Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Newsom And California’s Homeless

 January 27, 2021 at 4:32 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Wednesday, January 27th. Governor Newsom’s Record On The Homelessness Crisis. We’ll have that Next, But first... let’s do the headlines…. On tuesday, state health officials revealed a new plan and a website that they hope will address frustrations about the slow pace of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. The website is called MyTurn, and it shows Californians when they can get the vaccine. The site will also eventually be used to schedule vaccinations. Officials also announced plans to build a statewide vaccination network. Meanwhile, in San Diego, county health officials reported more than 1400 new coronavirus cases and 46 additional deaths. The San Diego City Council on Tuesday approved yet another eviction moratorium for residents and businesses suffering under the COVID-19 pandemic. Past eviction moratoriums came with an expiration date that kept getting pushed back as the pandemic dragged on. The measure approved Tuesday has no fixed end date, and instead will expire 60 days after the local state of emergency is lifted. It’ll be dry weather today, but another storm is expected to move through San Diego on Thursday night lasting through Friday and possibly into Saturday. Forecasters say the storm on thursday night could be a thunderstorm with heavy rainfall. From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. Governor Gavin Newsom has made bold promises to solve homelessness, and thousands of people have been sheltered under his watch. But advocates wonder if the early success will last? As part of our series on the governor’s midterm progress this week, Cap Radio’s Chris Nichols reports. Past California governors largely ignored California’s homelessness crisis. Newsom has tried to tackle the problem head on. 03Newsom: “I don’t think homelessness can be solved. I know homelessness can be solved.” (:06) Newsom devoted nearly all of last year’s State of the State Address to this ongoing human emergency. 01Newsom: This is our cause. This is our calling. Let us rise to the challenge and make California stand as an exemplar of what true courage and compassion can achieve. Let's get to work. (:22) In some ways, he has delivered: Newsom has worked with state lawmakers to invest billions of dollars in housing, rental assistance and health services for homeless people. Last year, his team searched the state for excess land and even vacant hospitals to use as shelters. This spring, he won praise for moving more than 22 thousand homeless people into motel rooms... all to prevent major outbreaks of COVID-19 …The effort, called Project Roomkey, largely worked. 08Curtis: “Being inside, it means a lot to me. It does. I feel safe. I’m safe, I’m secure.” (:06) That’s 65-year-old Curtis Freeman who was on the streets of Sacramento for nearly a year. He lived in a tent under a freeway … and often afraid for his life... Then in March he got a motel room through Roomkey. Standing outside his motel near Interstate 5, wearing a black and white beanie, Freeman says …he’s no longer afraid. 07Curtis: “I ain’t got to worry about nobody coming in. I can lay down and relax.” (:04) But despite Newsom’s efforts, the crisis remains. Homeless camps line sidewalks, riverbanks and freeways across the state. An estimated 150 thousand Californians are without a home, … according to the most recent federal survey. This summer, to build on the progress of Roomkey, Newsom introduced Project Homekey. The new effort awarded 800 million dollars to cities and counties to buy motels ... for more permanent homeless housing. But some of Newsom’s critics say without providing more services, homeless programs like Roomkey and Homekey just serve to score more political points. 01Gatto: “That results in leaders patting themselves on the back and checking another box.” Former state lawmaker Mike Gatto, a Democrat from Los Angeles, says Newsom’s policies need to have a greater emphasis on mental health treatment so that people are more self-sufficient. 02Gatto: “But in reality, the people are not given the support that they need or, frankly, the tough love that they need. Then they wind up back on the street.” (:11) Newsom says mental health support is on its way … as part of the nearly 2 billion dollars he wants to spend on homelessness in his January budget. Jennifer Friedenbach of the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco says Newsom deserves credit for his early actions as governor. But she and others who work with the unhoused say the state needs a permanent source of funding for homelessness. 01Jennifer: “I would give him good marks for focusing on homelessness, but he’s really tinkering around the edges and needs to go much farther. You know, bring in additional revenue in order to address the situation at the scale that the crisis calls for.” (:15) Friedenbach, who has known Newsom since his time in local government in San Francisco, says he’s always had bold ideas. She says the question now is whether he can follow through and truly solve this growing crisis. That story from Cap Radio’s Chris Nichols. Tomorrow we’ll bring you a look at Newsom’s efforts to modernize the state government. You can read more about the series at CAP-RADIO-DOT-ORG-SLASH-NEWSOM. SAN DIEGO COUNTY SUPERVISORS LIFTED A NEARLY QUARTER CENTURY BAN ON NEEDLE EXCHANGES ON TUESDAY. KPBS HEALTH REPORTER TARRYN MENTO EXPLAINS THE SERVICES THAT PROVIDE CLEAN SYRINGES TO DRUG USERS also CONNECT PEOPLE TO TREATMENT. The services will be part of a substance use harm reduction plan that’ll include other strategies like handing out emergency overdose medication and HIV and Hepatitis C testing. Dr. Christian Ramers of Family Health Centers of San Diego told the board incorporating the services can significantly cut rates of HIV and Hep C. But he also pointed to one Seattle study that showed people who used needle programs were five times more likely to enter recovery programs. “Syringe service programs are designed to give people an off-road from a highway of chaotic drug use that they can’t get off of. How are you going to engage this population, get them into treatment if you don’t meet them where they are?” The California Department of Public Health, the CDC and the World health Organization endorse syringe exchange programs. San Diego County staff will present a harm reduction plan that includes syringed services within 90 days. California’s substitute teacher shortage has been made worse by the pandemic. KPBS North County reporter Jacob Aere says a