At the moment these words are being tapped into my keyboard— images of the Russian military on the television and the voice of an epidemiologist explaining the B.A.2 variant on a podcast playing on of my cellphone—volunteers are wrapping up a morning that found them out in a dark, bone-numbing cold.
The Point in Time count of the unsheltered returned countywide this year, after more than 80 percent of the statewide agencies responsible for tallying the numbers last year postponed the census because of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Typically the count occurs at the end of January but because of continuing pandemic concerns the count was pushed back to the last week in February.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the tally and the results help government agencies the amount and destination of funding.
In 2016, the San Diego Reader published a story citing the number of homeless people living in Chula Vista as 498.
Five years later, in 2021, that number was nearly 800. Not all growth spurts are good.
For now the vast and overwhelming majority of us have the luxury, and perhaps even the privilege—of falling asleep and waking up under a roof.
The four walls and a ceiling we call home this week provided shelter against merciless wind and unrelenting downpour. We fall asleep underneath a mound of blankets and rest knowing that for the moment we are safe.
Meanwhile, in some of the homeless camps that are established in canyons and riverbeds, people use tarps to take cover from the rain and use cardboard boxes to separate them from the mud that forms after each downpour.
For them, and for the sheltered, that is normal. It’s how life has been for them before the pandemic, and probably how life will be as the pandemic wanes and eventually ends.
Pre-pandemic normal was people losing their livelihoods and their homes because of job loss and debt. It was spouses and children suffering under the crushing burden of medical debt—even before COVID-19 sent loved ones and breadwinners to hospitals and mortuaries.
Is that the normal we want to urgently rush back to?
The years since 2019 have shown us how frayed our social safety net is. The new normal should focus on mending it.