community to handle that realization. Dip

Speaker 6: (21:20)

Says he had really deep anxiety from feeling like he had to hide his identity from his family and others. One day dip locked himself in his room and his mom called 9 1 1 because she was worried. He might hurt himself.

Speaker 7: (21:32)

Like six policemen came to our house. They kicked down my door. They handcuffed

Speaker 6: (21:36)

Me. Dip says experiencing two psychiatric holds as a teenager, traumatized them. And it inspired him to take action while attending UCLA and getting more involved with dance groups, dip helped at a nonprofit called cipher. Now he visits schools all over LA county, teaching kids about mental health. Here he is at one of his workshops.

Speaker 8: (21:55)

So our mission is to destigmatize mental health through our urban dance workshops. And the way we do that is through one increasing mental health literacy people.

Speaker 6: (22:03)

But dip still doesn't think schools are doing enough to teach kids about mental health hit TV shows, including Netflix's 13 reasons why, and HBO's euphoria are taking up serious teen mental health issues. The other thing

Speaker 9: (22:15)

About depression is it kind of collapses time. You find your whole days blending together to create one endless and suffocating

Speaker 6: (22:22)

Loop. So why aren't California schools doing more to demystify depression and other common mental health struggles that slated to change? Thanks to the state's new mental health education law, which will expand mental health curriculum for schools across the state. The new law requires the state department of education by 2024 to come up with a program for junior and high schools that covers symptoms of anxiety and depression and find serious mental illnesses such as fornia and bipolar disorder. Adrian Shelton is director of public policy for the California Alliance, which supported the bill. Like

Speaker 10: (22:56)

The young people were coming to us saying, this is desperately needed. We want this, and we need your help.

Speaker 6: (23:01)

Shelton says mental health education across the state varies widely from district to district. Part of the idea behind the new laws to provide some consistency and have mandated mental health instruction while Shelton thinks it's a huge step in the right direction. She doesn't think the law goes far enough for one, it only applies to schools that already have a dedicated health course. 40% of school districts don't teach health at all, and won't be required to comply witier union high school district school psychologists, Stephanie Murray says she would've liked to be, to include elementary schools too.

Speaker 2: (23:32)

If you can identify these things early, before it becomes a crisis, that's just so much more beneficial. Important.

Speaker 6: (23:40)

Marie says, since the beginning of the pandemic, she's seen a rise in anxiety among kids who are stressed out about everything from getting the virus to its effect on their parents. Financially. She also says kids are learning about suicide at a very young age. Do you want them

Speaker 2: (23:54)

To hear it from a trusted adult or do you want them to hear it from the media or from

Speaker 6: (23:59)

Kids Murray's push for education underscores alarming national statistics in the first three of 2021 children's hospital said, ER, visits for self injury and suicide attempts or ideation in children was at a 42% higher rate than during the same period. In 2019, we

Speaker 11: (24:16)

Have students that are

Speaker 6: (24:17)

Still struggling right now. The Vargus is a psychologist with the Downey unified school district. Really

Speaker 11: (24:22)

Letting students know where they can seek out the support is gonna be vital for them to start moving in

Speaker 6: (24:28)

The right direction. Vargas says his district currently runs grievance, anxiety and depression groups for students. He's not sure yet what the new required mental health curriculum might look like at his schools for its part, the Ella unified school district, which offers health courses said in his statement that it's still reviewing the implications of the law and how it will impact existing curriculum offerings for mental health advocate. Matthew dip, the increased awareness can't come soon enough.

Speaker 7: (24:54)

I'm just like, wow. If I had had this younger, I think that would've just built such a foundation so that when I was experiencing those hard times, I could have navigated it a lot better. That

Speaker 4: (25:04)

Was Robert GU Grova for the Kelly California report.

