The rainy season has just begun and already it’s brought heavy storms and flooding to many areas of San Diego County, but the border area is especially hard hit. Now, the season may have brought some political storms with it, too.
This Tuesday, San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez held a meeting he called the “Tijuana River Valley Emergency Prep Logistics Meeting” to hear from residents concerned about flooding in the valley near the border. The notice of the meeting trumpeted the Councilman’s proactive planning to deal with the coming El Niño storms. The meeting focused on the effects of flooding to homes and businesses, as well as the danger to horses at several ranches in the area.
The issues related to flooding are important, including the concern for horses, but school officials in the area are calling out Alvarez for not being involved in addressing the needs of another important population in his district that is at risk during these storms; homeless kids.
The San Ysidro School District Board of Trustees declared a state of emergency last month to bring attention to the more than 1,500 students and their families who are homeless and living within its district. The school officials met with Mr. Alvarez’s staff before their emergency declaration to advise his office of their immediate concern for these at risk students. To date, no contact has come from the City or Councilman Alvarez with respect to these homeless families.
Homelessness has long been an issue within the City of San Diego. Homeless shelters have been put up each year when temperatures drop to provide temporary homes to those without. In recent years, more housing units have come online in downtown to help transition individuals living on the streets into permanent housing. These have greatly reduced the number of people at risk when the weather turns nasty, and this year will be one of the worst.
But no attention has been given to the hundreds of families with children living on the streets, in their cars, or in junk yards in San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. It wasn’t until San Ysidro’s new school superintendent, Dr. Julio Fonseca, called attention to immediate needs of these kids that action was taken.
The San Ysidro School District organized a blanket drive that has already delivered hundreds of much-needed blankets to these families. The District hosted a holiday dinner at their middle school before Christmas to offer a warm meal for the families and presents for the kids. And now they are working on providing emergency shelter to these families when the rains hit, but much more needs to be done to help them.
The District’s emergency declaration allows schools and school property to be used to provide emergency shelter to protect the welfare of its students. In urgent cases, families may be housed within auditoriums or classrooms as emergency shelters. Drastic times call for drastic measures.
Governor Jerry Brown is currently reviewing the District’s emergency declaration and is considering issuing a State declaration which could bring with it funding to help these students. With a state declaration, the City of San Diego may be forced to act to expedite or bypass city zoning approvals to support San Ysidro schools in their efforts to provide emergency shelters.
It may not be fair to single out Mr. Alvarez for his inaction in helping this vulnerable population among his constituents. No other elected officials besides the school board members have made any effort to assist either.
Local and state officials should work together immediately to address the needs of these homeless children. Imagine how difficult it must be for these students to focus in the classroom when they arrive at school cold and hungry. How do they complete their homework? When do they have time to relax and just be kids?
We must work to break this cycle of poverty by providing them a good education and a healthy environment within to learn. Their futures depend on it.
We call on Councilman David Alvarez, State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, State Senator Ben Hueso, and Congressman Juan Vargas to join forces on this urgent issue within their
The kids are desperately waiting for your help.