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Chula Vista program is getting people off the streets

 March 20, 2023 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Monday, March 20th, the first day of spring!

A rehab program led by a man with lived experience, is helping get people off the streets for good. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


The future of SANDAG’s controversial Executive Director may be decided soon.

On Friday, the executive committee of the SANDAG board of directors met to discuss Hasan Ikhrata’s performance review.

Members of the public weighed in.

Some brought up Ikhrata’s support of a road user charge, or mileage tax and said he should be fired.

But others said they liked the changes Ikhrata has made at the transportation agency.

The committee’s conclusions will be presented to the full board on March 24th.


An all-electric rapid bus route is coming to the South Bay.

The M-T-S Board of Directors last week approved “Rapid 2-2-7” or “Iris Rapid” as part of the county’s Bus Rapid Transit network.

The new route will link the Otay Mesa Transit Center to neighborhoods along the Imperial Beach shores.

It will also connect riders with the UC-SD Blue Line Trolley at the Iris Avenue Transit Center.

Service is anticipated to begin this fall.


It’s the first day of spring, but this week’s weather will not be spring-like.

There is a chance of rain through early Thursday with the heaviest rain expected


The storm is also expected to bring snow to higher elevations.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.


From homeless … to housed and healthy … to re-integrated back into society.

That’s the goal of a rehabilitation program in Chula Vista.

Reporter Jacob Aere says it’s finding success getting people permanently off the streets … and it’s led by a man who has the lived experience to help.

Homelessness and addiction often go hand in hand, says Joey Rubio. He would know. He spent years without a roof over his head, living in canyons and using drugs … and spent decades locked up behind bars. But all that’s behind him now. He’s been sober for seven years and works for the nonprofit McAlister Institute for Treatment and Education in Chula Vista. Joey Rubio McAlister Institute for Treatment and Education “We have a kitchen, we have food. And we have a morning meditation here. We have NA meetings, AA meetings. This is where a lot of the stuff happens.” Rubio says an “ugly childhood” led him down a dark path – he was selling and using heroin by the age of 10. He’s 63 now, and along with getting sober… he got certified as a drug and alcohol counselor. Now, Rubio's a role model for others. Joey Rubio McAlister Institute for Treatment and Education “Basically what I try to teach these guys is: life skills, how to be responsible at your job, how to keep a job, how to do resumes – all that stuff. Because I didn't know how to do any of that myself.” He supervises a program called Work for Hope … and there’s nothing else quite like it in the county. It's a partnership with police, park rangers and the city of Chula Vista. Since 2018 it’s been paying homeless individuals to beautify local parks. Robert McLean (MIC-lain) has been in the program for two months. Robert Mclean Work for Hope Participant “You know it helps you save money and get back reverted into society. And plus you're giving back to the city too, which is a good thing.” Diana Villarreal is also improving Chula Vista’s parks as part of Work for Hope. The mother of seven says it's more effective than other rehabilitation programs she’s tried, because Rubio can relate to her. Diana Villarreal Work for Hope Participant “Him knowing where I come from and involved in the same similar lifestyle as I grew up. He was really really understanding. He really knew what it's like to get back on your feet.” McLean says Work for Hope has given him purpose. It helped him find sobriety, housing and a life that didn’t seem possible … or forever lost. Robert Mclean Work for Hope Participant “It opens up doors for work. Like for myself I just got  hired in another program – which is pretty good. I'll be working for Petco Park. And this program kept me focused man, and say ‘okay getting up early in the morning, come to work,’ getting back in a routine.” Getting people to take part in the program isn't always easy. Rubio’s outreach work happens in canyons, parks, on the streets and in one infamous area dubbed “the jungle.” That’s where hundreds of people live in the brush near the 805 and 54 freeways. Rubio says he gains the trust of people he meets over time, with consistent contact. He says the relationships he builds help people accept the services they need. Joey Rubio McAlister Institute for Treatment and Education “What I want you to do is come see me brother and we’ll help you get off the streets. We have showers there, we have washing machines – you can wash your tramados (clothes) – that type of stuff. And we'll work on a plan to get you off the streets and stay off the streets, get you a real good job making more money than I'm making.” Rubio has helped hundreds of people reclaim their lives and inspired many to give back in a similar way, like Villarreal plans to do. She says Work for Hope’s model should extend beyond Chula Vista. Diana Villarreal  Work for Hope Participant “San Diego’s lagging because if there were more programs like this, it’d be more homelessness off the streets, they'd be in sober living environments. They’d have that light at the end of the tunnel, they’d boost themselves up. They wouldn't be in their tents or where they're at.” Joey Rubio McAlister Institute for Treatment and Education “For the fiscal year over 200 people and we're not even done: Off the streets, employable, housed, reunified with their families, with their children – single parents. We're making an impact here.” Rubio says there’s a need for more people like himself, those with lived experiences, in homeless outreach and addiction counseling. Joey Rubio McAlister Institute for Treatment and Education “I just wish more people would get involved. We have a fentanyl pandemic. We have a homelessness all over San Diego, LA County – all over. Homelessness is everywhere, you know, and I want to address those people and help those people out.” Rubio has big dreams to expand his team’s efforts to beautify other parts of the county and California … and get more people permanently off of the streets … but it costs money to do that. His organization is running out of financial resources and actively applying for grant funding. Their goal is to raise $1 million, which would keep Work for Hope running for nearly a decade. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.


