The Coast News Group
A homeless man sleeps on the overpass near Cottonwood Creek Park on Aug. 9 in Encinitas. The County of San Diego is launching homeless outreach teams to address homelessness in North County. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram
Today, nearly 1 in 3 homeless people in America live in California. File photo
Community CommentaryOpinion

Commentary: Time for San Diego’s comeback

By Richard Bailey

The San Diego I grew up in was known for its sunny beaches and as a place you could afford to buy a home and raise a family in a safe, clean neighborhood.

But now the San Diego region no longer lives up to the image of “America’s finest city.”

It’s time for San Diego to make a comeback.

As the mayor of Coronado, I know what good government looks like and the difference it can make for an entire community.

Over the next few months, I’m releasing a series of nonpartisan, detailed plans that identify specific actions our region can take to solve the main quality of life issues affecting San Diego County.

I wanted to start with homelessness. The answer to solving homelessness is more simple than most politicians will admit.

According to the most recent Point in Time count, of the 17,000 shelter beds available in San Diego county, just 75% are occupied.

So the good news is that shelter is available for people who want help right now.

However, politicians are enabling people to live a personally destructive lifestyle by refusing to enforce basic code violations such as blocking the public right of way, urinating or defecating in public, public drug use and intoxication.

This lifestyle negatively affects the surrounding community and reduces the likelihood of that person ever getting help.

We must establish a policy that makes saying yes to getting help and off the streets the ONLY option available.

Before exploring what this policy looks like in practice, let’s look at homelessness by the numbers.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are fewer homeless people nationwide than in 2012.

The homeless count fell across the country from 622K in 2012 to 582K in 2022.

So if the homeless population is decreasing in most parts of the nation, what is happening in California?

From 2007 through 2022, the homeless count in California increased by 24% to 172,000. Today, nearly 1 in 3 homeless people live in California.

San Diego has seen an even more drastic increase in the homeless population. In downtown alone, the number of homeless people has almost quadrupled to a new record of nearly 2,000 just last month.

You may have heard that more shelter space is necessary; however, as mentioned earlier, of the 17,000 shelter beds in San Diego County, only 75% were occupied as of the last Point in Time count.

According to California’s Interagency Council on Homelessness, the state spent over $10 billion in tax dollars on “solving”the homeless issue in the past three years.

As we can see with our own eyes, the problem was not solved.

On March 14, I shared  the state’s approach and explained why it is having the unintended effect of increasing our homeless population.

For more information, visit: sandiegocomeback.com.

Richard Bailey is the mayor of Coronado.