Life Course Scholar
Today, we had a tour of several complexes around the downtown area. First, we visited a single room occupancy hotel, the Palace Hotel, near the freeway. While the rent was cheap and the location was fairly good for elders (the area was a hub for public transit and very close to downtown), it was well known that the rooms were dirty and falling into disrepair. However, the story has a happy ending; the hotel itself will be remodeled and will layer in social services. Furthermore, the monthly rent will not increase.
The site after the SRO site we visited was Connections Housing. It used to be an athletic club, but then became a “one-stop shop” for homeless services. This was due to the fact that between 2015 and 2016, the number of homeless seniors in San Diego doubled. A large proportion of these homeless individuals are seniors, likely because of the increasing prices of rent in downtown San Diego. However, Connections Housing featured units for people all around the housing continuum with homeless service providers on-site, including medical, dental, and social work professionals. Run by PATH, the city council’s public housing commission, it relies on federal funds and unfortunately has a long waiting list.
The three remaining sites represented areas all throughout the continuum of housing. There was father joe’s village, which was a transitional housing unit and the “one-stop shop” for all the medical and social services a homeless individual could need. However, it was located around the rapidly-gentrifying East Village area of the downtown and was in danger of being pushed further South. In addition, there was the Potiker Residencies, which were cheaper to live in than the SRO and specifically catered towards low-income seniors. Many of the seniors living there had a dual diagnosis of a physical and mental illness, and many were at risk for homelessness or homeless themselves before they came in. Lastly, there was the Celadon housing, which had won several awards for social and environmental responsibility. Not only did Celadon prioritize seniors, it also had special units for youth coming out of foster care.
However, despite all these services for seniors, it was obvious that gentrification in San Diego is a real and ongoing issue. Nowhere was this better illustrated than seeing homeless tents next to a trendy coffee shop in the East Village. While gentrification is often touted as a way to create “safer” neighborhoods, it is apparent that there is nothing “safe” about homelessness, poverty, and transience in old age and for everyone.