Speaker 1: (25:10)

Technology has dramatically changed retail shopping in the us. It's changing grocery stores as well. And San Diego based Excel. Robotics is making the shopping experience a lot different K PS science and technology reporter Thomas fudge. The story

Speaker 12: (25:31)

On the ground floor of the vantage point apartment building in downtown San Diego. There's a small grocery store, but it's missing something. There's no cash register, no cashier, no bank of self checkout machines, just groceries sitting on shelves, but co-founder and chief technology officer of Excel, robotics, Maria WebU says the company's valet market has a system.

Speaker 13: (25:55)

We use technology to figure out who took what out of a store. So it's a autonomous store in that, the sense that you walk in, you take what you want and you walk out and we rely on a suite of sensors, some somewhere in the ceiling, somewhere in the shelves to figure out what you walked out with

Speaker 12: (26:11)

Before you can enter a valet market, you need to get through a turns style by flashing your store app over a sensor inside the store. There are cameras everywhere, watching what you pick up and what you put down a big computer screen in a back room shows a moving diagram of who has what and how many items they're carrying.

Speaker 13: (26:30)

So there's really two things we're tracking. We're tracking the moon of people, and then we're moving a product.

Speaker 12: (26:34)

The computer doesn't know the customer's name. They're just called person 1 39 or something like that for the customer Buba says using the store, kind of like using a self-service gas pump,

Speaker 13: (26:45)

Uh, before we let you in the store, we collect your payment credentials. And then after you leave the store, we charge you for what you

Speaker 12: (26:52)

Took from the store. The other aspect of the store is the delivery service for advantage point apartments. As I lingered in the store, just before dinner time, two young men walking in and out of the place with bags of food, as they headed to the elevators on their way to one of the 679 living units,

Speaker 14: (27:10)

Because we don't have to use the labor to sit behind a cashier's desk. The whole time that same labor can be reused for the delivery service that we

Speaker 12: (27:17)

Offer Jeff Herman VP for product with Excel, robotics calls it the world's fastest delivery system.

Speaker 14: (27:24)

And so in four or five minutes, they want a coffee and banana and juice in the morning, we run that up to their, to their room for free for

Speaker 12: (27:30)

Them. The commercial strategy of Vale market is to serve a dense population with a limited number of essential grocery products. People don't drive to this market and there's no parking lot. The research shows close to 90% of the residents in vantage, port apartments use the market. One of those people is Cameron Thomas.

Speaker 15: (27:50)

The simplicity of just having it ride downstairs for us. Um, grocery stores are a little bit further away. So for some of just the normal household goods, it's pretty, pretty easy to come down and comparable and priced, uh, a lot of the grocery stores

Speaker 12: (28:02)

In the area and all you need is your phone. So it's okay. If you forgot your wallet, building resident Antoinette who didn't share her last name said, the inventory may be limited, but she thinks the company made a lot of good choices.

Speaker 16: (28:15)

Everything that we normally buy is here. Everything like Dave's bread. Yeah, everything Dave's bread. The type of cheese we like of cheese spaghetti. It's all here. It's like they asked us pre hand, you know, what do you want in

Speaker 12: (28:31)

Valet? The company says the technology they use at valet market is patented. The service is a trend in retail. Amazon runs similar cashless operations with its Amazon go stores. And this trend has the attention of the United food and commercial workers union local 1 35 in San Diego, local president Todd Walter says, you don't just need computers working a grocery store. You need people too. Those folks

Speaker 17: (28:59)

Know that product. They know what it is. They know what's right. You start getting into computers and technology. That's fine. You, you know, you might save a buck, but at the end of the day, there's so many things that a computer's not

Speaker 12: (29:10)

Gonna do. Excel. Robotics has plans for opening more stores in San Diego for now vantage point residents and anyone else who downloads the app will keep using valley market and shopper. Ali Perry says the place has become a bit of a, a tourist attraction. It's the first

Speaker 16: (29:27)

Thing I show my parents or any of my friends

Speaker 12: (29:29)

That come into town. Thomas fudge K PBS news,

Speaker 4: (29:38)

A new jobs program is aimed at helping underserved young people while improving communities across California. The state is putting 185 million in the Californians for all youth job Corps, where 16 to 30 year olds with a variety of challenges may get their first chance toward a career. San Diego will see more than 19 million from the program. The second largest allocation in the state. Joining me with more information about the program is California volunteers, chief service officer Josh Friday, and Josh, welcome to the show.

