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OUR VOICES: Homelessness and the November 8th Vote

By Dr. John E. Warren

This week we have new numbers suggesting that the homeless population is growing in spite of efforts to make more housing available. This is in spite of efforts that are underway to open more shelters. There is discussion about the growing numbers of homeless without talking about why and how. The numbers are growing because of two reasons: (1) the increasing high cost of rentals with no real controls on landlords or what they charge; and (2) the rising cost of living outpacing minimum wages.

In a county with a population of 49 percent renters, one would think there would be a real effort to get the homeless registered as voters to participate in the coming election. The reality is that every day we see more and more high-rise apartment buildings going up as apartments and condos. Yet we have no talk about vacancies, but only mention of affordable housing, not available housing.

The point here is that those who vote can influence the policies and actions of those elected to office as well as those who sit as judges on landlord and tenant cases.

Some of those very judges are probably landlords with no requirements to present their personal interest before deciding such cases.

Until renters become voters, one can not expect to see real efforts to move more homeless into existing vacancies. The vacancies are not created for the homeless, but for those who can afford the high cost of occupancy. “Affordable” housing is, too often, a diversionary carrot to have both the public and the homeless focus on anything except existing vacancies.

A recent report on homelessness among Black San Diegans details a number of historical factors influencing homelessness. And it is not all about drugs and mental illness. However, the changes and recommendations detailed in that report appear to provide a pathway to change. But those changes do not include developing the kind of civic responsibility that could lead the homeless to becoming voters and therefore taking long term steps to not only improve their personal condition, but also the quality of life for those who will follow them, unless some real public policies are made by those who are voted into office.

Perhaps all of this is too late for November 8th participation, but let’s think about it anyway.

“Until renters become voters, one can not expect to see real efforts to move more homeless into existing vacancies.” – Dr. John E. Warren

Dr. John E. Warren is publisher of The San Diego Voice and Viewpoint.

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