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2020 San Diego Mayoral candidates sound off about the homeless crisis

San Diegans will choose a new mayor on Tuesday, November 3. Hear what the candidates had to say about the homelessness crisis.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — One of the biggest issues in San Diego is the homelessness crisis. Whether it is a shortage of inventory or residents being priced out of the market, mayoral candidates take on the issue of homelessness. 

Below are what the candidates would do if elected.

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Barbara Bry (D) 

So the homeless situation is only growing and it's very, very sad. It's very sad to see people living on the street. When Todd Gloria was on the city council, the city lost 9,000 SRO units. Those are single-room-occupancy hotel rooms that could be rented by the week. We lost 9,000 of them. We have 5,500 homeless in the city of San Diego. You do the math. Also, during his time on the city council, we went down a disastrous path called Housing First. And I'm very honored that Father Joe Carroll has endorsed me for mayor. I mean, he is above politics and he is very upset at how the city changed direction when Todd Gloria was on the city council. 

RELATED: An interview with 2020 San Diego mayoral candidate Barbara Bry

His belief and my belief is you have to address each person where they are. And some people may need housing some people and a growing number of them have mental health and substance abuse issues. And just putting them in a house, in a room where they can lock the door there, you're not going to help them. They're drug addiction or mental health issues are going to continue. 

So we have to address the root causes of homelessness. In addition, there were times that enforcement is going to be required. It is certainly not a crime to be homeless. But if you commit a crime while you are homeless, you should pay the consequences. 

As far as the mental health issue goes, how do you plan to tackle that with the homeless population? Are you going to be increasing staff to deal with that sort of a street-level or how would you go about that?

So, first of all, I think we need more social workers reaching out to people, not police officers. It's such a misuse of our police officers. We're understaffed. They're overworked. I want to use them for neighborhood policing. We need more trained social workers out on the street talking to people and matching them with the resources they need. And second, the city did open the navigation center. It's still in the early phases, so we'll see if it's how successful it is in matching homeless people with the services they need. 

The county has to step up big time. It's their responsibility for mental health and substance abuse issues. They get money every year from the state and the federal government. I'm pleased to hear that they, in cooperation with the city, are going to open a new bridge shelter that will be focused on individuals with mental health issues so that we can get them the help that they need.

Jarvis Gandy (I) 

I do have a plan for that. You know, as we all know, Governor, Governor Newsom has signed a bill to help homelessness. You know, if we're going to talk about that for people to go into the vacant houses, we could use some of the vacant houses, and but I have a plan that I want to have a sort of like Uber effect to, whereas I'm gonna be trying to talk to a lot of the nonprofit agencies to subsidize rents. And I will be partnering with a lot of the landlords and the homeowners here in the city of San Diego. The beauty of this is not only going to be for local and state is going to be a national plan that I'm going to be able to implement for that.

RELATED: An interview with 2020 San Diego mayoral candidate Jarvis Gandy

When you talk about subsidizing rent, then it's sort of something like a Section 8, but you're taking it a step further because a lot of people say that's really not enough in this day and age.

And that is correct. That is correct. But if we as privatized, you know, individuals should be able to help subsidize this, then we could take this to another level where I was still trying to structure and figure out all of our affordable housing and so forth and so on.

And you want to do that at a national level as well?

It will be it's a win-win situation. It's going to go it's going to go national as well.

Todd Gloria (D) 

I appreciate you correctly identifying this as the biggest issue in this city, from homelessness to people simply not being able to afford the rent or ever foresee being able buy a home in San Diego. [00:00:32]It is unquestionably the biggest problem and what the next mayor has to tackle head on. What I've said is that we have to get a lot better at producing more housing generally. But housing, particularly for low income and middle income San Diegans. So low income, we're talking about the homeless and formerly homeless. 

We need strong mayoral leadership in cities across this nation are ending chronic homelessness. Unfortunately, San Diego is not among those communities. But we can be; with strong moral leadership, with data-driven decision making, we have to hold those, receive public money accountable for the funds that they get and prove that they're getting people off the streets and keeping them off the streets if they can do that. They should get more money. If they can't, they should get less or they should get none. We have to build more housing, period. We have to partner with the county. The city has a housing commission. The county has a behavioral health and human services agency. 

RELATED: An interview with 2020 San Diego mayoral candidate Todd Gloria

When you marry housing with services, that's how you end homelessness. And Carlo it's important that we enlarge this conversation. It's not sufficient in this problem in the city of San Diego. All 18 cities in our county, unincorporated areas must be working off the same sheet of music, if you will. And the mayor of San Diego has the biggest bully pulpit in the region. And I want to use that bully pulpit to bring everyone together so that we don't just solve this issue in the city of San Diego, but we do it in Chula Vista, in Escondido, in Oceanside and other places where we know there are thousands of people who are unsheltered. Moving attention to the working and middle class, you know, I'm a native San Diegan. I'm a third-generation San Diegan. And my mom and dad were a maid and a gardener. 