Speaker 11: (30:12)

Great to be with you, California

Speaker 4: (30:14)

Already has active job core centers. Why do we need this new Californians for all youth op core program? We

Speaker 11: (30:22)

Need this brand new program, which is a collaboration between California volunteers and local governments throughout the state, because the need is so high. We've seen this pandemic have an incredible effect on young people on unemployment and especially on communities of color. And those have been hardest hit. So this is a time for the state to invest, not just helping our communities by creating jobs where people are gonna be serving their communities in really important ways. But this is also a chance for us to invest in people's futures and the governor and the legislature were very passionate about that. And it's why they wanted to create this program

Speaker 4: (30:55)

Who is this intended to help, but what kind of youth with what kind of challenges

Speaker 11: (31:00)

This program is very intentional about focusing on hiring the most underserved youth, youth that are low income youth that are unemployed or out of school that are justice involved are transitioning from foster care or engaged with mental health or substance abuse systems. We are very intentional about making sure that we're targeting that population. We're investing in them. We're calling on them to serve and we're giving them a chance for a successful career. And

Speaker 4: (31:26)

What kinds of jobs and job training will be offered.

Speaker 11: (31:30)

Every person that goes through this program is gonna have wraparound services from their city. That includes everything from helping learn how to prepare a resume to leadership training and network training. And these young people are gonna be doing a variety of critical work on issues like climate change and food insecurity. COVID 19 recovery. They're gonna be working on education disparities in communities. They're gonna be doing river cleanups, uh, and climate work, urban greening, and really a variety of work that the city deems important to the entire community, which is why we really think this is such a win-win pro it's a win for the young people who are gonna get a job that pays with dignity at a minimum of $15 an hour, often higher in some cities. And it's a win for the community because these young people are gonna be serving the community and doing work that matters.

Speaker 4: (32:17)

Tell us more about the case management for the young people involved in the program. Cause many are gonna be coming in with somewhat trouble backgrounds. We learned

Speaker 11: (32:26)

From doing research and learning about what other programs exist, what has worked, and what's not worked from best practices that it's really critical to provide wraparound services to these young people, to make sure that they have support, that they are receiving training, that when they finish the program, they have certificates and certain skills that will allow them to go into new careers. So we made sure that of the 185 million that was appropriated to cities and counties throughout California, that cities and counties had the flexibility to use some of that money, not just to pay these young people, but to also pay for these really important wraparound services.

Speaker 4: (33:01)

Now, the money for the new job Corps program, as you say, is being divided up among cities and counties, will each city be able to decide how best to use the

Speaker 11: (33:10)

Money? We were very intentional about making sure that this program was flexible. We wanted to make sure that mayors and local governments we're able to use this money to meet their community needs. So while we provided some guidelines, like the young people have to be between the ages of 16 and 30 and they have to meet one of the important qualifications about being low income or underemployed or justice involved, we made sure that the mayors and the local leaders had the ability to put those young people to work in a way that helped their community. So, yes, we built quite a bit of flexibility into this program.

Speaker 4: (33:46)

And how long is the new job Corps program supposed to last?

Speaker 11: (33:50)

This program is funded by the legislature and the governors for the next two years and cities and local governments will have the discretion to decide whether they wanna set it up as a summer program or a year long program. But right now we're focusing on making this successful for the next two years

Speaker 4: (34:05)

Now. What are your hopes for the young people who will be involved in the program, will their participation help them start a career?

Speaker 11: (34:14)

Our hope is, is that we're not just investing in young people to be able to start a career and be able to be on a pathway to a, a successful career. But we're also inspiring them to a career in public service, to a career where they get to do work. That's meaningful to the community, meaningful and purposeful to the broader society. And we really hope that with this program, with the mentorship, that's gonna come with it with the different training. That's gonna come with it, that we're not just creating jobs, but we're creating jobs where people are committed to service for the rest of their lives. And that's what we're really excited about with this new program.

