City has failed to deliver

I’m at Harborside Park in Chula Vista across from the HHSA building on Oxford. There has been a lot to say about this park lately. Politicians and parents alike are calling for the end to substance use and respite at this park by the unsheltered who have currently chosen to lay their heads at this location.

I sit here with my team waiting to capture video of the  CV HOT team with the Alpha Project’s Trash Truck to take people’s very much needed items like Narcan.

Flashbacks of what outreach and helpful resources used to look like cross my mind and take me back three years. We had it right the first time when back in 2016 with citywide efforts including nonprofits, social services, and law enforcement in agreement that together, we would address homelessness through trust, compassion, and real tangible services.

There were a handful of folks at Harborside Park back then. Our team knew them all by name. That sub community is gone and so is the spirit in which the Chula Vista HOT team was started.

This is the part where any CV city official would talk about its successful Homeless Outreach Team and the new “Pallet Village” that is costing the city millions of dollars to temporarily house less than 100 folks who are not the individuals that are taking refuge at Harborside Park.

We have enough deaths by sidewalk to prove there is a need for an emergency. Let’s be clear, The Pallet Village is for very low barrier seniors and families.

I am an advocate for real solutions including a temporary emergency shelter, affordable housing, trauma informed wrap-around care and after being sheltered support to prevent recidivism.

Our city has received adequate dollars to at least have made some progress, yet city officials continue moving forward with a plan that will benefit only new infrastructure that will reflect new sidewalks and water access, perhaps even a new commercial space. We will see that the “Pallet Village” wasn’t a solution but was merely one piece, perhaps step 3 or 4 of a long term vision to address homelessness in Chula Vista.

As an advocate for unsheltered solutions before the city even seemed to care and now with over a decade of creating trauma informed programming for the unhoused, I feel it’s time for the community at-large to hear the truth.

Is there heavy drug use at Harborside Park? Yes, but many of the folks at Harborside Park don’t use. Many of those folks also are very open to taking Narcan, either for themselves or others to prevent overdose.

Harborside Park is located right next to the HHSA county building. This is largely one of the reasons this park is so impacted. It is next to resources. Yet little to any of the reporting related to Harborside Park mentions this.

CTH has been hosting quarterly # Project ReFresh Mobile Shower events next to Harborside Park for a year. We have seen the growth in the unsheltered population. We need to be clear that these folks are not service resistant. They welcome the services because they need the services.

Every time we’ve provided services at Harborside Park, CVPD has attempted to clear out folks from the park beforehand, preventing them from receiving mobile showers, hygiene, clothing, nutrition, medical attention, haircuts, vaccines, ID replacements and more.

Chula Vista is a service desert, and a hostile one at that. Folks at the city of Chula Vista have failed on this issue time and time again. Parents have a right to be angry, but the anger should be directed to a negligent city council that is inept at spending dollars properly.

There is no safe parking in Chula Vista. There is no emergency shelter in Chula Vista. The city has failed to meet over two years’ worth of deadlines to address the lack of a shelter. They have also not been transparent about the process.

The city has managed to burn bridges with large and small nonprofits that can address issues the unsheltered face.

Please vote for change! The mayoral candidate calling for the closure of this park is the last person who should be taking lead on the issues happening at Harborside Park. Current City council members are leading with policing, criminalization, and fear-mongering. Chula Vista doesn’t have too much “wokeness” , it has had enough of failed leadership,

I remain cautiously optimistic, however. That’s the thing about being the CEO of Community Through Hope, Hope is always on the table.

Community Through Hope’s South Bay Street Medicine team funded by the Arlene and Michael Foundation will be back in this park in the following days to provide lifesaving services (nutrition, hygiene, wound care kits, Narcan, etc.). And the work continues.

Having left the park, I get back to the office to see unsheltered folks receiving services with compassion and respect. I’m reminded of what trauma informed care and harm reduction are capable of. I am also hopeful that a new mayor and council will be aware of the crisis it will inherit, the half-baked solutions thought up by their predecessors. Despite what they have heard, there is a community currently providing services to the unsheltered willing to come to the table if what it is at the table is real compassionate solutions for a community who deserved to be top of mind.

I think back to the park, a park I’ve been doing work at for a decade, and I’m reminded that things in the city move slowly. I and like-minded community members will have to move as fast as we can.

Rosy Vasquez is CEO of  Community Through Hope.