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Homelessness is a bigger issue than art budget cuts

An older homeless man lies on a boardwalk with his dog, looking at the viewer. The dog wears a black beanie and is covered with a brown blanket. The man wears a black hoodie and jeans. Several people stand or walk in the background.
Dave and his dog Lucy on Pine Avenue Pier, Long Beach. (Seji Gaerlan/The Telescope)

You’re homeless, cold and hungry. But at least you have a nice mural on the back wall of your liquor store to stare at, right?

Mid 2017, Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed a 2 percent budget cut of arts and culture funding. Part of which would go to programs and projects to help the homeless population in San Diego. In December 2017, the city’s arts commissioners voted to reject them all.

In a memo written to Faulconer from the Commission for Arts and Culture, Janet Poutre and Tyler Hewes exposed that the 2 percent budget cut would cut 31 percent from current funding. The two state that this would “destabilize that ecosystem, endanger the economic contribution that the arts and culture assets provide the city, and diminish our quality of life.” To say that taking away art funding would “diminish our quality of life,” is extremely ignorant toward the homeless whose lives have already been diminished by their own society.

Jose, a film student, explains that the city avoids many social problems. “They should be helping out with the homeless instead of kicking them out to a different part of town. Where are they really going to go?” he says, “why should we pay more taxes to pay for things that our government officials should already be paying for? We have billions of dollars in a reserve fund when much of that money can be used for things right now.”

There has been a decrease in homelessness in downtown San Diego due to the Hepatitis A outbreak. Are we relying on deadly diseases to “help” our homeless problem? In January, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency reported 20 deaths and 395 hospitalizations due to the Hepatitis A outbreak, bringing the grand total to 577 cases. The Hepatitis A outbreak was the result of poor hygiene among the homeless community. Streets were closed, leaving the homeless no choice but to travel elsewhere.

Dave and his dog Lucy on Pine Avenue Pier, Long Beach. Seji Gaerlan/The Telescope
Dave and his dog Lucy on Pine Avenue Pier, Long Beach. Seji Gaerlan/The Telescope

San Diego has a lack of affordable housing, the homeless are having trouble finding shelters with vacancy, and homeless people have a difficult time finding free, public restrooms to use. We all know-how annoying it is when you need to use the restroom, and are unable to find one that is free to use in a large city. Most restaurants and stores have a policy in which you must buy something to use the restroom.

Now imagine how inconvenient it would be if you needed to bathe, use the restroom, and make yourself look decent – but had nowhere to do so. If this issue does not get resolved soon, San Diego will suffer from another Hepatitis A outbreak.

San Diego residents are aware of the issue. The problem is that these greedy people don’t want to give up their fund to help others in need.

Leaders of the arts community state that they have a $1.1 billion impact on San Diego County. The arts and culture industry would rather see the homeless continue to live on the streets than give up a portion of their budget even though artists themselves spend most of their career, if not all, struggling financially.

Mayor Faulconer states that the 2018 budgets will help establish safer and more “livable” neighborhoods by addressing San Diego’s affordable housing crisis. Homeless service initiatives, as well as the San Diego Misdemeanant At-Risk Track (SMART) program, will gain from the new budget with the improvement of indoor homeless shelters and initiatives. Without these programs, some would be living on the streets.

It’s time for the arts and culture department to give up their greed and help those whose lives are at stake.

 

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Homelessness is a bigger issue than art budget cuts