SAN DIEGO — On World Homeless Day, city leaders honored homeless lives lost on the streets of San Diego.
Homeless advocates say San Diego has experienced more homeless deaths in the past two years than in any previously recorded year.
Nearly 1,000 white bags and lights marked a homeless life lost on the streets of San Diego in recent years.
“They were somebody’s brother or sister or mother or father or grandfather or grandmother or friends,” says homeless advocate Michael McConnell.
Homeless advocates put up tents reading “housing not handcuffs,” calling for action to end homelessness.
Advocates say many homeless die from lack of housing and mental health or substance abuse services.
“It was hard out here,” says formerly homeless Vanessa Graziano. “All of a sudden I was unseen and looked at as trash and I was with my daughter in our car and it was really hard.”
It comes after city crews and officers swept the East Village area last week, asking the homeless population to move their belongings.
“There’s certain measures we have to take to make sure sanitation, cleanliness and safety is at the forefront of our minds but at the end of the day homes solve homelessness,” City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said.
Elo-Rivera admits the city and community at large must do better to end the crisis.
“In the last couple years, we put out over $218 million in rental relief to help keep people in their homes,” Elo-River said. “We’re working hard right now on a tenant protection ordinance to again prevent people from falling into homelessness because they are more vulnerable to death and illness and other risks on the streets and we’re working hard to increase shelter capacity. The mayor has been working hard to increase the number of shelter beds that we have and we have to do more and more and more.”
Homeless advocates say nearly 500 homeless people died in the San Diego region last year alone.