In other efforts to get people off the streets, there could be a new ordinance banning homeless people from camping on San Diego streets.

Reporter Claire Strong takes a look at what it would mean.

Being homeless in San Diego could soon land you with a fine. Councilmember Stephen Whitburn has proposed a new ordinance. It would ban homeless encampments on public property if shelter beds are available. It would also ban people from living in places like parks, transit stations or near schools whether beds are available or not. “We’ve heard too many stories about people on the streets who have been randomly attacked, stabbed to death, even set on fire and there have also been threats to our neighborhoods as well.” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria has backed the plan. It would fine those who don’t follow the rules. Homeless advocate Michael McConnell says no one should have to sleep on the street. But he says a lack of beds is a big issue. All you have to do is look at the count of shelter beds and the count of homeless people and you realize there’s nowhere near enough beds. And then for people like me who are out on the street, who see people lined-up in the morning two hours before the homeless response center even opens, it’s obvious there are a lot more people wanting a shelter bed than there are beds available”. Claire Strong, KPBS News.

TAG: The city council will have to approve the ordinance.

They could vote on it next month.


Sidewalk problems are among the top complaints coming from Skyline-Paradise Hills, and residents say it takes too long for repairs.

Inewsource reporter Crystal Niebla tells us more.

According to the city of San Diego, 17% of complaints in the Skyline-Paradise Hills area are related to sidewalks. And more than half of those are at least two years old. Paradise Hills resident, Guy Preuss, said he's been working with his peers for decades to get sidewalks upgraded or installed in his neighborhood, but many problems go unaddressed. PH SIDEWALKS 1: “The current administration ignores us. The only way you can make it better is for people to push.” City leaders say they have plans to upgrade public sidewalks and to help make it easier for property owners, who are largely responsible for the sidewalk upkeep, to make those improvements. For KPBS, I’m inewsource reporter Crystal Niebla.

TAG: inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS.


Coming up.... How the recent weather has impacted endangered monarch butterflies. We’ll have that story and more, just after the break.


Spyware describes a series of apps that can let you secretly monitor another person’s smartphone.

Sci-tech reporter Thomas Fudge says it’s all too easy to install—and hack.

Spyware is also called stalkerware and it allows someone to see another person’s texts, emails, phone calls and photographs. All you need is temporary physical access to the person's phone to set it up. Alex Liu is a Phd student at UC San Diego. He was the lead author on a paper called  No Privacy among Spies. His research revealed how these apps work and their level of security, which is not very high. He said many use unencrypted communication channels that are easily hacked over wifi. “If the app itself is hacked the problem becomes much bigger because your debt can be exposed to the public. Right. I’m pretty sure you don’t want whatever is on your phone to be leaked to the public. Spyware is often seen in cases of spousal abuse and domestic violence. Liu says the apps are easiest to install on android phones where there are fewer limits on where you get your apps. SOQ.


It’s not just humans who have suffered from the recent winter storms … the extreme weather conditions have pummelled the endangered Monarch butterflies.

But experts tell reporter Alexander Nguyen … there may be a silver lining.

At the beginning of this season … there was cause for celebration as more than THREE HUNDRED THIRTY THOUSAND monarchs were counted That’s more than any that’ve been counted since 2000 … But the recent count saw a nearly 60 PERCENT drop from the beginning of the season. “it's also pretty normal to have declines with crazy climatic events.” Pam Horsely is the entomology collections manager at the San Diego Natural History Museum. She says the higher number of die-offs is disheartening. Not all Monarchs make it through the season. but the higher population count this year means … Pam Horsely San Diego Natural History Museum “ … that there's probably going to be more survivors as well. Right. So that gives me hope that even if it's been a cold, wet winter, that there will be more survivors here in the spring flying out soon.” Horseley says scientists don’t really know why the Monarch population is rebounding but it’s good that more efforts are being made to preserve the species. AN/KPBS.


And before you go, we want to get your input on friendships, and how easy or hard you find it to make new friends.

You can call us at 6-1-9- 4-5-2-0-2-2-8… and let us know your name, what city you are from, and your question or comment about friendship.

We may use your comments for an upcoming segment.


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org.

We’d like to wish you a Happy Persian New Year today! We’ll be talking about the holiday in a podcast episode later this week.

I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great Monday.

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A rehabilitation program in Chula Vista is finding success getting people permanently off the streets and it’s led by a man who has the lived experience to help. Then, research out of UC San Diego details how spyware works. Lastly, the cold, wet winter has impacted the endangered Monarch butterflies.