North County nonprofit is rallying parents to help solve the problem. The Parent Association of North County San Diego wants to safely put parents in the classroom as temporary substitute teachers. They'd act as classroom supervisors for grades K through 12 as needed. April Mosebrook is a Torrey Pines High School parent who has started the process to become a substitute teacher. “We believe that with the advent of the vaccines and now that we've learned ways to safely distance and have kids wear masks and take those safety precautions, we just want them back in school, in a safe and healthy way overall.” There are currently 60 parents who are working to get an emergency 30-day substitute teaching permit. THE FIRST FEMALE MARINE RECRUITS TOUCHED DOWN IN SAN DIEGO MONDAY NIGHT. KPBS MILITARY REPORTER STEVE WALSH SAYS ALONG WITH THEIR OWN TRAINING, THEY WILL TEST WHETHER SAN DIEGO IS PREPARED FOR BASIC TRAINING INTEGRATION. They arrived after dark, in weather unusually cold and windy for San Diego. The first female Marine recruits to train on the west coast. Until Monday, all female recruits trained on the east coast. Congress is requiring the Marines to fully integrate women into boot camp. 18 year old Tsunami Smith’s mother was a Marine. She understands the significance. “It’s exciting, because I know it’s a big step..I know it’s a big step for the Marine Corps and it feels like an honor to be one of the first girls to be able to go.” After grabbing their gear, the 60 female recruits were sent to hotel rooms for two weeks - a new step designed to keep COVID out of boot camp. After that, they will meet their drill instructors and start the formal process of becoming a Marine. Coming up….It’s now been a week since President Biden ordered that construction stop at border wall along the southern border….and now opponents of the border wall in San Diego County are taking stock of what’s to come. We’ll have that story next, just after the break. Today, contractors and government workers building the border wall along America’s southwest border must stop all work… the halt ordered by President Biden. KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler gives us a look at where things now stand in San Diego County. Over 25 miles of 30-foot high Border Wall replacements were built by the Trump administration along the border in San Diego county during the past two years…. As of last week, work in several areas, including the Otay Mountain wilderness, was ongoing…. On his first day in office, President Biden ended a declared national emergency on the border….. and gave construction workers along the border one week to wrap up their work… and leave it in a safe condition… while his administration reviews the entire border wall project…. Workers had just begun preparing to tear down mesh fencing at Friendship Park, right near the pacific ocean…. For another thirty-foot high replacement project…. Something advocates for the park had been rallying against for months… Many advocates didn’t expect the Biden administration to take such immediate action along the border…. John Fanestil is with the Friends of Friendship Park. 4:40 President Biden had said not another foot of wall would be built on his watch, so that led us to hope there would be this immediate halt. We’re pleasantly surprised that actually happened. Elsewhere on the border in San Diego, members of the Kumeyaay nation continued their protests against wall construction…. They filed a lawsuit over the summer saying the government skipped necessary reviews into whether construction would destroy their cultural heritage sites….as it continued to build the wall near Campo. Stan Rodriguez is a member of the Kumeyaay nation who protested against the wall this weekend. 2:30 To me it seemed like an edifice for that was created for white hegemony and also xenophobia. It marginalizes native people because it completely discounted the rights we have on the border. Biden’s order stops all construction, regardless of whether the money was appropriated specifically for wall construction….. Or if it was redirected by the Trump administration to the border wall from the budget of the Department of Defense. Multiple judges have ruled that Trump’s move was illegal…. But border wall construction proceeded anyway…. As of this Tuesday, construction had halted at projects across San Diego county…..That gives groups like the Friends of Friendship Park a last minute reprieve to try to stop a project that would replace border fencing that’s only a decade old….. Robert Vivar, who was deported from the US and works with Friends of Friendship Park from the Mexico side, thinks this is a great opportunity to reassess both the Border Wall project and the future of shared spaces along the border. 7:20 This would be an opportunity for a dialogue to start regarding similar binational parks all along the border to really look at creating security along the border through friendship of both countries. A 60-day review of the border wall project will determine what’s to be done with the money appropriated to the border wall…. And whether to resume or terminate projects…. The administration hasn’t made clear whether its pledge not to construct more border wall includes replacement projects…. Iike most of the construction done in San Diego county under the Trump administration. Pedro Rios is a steering committee member of the Southern Border Communities Coalition. 6:05 PEDRO RIOS: These replacement project are incredibly devastating to the environment. It’s not a simple replacement, it’s the construction of an entirely new and damaging infrastructure….. They should focus instead on tearing this wall down. The biden administration did not respond to a request for comment from KPBS on its plans for the border wall and whether it would continue with replacement projects…..or consider taking some walls down. For groups opposing the border wall, like the Kumeyaay, the path for the Biden administration is clear, says Stan Rodriguez. 10:00 The prior administration broke many of its own laws to put this edifice up. No wall stops people. There’s other solutions to this. A great person like a great country keeps their word. Keep your word. Stop it. Make things right. That story from KPBS’ MAx Rivlin-Nadler That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

After two years in office, how has Governor Gavin Newsom done in addressing California’s homelessness and housing crises? Meanwhile, the pandemic has worsened teacher shortages. Plus, with President Joe Biden ordering a halt to border wall construction activists who have fought against the wall have won a reprieve of sorts.