Over the past few years alone, the rapidly increasing homeless population in San Diego has been no secret. It’s impossible to walk anywhere downtown without encountering someone sleeping on a sidewalk or asking for money, much less ignore the tent-lined streets in East Village with a homeless community reminiscent of LA’s skid row. It’s impossible to ignore, and clearly a growing problem.
We here at Luna Norte are now fortunate enough to have a platform to give back to the community, and we want to start at a local level with the people we see every day, people that we all have a tendency to pass on the street and turn a blind eye to. We pretend not to see the growing problem in front of us, but why? These people are our community, our neighbors without a home. How did they get into this situation, and why is it so prominent in San Diego? How can we help? We did some research with local organizations that could help us give back and connect with our fellow disadvantaged San Diegans, and came across the San Diego based Alpha Project, an organization well-known within the homeless community of San Diego.
What causes homelessness?
According to NationalHomeless.org, two trends play the largest role in homelessness: the shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty. Often, when only limited resources can be allocated for housing, food, childcare, healthcare and education, housing is the first expense to be cut. According to the United States Census Bureau, the national poverty rate in 2016 was 12.7%. While the poverty rate has been declining, a lack of employment opportunities and a decline in available public assistance attribute to continued poverty. Other factors contributing to homelessness include a lack of affordable health care, domestic violence, mental illness and addiction.
Homelessness in San Diego
- In a 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, San Diego County ranked with the 4th highest homeless population in the nation with 9,160 homeless people. New York City takes the lead with 76,501, Los Angeles County with 55,188, and Seattle/King County with 11,643.
- Last year nationwide, the homeless population increased 0.7%. However, in San Diego, the homeless population increased by 5%.
- Nationwide, about 35% of the homeless population live unsheltered in tents, cars and on the streets. In San Diego, the unsheltered population reaches 61.6% (New York City, for contrast, has almost 95% of its homeless living in shelters).
- This high rate of homeless without shelter and in unsanitary conditions has largely attributed to the spread of one of the deadliest hepatitis A outbreaks in the US in 20 years.
What is Alpha Project?
Alpha Project is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) human services organization that serves over 4,000 men, women and children each day. They offer affordable housing, residential substance abuse treatments, housing for people with special needs, basic and emergency services for the homeless, transportation assistance, mental health counseling, employment training, preparation and placement, emergency shelter, HIV/AIDS, education, outreach and prevention, and community services. At their core, Alpha Project empowers people to take personal responsibility for solving problems.
What stood out to us most is how Alpha Project does not want to manage homeless, rather aims to end it by providing the homeless with tools to retain their independence by offering jobs, respect and empowerment through completion of their programs (education, employment, sobriety, stability). The programs are available to all persons in need regardless of race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
Highlights of Alpha Project Programs
- Alpha Project works in tandem with San Diego City and its needs. In November 2017, assisting with the hepatitis A outbreak, Alpha Project opened up a large dormitory-style tent shelter in downtown San Diego while the city installed public washing stations, 24-hour restrooms and scrubbed the streets with a bleach solution.
- Through temporary and low-cost housing solutions as well as employment programs, Alpha Project provides transitional employment and training while providing cost-saving services to the community (e.g. maintenance crews, city and canyon cleanups, graffiti removal, providing services for low-income seniors, etc.)
- Hospice for the Homeless
- Homeless Outreach: with the goal of developing good rapport and relationships, Alpha Project operates vans that drive to areas where homeless people congregate – offering food, water, clothing, hygiene supplies, blankets, heat packs and transportation.
- Creation of over 900 units of high-quality, safe, permanent and affordable housing
- Temporary shelter solutions to ensure instances of homelessness are rare, brief, and non-recurring.
How Luna Norte is helping
We are asking employees, friends and family for donations of seasonal items that are in demand now, and will donate everything on the last day of our drive, March 13. Our list includes but is not limited to: bedding (sheets, blankets, pillows), towels, washcloths, personal hygiene products, clothing (particularly shoes, socks, and coats), books, cleaning supplies and small and lightweight office supplies.
Stay tuned for an update on everything we’re able to pull together by the 13th.
Collectively, we were able to donate two carloads full of a variety of items, ranging from work appropriate attire, warm clothes, and PJs to bedding, towels, toiletries and office supplies. Hopefully we were able to brighten someone’s day and help them stay warm. As individuals, we’re all capable of making changes; but together, as a group, we can make a big difference.