Edit ModuleShow Tags

Homeless for the Holidays


Published:

(page 1 of 3)

I realize now, being homeless myself, a lot of people think you’re somehow bad—that you deserve to be homeless,” says Jennifer, a 35-year-old mother of four, pointing to her neighbors in the courtyard at St. Vincent de Paul’s Village. The East Village shelter is a haven for the homeless and hungry.

Jennifer lowers her eyes and stares at her fingers. “These are good people here,” she says softly. “Single moms and dads, many of us, just trying to put things back together.”

But putting a life back on track isn’t easy these days in San Diego. The biggest roadblock? Housing prices.

“We’re the eighth most expensive housing market in the country now, and if you work for minimum wage, it’s not easy to afford rent,” says John Thelen, project director of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. “So you’re seeing a segment of the population doing well and making a lot of money, and a segment that’s middle to lower class making only enough to scrape by.”

One incident—a health crisis or rent hike—and all of a sudden many are homeless. “With the vacancy rate for rentals so low,” says Thelen, “these people have no say in getting in. Try being a single parent with kids looking for an apartment now.”

City Councilman Byron Wear, chair of the Land Use & Housing Committee, also blames the housing crunch for escalating numbers of homeless. In some places, says Wear, two and three families are living in one apartment. “When you have that kind of demand for housing, someone is going to get left out,” he says. “We’ve seen rents double in some of the older communities where there used to be affordable housing.”

Jennifer’s story is typical. She became homeless a year ago, after her husband, a carpet installer, had an accident that prevented him from working. Before the accident, Jennifer, her husband and their four children were living in a one-bedroom apartment in the Mission Bay area.

When Jennifer’s husband broke his foot and was forced to go on workers’ compensation, the family didn’t have enough money for groceries, let alone rent. “We tried to get apartments in other places, but my credit history isn’t good,” says Jennifer. “It’s really competitive for apartments now. After we didn’t have money for rent, we lost our place.”

The family bought two tents and camped at a site in Chula Vista. Jennifer called Catholic Charities every day, hoping to get into the shelter at St. Vincent de Paul. There was a waiting list, and Jennifer was having health problems and needed major surgery.

“My fear was that I’d go into the hospital for surgery and come out and my family would still be on the streets,” she says. “The kids knew things were bad, but we tried to act like it was a vacation. I was scared, really scared. I thought: What are we going to do? But I never showed it to my kids. My husband and I agreed we’d get through it without letting the kids know how bad it was.”

Finally, a month after becoming homeless, Jennifer and her family were accepted into St. Vincent’s. She had her surgery, and her husband returned to work. Now, the family is in the transitional housing program, and Jennifer just landed a job—in housekeeping at the U.S. Grant Hotel. It pays $6.25 an hour.

“I know it’s not enough for rent in San Diego,” she says. “But it’s a start.”
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

San Diego's Top 50 Trails

From hiking the foothills to biking the beach, this is a city made for exploring outdoors. Here’s our latest, greatest checklist of trails we love—some in your own backyard

The Best of North County 2015

Our annual homage to the newest restaurants, shops, and activities keeping the region above I-56 the cool place it is—haute strip malls, million-dollar tract homes, and all!

San Diego's Top Dentists 2015

This list includes listings for over 450 dentists and specialists in the San Diego metropolitan area
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Vote now: Best Restaurants 2015
    From best chefs to top tacos, you choose San Diego's best eats and drinks in 63 categories
  2. 27 Reasons to Love San Diego
    Our annual list of all things San Diego and rad—from kiteboarding to urban farming to a city-wide book club
  3. San Diego's Top 50 Trails
    From hiking the foothills to biking the beach, this is a city made for exploring outdoors. Here’s our latest, greatest checklist of trails we love—some in your own backyard
  4. I Tried It: The New Jazzercise
    When I hear the word “Jazzercise,” neon leotards, leg warmers, headbands, and old ladies come to mind
  5. Get Fit & Have Fun in San Diego
    From doggie bootcamps to intense bodybuilding programs, it’s an exciting time to get in shape. What are you waiting for?
  6. 2015 Best of North County Party
    Sample, sip and party along with the best that North County has to offer at this signature event.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.

La Jolla Music Society Events

The La Jolla Music Society's 2015 Calendar
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

'Tis The Season

Winter in the desert cities

100 Works of Art to See Before You Die in San Diego

Local art critics, museum directors, and the big kahunas of the art world picked their must-see paintings, sculptures, and buildings with a special checklist just for you
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags