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Can California Reduce Homelessness Through Better Prevention? And More Local News

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What can California cities struggling with homelessness learn from Chicago? A program there to help people avoid eviction seems to be working. From our California Dream collaboration, a way to keep people in their homes and off the streets. Plus, as the Christmas decorations come down, you might be tempted to just toss your Christmas tree in the trash. San Diego city has a greener solution that could benefit residents year-round. And, Thursday's cooler weather didn't stop thousands of college football fans from coming down to the waterfront for the annual parade ahead of Friday’s Holiday Bowl game between the USC Trojans and Iowa Hawkeyes.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Friday, December 27th I'm Andrew Bowen and you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up. San Diego's Christmas tree recycling program is back and what California city's struggling with homelessness can learn from Chicago. A program there to help people avoid eviction, seems to be working, providing emergency financial assistance does in fact reduce homelessness. That and more San Diego news stories coming up after the break. Stay with us.

Speaker 1: 00:33 California based and NASA scientists and researchers from around the world are launching a mission that will measure sea level rise from space capital public radios as we're David Romero reports. The goal is to track one of the clearest signs of global warming over the next decade. Since 1992 NASA has recorded data and how the seas are rising globally. We have about one inch per decade of sea level rise. It's widely predicted that this rate of rise will increase. Joshua Willis is the mission's project scientist at the NASA jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena. The mission is expected to launch in November and the satellite is called the Sentinel six. It uses radar and we'll be able to show how the sea is rising within a millimeter of accuracy. We're literally reshaping the earth. Two thirds of the earth surface are literally growing because of climate change. That accuracy is a big deal for California where scientists say more than two thirds of its beaches are at risk of disappearing within this century in Sacramento. I'm as her, David Romero, California has no minimum age for sending children to juvenile hall, but that's about to change Capitol public radio. Steven mill ne reports as part of our series on new California laws taking effect in 2020 pediatrician Liz Barnard works with incarcerated kids in Los Angeles County. It says most children who act up need mental health assistance, not prison.

Speaker 2: 01:56 90% of children in our juvenile justice system have a documented psychiatric illness

Speaker 1: 02:03 including depression and substance abuse disorders caused by abuse and neglect. She says, a state law taking effect in the new year ends the prosecution of children under 12 in California, unless they're accused of murder and forcible sexual assault. Instead, counties will have to set up the least restrictive alternatives to juvenile hall, which could include existing programs at hospitals and schools. Barnert says the new law will also benefit older kids.

Speaker 2: 02:26 Counties actually have to come up with a plan. They're starting to think about how do we send our 12 1314 year olds through these pathways also and even our 1516 and 17 year olds

Speaker 1: 02:37 in Sacramento. I'm Steve Millie. As the Christmas tree decorations come down, you might be tempted to just toss your Christmas tree in the trash. KPBS reporter Joe Hong looks at a greener solution that could benefit residents year round. The city of San Diego launched its 46th annual Christmas tree recycling program on Thursday in hopes of keeping trees out of landfills and giving them an in neighborhood gardens and parks as compost and mulch. Barbara Lamb is the deputy director of the environmental services departments, waste reduction division. She said the recycling program helps make San Diego a more sustainable city.

Speaker 3: 03:12 Christmas trees dropped off at the city. 17 drop off sites are diverted from the landfill and turned into top quality compost and mulch products here at the Miramar greenery and it also produces high quality wood chips

Speaker 1: 03:30 program runs until January 23rd before dropping off trees. Residents must remove all decorations and tree stands. Joe Hong K PBS news. There will be a ceiling on the interest rates of some new consumer loans in California. Effective January 1st Capitol public is Bob Moffitt reports from Sacramento. The new law eliminates predatory annual interest rates that have sometimes been more than a hundred percent for loans between 20 $510,000 Alma Galvin is with the better business Bureau and says lending practices typically rank in the top two of complaints the BBB receives.

Speaker 3: 04:05 Sometimes consumers are not eligible for loans based on their credit history and they end up getting into loans with high interest rates because of the tactics of the salesperson.