Speaker 4: (34:46)

How do young people sign up for the program?

Speaker 11: (34:48)

Young people can sign up through their cities as the cities roll this program out, the cities are gonna be selecting the young people. And we just launched phase one of this program, which is 150 million investment in the 13 largest cities in the state of California. We're gonna be launching phase two very soon, which is for the additional 35 million to smaller cities and counties that apply through a competitive process. So if your city is one of the cities that's participating in this, you can apply through the city. Or many of the cities are also gonna be working with local CBOs, local community based organization to provide the actual job opportunities. And you're gonna be able to apply through them as well.

Speaker 4: (35:27)

Okay. Then I've been speaking with California volunteers, chief service officer Josh Friday about the new Californians for all youth job Corps program. Thank you so much, Josh. Thank you.

Speaker 1: (35:43)

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Andrew Bowen with Maureen Kavanaugh, a Marmite and a bird face the aftermath of a destructive wildfire. That's the premise of the new children's book once upon a forest during a world steeped in nature, the book's story is told solely through images with a powerful message of hope for the future local author and illustrator. Pam Fong spoke with midday edition. Co-host Jade. Henman about her new children's book once upon a forest, which comes out today. Here's that interview, Pam. Welcome.

Speaker 18: (36:18)

Hi Jay. Thanks so much for having me.

Speaker 4: (36:20)

So despite being a book for young children, your book really deals with some serious themes. Um, tell us more about the book and why you felt a picture book was the best way to tell this story. Well,

Speaker 18: (36:32)

I think kids understand the world that they live in and they see kind of the new and all the forest fires that are going on and they're processing it themselves just like we do as adults. And so I really wanted to write a book that helps them do that. Helps them realize that yes, forest fires are devastating, but that there's hope. And that nature does renew itself sometimes with a help from forest creatures. But I thought it was a message that would help children and adults reflect on kind of our, uh, the consequences of humans, um, when they come, when they interact with nature. Hmm.

Speaker 4: (37:13)

So in your process of telling these stories, do you first come up with words or pictures?

Speaker 18: (37:18)

It depends on the story. Each story is different. I have stories where the words come to me first. Maybe it's just a sentence or maybe it's a whole paragraph. Sometimes it's just the image. It could be one character, or it could be a scene for this one in particular, the Marma to the main hero, um, came to, to me first. And, um, I just wanted to draw this character. It was just calling for me to draw it and I didn't have a story around it, but once it kind of took shape, I had a little conversation with this drawing and the rest of the story followed.

Speaker 4: (37:54)

What originally interested you in picture books?

Speaker 18: (37:58)

I love kids. I know they're amazing. They're my favorite type of people. And so I thought, you know, it's such a huge responsibility to inspire kids when they're at this age, when they're thinking about the world and they have unlimited possibilities. And so it it's a daunting responsibility, but one that I felt like, you know, I was love to have just a little hand in because picture books were so influential in my life. I came over from Taiwan at a very, very young age and we didn't speak the language. So the library was kind of the great equalizer for my family. We went there and then, and everyone was quiet, no one spoke. So we were all kind of, um, in the same boat, you know, just being quiet in the library and there, I discovered picture books. And of course, I didn't know the language enough. So I gravitated to the picture books that were wordless because I could put this story together myself. And that was a great comfort to me. It made me feel more included and less alone in this new country in

Speaker 4: (39:03)

Telling your stories through pictures and rich colors. I mean, does that influence the stories that you like to tell? Yes,

Speaker 18: (39:11)

It does. I think for this one in particular, I, it mostly black and white because when you go into a forest scene, there is so much to take in. There are so many layers and the forest goes in so deep. It's very, very hard to, to capture all those little details without, uh, losing focus on the main characters. So this was a very conscious decision to keep it black, black, and white, to leave a lot of white space and to give the color only to, um, the elements of nature, which is the third character in this book, you have the Mart and the bird and the nature itself. And so I didn't want nature being lost in all of that, especially when you're trying to create a forest scene. And there's so much to look at

Speaker 4: (40:00)

And, and being with this is an audio interview. I urge listeners to go to, to see the visual imagery from this book for themselves. How would you describe the art style and why did you choose it for once upon a forest?