They were able to work hard and buy a home in this community, put their two kids through college, the first in our family to ever go. I think most of your viewers would find that story impossible in 2020. And the next mayor of San Diego has to say that's not acceptable and we should work to change that. I'm a renter myself. I grew up here. I went to college here. The people, the taxpayers of this, community helped subsidize my education. And yet even I, with a good salary that I make, can't afford to buy a home. So I get it. I understand. And as mayor, I'll be laser-focused on making sure that we are updating our community plans. These are the governing documents that guide where development should go. I don't believe in building anything, anywhere, building a bunch of housing out in the backcountry where we know they are fire-prone areas makes no sense. Building high skyscrapers in our coastal communities. That's the most expensive kind of housing. What we need are housing that working people can afford. 

What I often hear complaints about is that I earn not enough to afford market-rate housing, but I earn too much to qualify for any of the programs that are out there. We should use some of the strategies that have effectively built thousands of homes for low income San Diegans and use those same strategies for middle income San Diegans. 

Ultimately, I want to make sure that kids like me who grew up in this community see a future for themselves here, can see buying a home here, raising a family, building wealth. If we can do that, then you can have a great city. You can't have a great city. If people have their eye on the door thinking, I can only stay here so much longer until I have to move away.

 And again, the mayor, as the city manager of the city, a stronger form of government, we will oversee, the mayor oversees. The Development Services Department has the executive ability to make sure that we're issuing permits in a timely fashion, cutting through red tape and making sure those savings are reflected in the rents and the for sale prices of the homes that are being built.

I'm really passionate about this subject and it's part of why I'm running. You know, this is a hard issue. If you don't bring passion to it, we're not going to solve it. I want to be a lot of passion to the issue of solving chronic homelessness and building more housing for working San Diegans.

Rich Riel (R)  

First of all, I'm the only candidate running that has housing experience. I worked for the San Diego Housing Commission. I worked for Contrasts Brothers Development Corporation, which was one of the largest low and moderate-income housing developers in San Diego in my lifetime. I probably built many thousands and managed many thousands of low and moderate-income units. And I understand what the problem in the housing is. 

First of all, we have to address the issue of land. Land cost in San Diego wherever you go, are the driving forces for what we have today. The solution to low-income housing is taking land that the city already owns and leasing that land to a developer for 100 years. Then we build housing that we leased to human beings that work in the city and are not you know, they fall within the guidelines, the HUD guidelines for mid and moderate-income families here in San Diego. By eliminating the 25 percent cost of land, we can reduce the cost of housing and both in rental housing and in for sale. 

RELATED: An interview with 2020 San Diego mayoral candidate Rich Riel

And if you do a leasehold estate for 50 years, a family can raise their children in that house knowing that they own that house for 50 years. Irvine Ranch up the coast here is a perfect example. They never sold the land. It's a leasehold estate. It comes back to them and they keep selling the land and they can afford to sell low. Twenty-five percent below market rate prices for housing. That is the best way that I know of to solve the high cost of housing in San Diego. 

The first thing we got to recognize is there's only 5,000 people in the city of San Diego that are homeless. There is another 5000 in the county. Now, this plan and every plan that I have watched in my career of living here in this city treats the homeless as a commodity. They don't treat them as human beings. And before we can solve the homeless problem, we need to identify the fact that most people are homeless for one of four reasons. First reason is they're mentally ill. They haven't got the ability to hold onto a job or much less stay in housing. Second reason is they have an addiction problem, and that's another reason that they can't stay inside the housing. They are addicted. The third reason is temporary economic dislocation. Those people are looking for jobs. They need jobs. We can help them. And the fourth ones are what I call the grifters. The grifters are going to be homeless no matter what we do. They're looking to live off the system. Until we address the basic needs or the basic reasons for homelessness, we're just going to spend money and we are. This report here is asking us to spend a billion dollars over the next 10 years on 5,000 people. 

I mean, this the smart way to deal with homelessness. And I have to tell you this. When I was dealing with a homeless person in the navigation center, which is by the way, another boondoggle in the city, anybody who's gone to that navigation center realizes that we got rocked when we bought that property. And more importantly, it doesn't serve the homeless as the way it as it should be. But I met a guy there and the guy was I ask him, where do you come from? And he says, I've been in Maine three days ago. 

