Homelessness Rising

USD community members prepare food at a University Ministry event. Photo courtesy of The USD Webpage

According to San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency, in 2017 there has been a Hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego that is affecting the homeless. Most of the people who have contracted Hepatitis A are homeless and/or illicit drug users, although there are some cases in which they have had neither.

Homelessness in San Diego continues to be a prominent issue. According to a Regional Task Force on Homelessness report known as WeAllCount, in the San Diego area homelessness has increased by 5 percent since 2016. In Downtown San Diego, specifically, homelessness has increased 27 percent.

Downtown San Diego, where many University of San Diego students spend time, becomes dangerous with this life-threatening disease and impacts the entire community as these percentages grow.

Associate University Minister Aly Monteleone listed some fears that accompany a person who is homeless. Some fears she included were safety, lack of proper resources, and job security.

“Statistics are only one way of measuring who is affected by homelessness,” Monteleone said. “I do think there’s a danger in lumping so many unique individuals into very basic categories. But, I also believe that having semi-concrete numbers allows us to ask better questions about the sources of systemic issues.”

On Sept. 4, USD’s University Ministry hosted Local Changemaking, an event extending dignity to those experiencing homeless in SD. The event was sponsored by the Changemaker Hub and aimed to inform the USD community about homelessness and the importance of treating all people with dignity.

Sophomore Eric Hanson, who is involved in University Ministry, shared his thoughts on how important dignity is when it comes to the homeless.

“Recognizing that everyone has their own humanity is very important,” Hanson said.  “When a person becomes homeless, from my experience with talking to them, there is a lot of fear that comes with being homeless.  That fear sometimes manifests itself into that person’s social interactions, but it is important to remember that they are still people.”

Monteleone explains what the USD community can do to make a difference regarding this issue.

“Changemaking first begins within yourself,“ Monteleone said. “Many people assume Changemaking to be something momentous, like altering a public policy or traveling to the edges of the world to engage in service. Those are both important possibilities. But, the true desire to make change — to learn from an encounter — must begin within oneself.”

There are many different ways the community can become active in the issue of homelessness one of which is to donate. Instead of throwing away old clothes USD community members can donate them.  The Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness, and Social Action also offers programs that deal with realities and social issues of the San Diego Community to keep the community involved and aware.

View of the local San Diego communities that surround the university’s campus. Photo courtesy of USD Law Webpage

USD partners with Rachel’s Women’s Center, which provides a safe space for homeless and low-income women. Students have the opportunity to make dinner for the women as well as converse with them and hear their stories. The first day that students can go to help the center is Sept. 21.

Monteleone speaks to the importance of listening to the stories of those who are homeless and respecting them as people.

“It’s very important to ask for and actively listen to others’ stories,” Monteleone said. “Doing so breaks down stereotypes. Once you’re invited to share in another person’s realities, you realize that individual is someone’s son, daughter, father, mother, or friend. They are loved by and love other human beings. They are always a beloved child of God. It’s also important not to approach those experiencing homelessness strictly from a deficit point of view; instead of just asking what their needs are, or how they are suffering, we should also ask what their gifts and contributions are.”

Homelessness affects the community, but the Hepatitis A outbreak also highlights homelessness as an issue that can potentially have an impact on everyone.

For more information visit  University Ministry in the University Center.

Lilyana Espinoza | News Editor | The USD Vista