Decision 2020

Mayoral Candidates Talk Homelessness at Forum in La Jolla

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San Diego mayoral candidates shared a stage once again Monday evening for a forum, this time to discuss homeless and housing issues in the city.

The candidates are digging deep as the March primary approaches. The top-two vote getters, regardless of party affiliation, will go head-to-head until Mayor Kevin Faulconer's replacement is decided in November.

Monday's forum, hosted by the La Jolla Town Council, featured City Councilwoman Barbara Bry, State Assemblyman Todd Gloria, computer tech Rich Riel, City Councilman Scott Sherman, family nurse practitioner Gita Appelbaum Singh, and community activist Tasha Williamson.

The town council sourced questions from the community, and each candidate had one minute to provide an answer.

On the general topic of homelessness, Bry said the city must begin "Addressing the root causes which for a growing number of people are mental health and substance abuse issues."

Riel said the answer to the issues is segmenting parts of the homeless population so that people can get the assistance that will help them most.

"They should not be in jail, that is a mistake. What we need is special treatment for addiction people, put them in areas where they are confined to where they will not be allowed to have drugs," he said.

Councilman Sherman said the city has done a lot in the way of compassion, but not enough enforcing when it comes to corralling homeless issues.

"Because it's not a crime to be homeless, but the crimes you commit while being homeless, they are still crimes and those need to be enforced."

Williamson said homelessness as disproportionately impacted families and communities of color, and said that as someone who was once homeless, she is tired of being let down.

"I'm tired of being failed and we have many other people that are tired of being failed. You can be co-conspirators and allies or you can be with them, where they shelve plans, where there has been inaction when there should have been action."

Appelbaum Singh made the point that "anyone one of us" can be homeless: someone hurt by a natural disaster or someone who is already living paycheck to paycheck.

"I propose tiny homes. I propose a standard of living that's better than it is now," she said.

Assemblyman Gloria criticized the current city administration for not facing the homelessness issue head-on.

"Our current City Council and mayor have outsourced this responsibility to our Housing Commission. It must be brought into the mayor's office to communicate that it is the top priority in the city."

It's only been two days since the candidates last met. The Greater San Diego Association of REALTORS hosted a debate last Friday in Mission Valley.

Riel and Appelbaum did not participate in a January mayoral forum centered on small business and city support.

NBC 7's Erika Cervantes recaps the forum.
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