Speaker 1: 04:16 She says people should be especially wary of used car dealerships and online vehicle vendors. The new law caps the annual rate at 36% simple interest plus the federal funds rate, which is currently 1.55% borrowers can no longer be forced to pay off a loan within a few months. They will have at least a year and as many as five depending on the size of the loan. Payday loans would not be covered on Bob Moffitt in Sacramento. Thursday's cooler weather. It didn't stop thousands of college football fans from coming down to the San Diego waterfront for the annual parade ahead of Friday's holiday bowl game between the USC Trojans and Iowa Hawkeyes lean Al CDOT and Sean Mueller are a couple from Oakland who traveled down with their kids for the game. I'll see you as a USC fan and Mueller's an Iowa fan. Mueller's hopeful their family will pull through despite the divided allegiances.

Speaker 4: 05:06 I'm very excited, but there will be conflict. After we kicked their butt,

Speaker 1: 05:13 the big game kicks off at 5:00 PM MTS will be running extra trolley service to get fans to and from the game traffic in and out of San Diego has lightened up again. After our highway officials opened up highways. Thursday evening, people can now head to the mountains, but KPBS or Porter Shalina chat line, he says, that doesn't mean all the roads are safe

Speaker 4: 05:33 at the foot of the mountain. Laguna kids are laughing, throwing snowballs at each other and building snowman. San Diego resident 13 year old Ryan Marchelle is here to enjoy the snow and sled down a Hill with my family and one of my friends. Okay. Is this a dream come true for you? Yeah, this is pretty awesome. But other drivers going up the mountain and I've pulled over here to put on chains. Highway official shutdown had an East due

Speaker 5: 05:58 to the heavy snow fall. Now after these roads have been reopened, official say people still need to be prepared for more snow, reduced visibility and icy slippery roads. Shelina chat, Lani KPBS news.

Speaker 1: 06:10 Despite billions in new spending. The number of people experiencing homelessness in cities across California keeps going up. Now, some city leaders in Los Angeles want to do more to prevent people from losing their homes in the first place. One city they're looking to for inspiration is Chicago as part of our statewide California dream collaboration. Hey PCCs. David Wagner reports Southeast Chicago residents. Cedric Moore got laid off earlier this year and it came as a big shock. Speaking over the phone, he says he had savings to keep himself and his three daughters afloat for a while, but those savings dried up pretty quickly.

Speaker 6: 06:47 I did not know what I was going to do. It was lost on me this time. It was completely lost. I had nothing

Speaker 1: 06:53 more fell three months behind on rent. His landlord gave him notice to pay up in five days or be evicted.

Speaker 6: 07:00 The fear of becoming homeless was more than real. It was abundant. It kept me up at night.

Speaker 1: 07:07 More was desperate for help, so he called the city and an actual person picked up the phone. The city has a homeless prevention call center which connected him with emergency aid to help pay his background. He was able to avoid eviction and keep his family out of a shelter.

Speaker 6: 07:22 I felt like myself, again

Speaker 1: 07:24 more is now getting back on his feet. He recently found a new job, but without that call connecting him to help at just the right moment. He doesn't know where he's

Speaker 7: 07:34 this call center is what makes Chicago's prevention program unique. So right now our specialists are taking calls for those who are seeking short term assistance. Wendy Abila at Catholic charities runs the city funded call center workers here ask clients a few questions to see if they qualify for emergency aid. What is the reason that has caused you to fall behind on your rent and especially with your utilities as well. In other cities, people in crisis may not be able to find this kind of help all in one place. It definitely streamlines it. Abila says it's better than how Chicago's prevention program used to work. Prior to the call center. People would actually have to go to different agencies and see where the money is available. If they ran out, they ran out and you know the public didn't know that until you actually went to the agency.

Speaker 1: 08:20 Some officials in LA now think Chicago's call center could be a model for helping Californians on the verge of homelessness. While we were housing 133 people today, 150 people are slipping into homelessness. City Councilman current price wants LA to study and possibly copy prevention strategies that have worked in cities like Chicago. In recent years, LA has put one point $2 billion toward developing new homeless housing, but price as LA won't be able to build its way out of this crisis. That construction of housing is not the answer alone and it's that happening fast enough to really make an impact. LA does have a prevention program, but prices, there isn't a clear entry point for getting help. Nothing is centralized as Chicago's call center. Research shows that Chicago's approach is working, providing emergency financial assistance does in fact reduce homelessness. Notre Dame economist James Sullivan studied Chicago's call center. He found that people who called when funding was available were 76% less likely to become homeless. Those findings held true even a year later. People who got help were still housed. That was one of the things we worried about first was maybe this kind of assistance just postpones the inevitable. What our research showed was that's not the case. Beefing up prevention would not solve all of Ellie's problems. 60,000 people are already homeless. Many have mental health or addiction issues that can't be fixed with one time emergency aid.