I was in Maine. I said, Really? And he had this beautifully expensive wheelchair on him. And he says, Yeah, I lost my leg. I froze my leg off in Maine. And my campaign, my caseworker found me this wheelchair and he asked me where I wanted to go. And I said, well, I used to live in San Diego. So he bought him a ticket for San Diego. And he's here with this beautiful wheelchair in San Diego. And a lot of the homeless people are migratory. They come during the wintertime and they leave. We need to address the reasons they are rather than thinking of them as a commodity to be housed. That's the solution to homelessness.

Scott Sherman (R)  

Yeah. We need we've done a lot. And as we should with the compassion side of things. We've done a lot with permanent supportive housing, shelter, tents, places for people to stay overnight in their vehicles for those who are finding themselves living in their vehicles. But what we've lacked is the enforcement of quality-of-life type laws. And what happens if you have compassion without consequences? You a lot of times just become enabling. And that's what we're happening a lot in San Diego. A lot of the people in the homeless situation have an addiction problem, a drug problem that leads to crime problems and those types of things. We need to enforce those laws to compel people to seek the services that we already provide.  

RELATED: An interview with 2020 San Diego mayoral candidate Scott Sherman

To give you an example, in my district, in District 7, we opened up a permanent supportive housing project for veterans. A guy named Brian, I met there and he came to me and said, hey, I need to talk to you about closing down the tents downtown. I was thinking, oh, here's a problem. He said, I really want to say thank you for doing that. He said, I was living in those tents and I was shooting meth in my veins every day of the week. He says it wasn't until you broke up those tents. I went to the shelter. 

At the shelter, I found a caseworker, found benefits that we didn't know I had as a veteran, got into a sobriety program. Now he's living in one of those in one of those projects in a permanent supportive housing, clean and sober for 11 months now and moving well on his way to having a productive life. But that's only because somebody took the chance and the time to say, no, this isn't good for you. This isn't good for the community. I mean, as parents, a lot of times the best thing we can do for our children is say no.

Gita Appelbaum Singh (D) 

We really need affordable housing. We absolutely need affordable jobs so people can start saving to afford homes. Right now, the median home in San Diego is roughly about 500,000. And you have to average about 100,000 a year for that job that that house. And we are finding that the increased homeless population is people cannot afford rent and they cannot afford homes. So we need to find a solution. We need to come up with the city and the county finding a way of building affordable homes for our San Diego residents. 

RELATED: An interview with 2020 San Diego mayoral candidate Gita Applebaum Singh

Personally, I like the tiny home project. I believe we should have -- everybody should have a tiny home and everybody should have a quality and a standard of life that's equal here in San Diego. We should stop having these sprawling mansions. And we're in Fairbanks Ranch, you know, and we have people in southeast San Diego County that are living on the streets, that are addicted to meth or cannot make their payments, their rent payments and being kicked out onto the streets. So, I think the tiny home project is a great idea. 

I feel we should train people to get better jobs and invest in a proper education. With our leaders here in San Diego so that we can get higher-paying jobs. We did raise our minimum wages, but still you cannot afford homes. People are used to working two to three jobs and still cannot make a basic rent payment. Much more afford to afford a home.

Well, I really think it's our homeless population is our biggest problem here. We need instead of fixing potholes, we need more people-centered care here in San Diego. We need to improve the quality of people's lives. We are disconnected. We want average middle-class people to have voices here in San Diego and collectively come up to solutions. Our potholes. Sure. Yes. I don't like to get my tires flat in a pothole, but if I have somebody who's homeless and cannot buy food, that's more of a priority to me. 

Tasha Williamson (D)

I think that one of the ways to solve it is that we definitely look at permanent housing as the first choice vs. the solutions that they have for homelessness, which is shelters in transition, transitional housing. I think that is not working here in San Diego. And it is also something that we need to look at when we look at the four cities here in the nation that have ended homelessness. But also when we look at nations that have thought about the middle class and working class and they have become landlords, and so they have actually driven down the prices of rent as becoming landlords, as city government. And that is something that we need to do. 

RELATED: An interview with 2020 San Diego mayoral candidate Tasha Williamson

We have plenty of land and buildings that we have the resources to actually build housing for middle class, working-class individuals as well as low-income individuals that we become landlords. And we show the city how to be inclusive of everyone and to make sure that we are not violating United Nations laws and that we are thinking of everyone with dignity and respect and providing housing and the things that people need as a right to them. 

I think that between county, federal, state and local dollars and resources, we have the resources here that we can actually utilize those resources and we can start to build housing on city land. We can start to renovate buildings on city land and provide housing for people that need it.