Speaker 18: (40:14)

I tend to draw realistically using values. I love black and white. Although a lot of my other works, my other books are in full color, but they have a minimal palette. So I like limiting myself to a limited palette in order to create harmony in the images. I don't know. I would describe it as a, a little real, but still playful in that, uh, illustrate a quality I'm trying to capture.

Speaker 4: (40:42)

How do you approach tackling serious topics such as climate change and habitat destruction? Uh, without overwhelming little readers,

Speaker 18: (40:50)

Once upon a forest is not really about a forest fire. It's about the hope that happens afterwards. You, you never really see the fire. Um, you see smoke. And so you never really see, you know, the blaze, the smoke is also very wispy and it's surrounded by a lot of white space. So in that way, I'm hoping that, you know, the kids will get it without having to, to see it. And then we go quickly, quickly into cleaning up and restoring the forest. So the fire scene really is, uh, reserved for one spread. So it's very limited.

Speaker 4: (41:27)

I'm curious, what are some children's books and authors that you loved as a child?

Speaker 18: (41:31)

Oh, so, um, I discovered this one book it's called max and it's by Italian illustrator. I can't recall the, his name off the top of my head. It's a wordless picture book and he did a series and it's all based on this character, uh, a little fuzzy character named max. And I discovered this in, in the library when I was very young and I picked up this book, I checked it out so many times that eventually they decommissioned it because I had worn it out so much and I kind of grew up and I forgot. I, I, I always remembered max, but I didn't, I didn't have a copy of the book and fast forward 20 years and we have the internet and I thought, one day, gosh, I'm gonna do, do a quick search and see if I can find this book again. And so I looked up fuzzy creature max and his face came up and I rediscovered that this creature was a marm of all things. And so I was just kind of blown away. So I feel like maybe a marm has been talking to me from a very young age,

Speaker 4: (42:39)

I think so. So what do you hope children will ultimately gain from this book?

Speaker 18: (42:46)

One of my main reasons for, um, spending so much time to create this book and drawing it in the way I did, uh, was that I wanted them to want to go out into the forest. I'm an avid hiker myself, and I know how much walking through the forest and walking on mountain trails has given me. And I hope that kids get excited about maybe going out and seeing forest scenery, maybe running into a Mar and looking at, uh, nature from this very, very special place that is the forest. So I, I paid particular attention to trying to create, um, an inviting scene that kids will want to explore in their real world.

Speaker 4: (43:32)

I've been speaking with author and illustrator Pam fall about her new children's book once upon a forest published by random house children's book, which comes out today. Congratulations on the new book. And thank you for speaking with us about it, Pam.

Speaker 18: (43:46)

Thank you so much, Jade. It was a pleasure

Speaker 1: (43:48)

That was author and illustrator. Pam Fong speaking with K PBS's Jade Henman Fong will be signing copies of her book in person at diesel, a bookstore in Del Mar on Saturday, February 19th at 3:00 PM.

San Diego County and city governments failed to submit any proposals for projects that would give affordable homes to people experiencing homelessness. Why they are missing out on $61 million in funding. Next, as the long transition to a new San Diego police review board continues, members of the old board are issuing a red flag warning as member count dwindles. Then, the Marine Corps has launched an investigation into the son of San Diego's former Republican Party chairman for ties to an extremist group. Later, a new California law will require schools to expand their mental health instruction, educators say it would have been a welcome mandate before the pandemic and even more now. And, technology has dramatically changed retail shopping in the U.S. and it’s changing grocery stores too. San Diego-based Accel Robotics is charging customers without them taking out their debit cards. Then, a new jobs program is aimed at helping underserved young people while improving communities across California. Finally. San Diego author and illustrator Pam Fong talks about her new children’s book “Once Upon a Forest,” which comes out today.