Speaker 7: 09:46 Hello, my name is Maria. Have you got here previously, but back at the Chicago call center, Wendy Avala says, for many people a month or two of rent relief is all it takes to avoid homelessness. It's working. People are receiving assistance. The majority don't call back and don't need a system, so they're able to be self sufficient. That's the promise of prevention. Giving people a small amount of help now to avoid paying much more later,

Speaker 1: 10:11 getting them off the streets in Chicago. I'm David Wagner. After a successful run in East village, the immersive theater production of relics of the hypnotist war could be heading back to San Diego. Earlier this year, KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando gave us a closer look at this intriguing play.

Speaker 8: 10:29 Imagine a room so filled with ephemera that to soar through it all would take a lifetime. Inside this dusty den, a faded pages and rusted memories resides a curator trying to unravel the mysteries of the lives represented by all the artifacts he's collected. No one can recall when the hypnotists arrived. They look no different than ourselves. Relics of the hypnotist war is an invitation to be part of a historical narrative that's different every time it's told.

Speaker 9: 11:00 I'd like you to take your time to go through the relics, take your time to go through all of the passports we have and to examine the lives that were lost during the great hypnotist Wars.

Speaker 8: 11:14 The hypnotists created a sleep epidemic that the curator tells us resulted in sleep. Cemeteries. There will never again be anywhere is hopeless and as beautiful as the sleep cemeteries. The idea for relics of the hypnotist war came to Ryan Griffith when he was traveling in Russia and randomly met two women on the street.

Speaker 9: 11:36 They were talking to a man and then they woke up and they're missing their purses and they warned me that there were hypnotists on the streets of st Petersburg and that you should, you should never look anyone in the eye.

Speaker 8: 11:49 Griffith teaches fiction writing at Grossmont college. He created relics of the hypnotist war for a gallery in Istanbul, then redesigned it at space for art here in San Diego last year.

Speaker 9: 12:00 And it just so happened that I was traveling around the world and through Turkey and through Hungary and Russia and all these sort of fascist dictators, you know, and then obviously coming back to the United States in 2016 feeling that the world was falling asleep in some way.

Speaker 8: 12:18 Griffith's new show arrives in an interesting creative context. Critics have noted how a quiet place suggests a world where if we keep our mouth shut, we'll survive. While bird box tells us if we close our eyes, we might escape evil. Now relics of the hypnotists war asks what could happen if we have all our senses, perhaps even our consciousness shut off. This turns what initially seems like a Curio shop escape room into an allegory or political fable for those struggling to understand why so many around the world seem to have fallen morally asleep, seeding their wills as Griffith suggests to hypnotic leaders,

Speaker 9: 12:57 and then it felt like a metaphor for the time in some way. Although the, this is, the narrative itself is not grounded in any time. There's, there's, it's never, it's never pinned down. In fact, there's a, there's a huge argument to be made that we're, we're still in the midst of the hypnotist and we're still being put to sleep.

Speaker 8: 13:17 Griffith encourages us to find meaning in the objects presented, like the passports we can look through and that's sometimes crumble in our hands.

Speaker 9: 13:25 I mean, especially when you see that the handwriting or the particular idiosyncrasies of their appearance. So I think that's probably just human nature to want to try to imagine and inhabit that life. You know, like a lot of those passports were from essentially from world war II and people fleeing Nazi Germany.

Speaker 8: 13:46 So what are the people in the hypnotist for fleeing from? What does it all mean? Griffis says he doesn't know the answers because maybe there are none, or maybe it's not about knowing what it means, but rather just being alerted to the dangers of falling asleep or surrendering to the will of the hypnotist. This leads to the ritual at the end of the show,

Speaker 9: 14:07 typically we go out side and we drink wine and then we debrief the show.

Speaker 8: 14:13 That's when the audience collaborators can share personal accounts of falling asleep in their own lives or times when they fallen under another spell. It's what Griffith calls a community narrative. A community's attempt to understand what's happened or more importantly, what is happening now in the real world. Beth Mondo KPBS news to see when the play is returning to San Diego, log onto relics of the hidden war.com.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.