Into Focus: San Diego's Homeless Crisis Through a Filmmaker's Eyes

Into Focus: San Diego's Homeless Crisis Through a Filmmaker's Eyes

Created: 09 October, 2017
Last update: 17 October, 2022

While San Diego is known as “America’s Finest City,” it’s also is home to the fourth highest homeless population in the nation, including the second-largest population of homeless veterans in the United States at 1,156 people.

An estimated 9,000 men and women sleep on the streets, in cars, and in emergency shelters.

What was already a major issue for the city became a public health crisis when the homeless population was hit with an outbreak of Hepatitis A.

Many community and political leaders have tried to address the problem of homelessness, but to this point, efforts have been ineffective.

While most San Diegans are familiar with the homeless through encounters from afar, local filmmaker Dennis Stein decided to get stories from them directly, which led to the making of Tony - The Movie, a film that features Tony Rodriguez, a local homeless man.

The documentary initially follows Tony through his typical day on the streets, showing the struggles to survive and stay out of legal trouble. Tony has a series of interviews with many individuals trying to improve the homeless situation throughout San Diego, as well as Houston, a city that has dramatically decreased its homeless population.

One of those interviewed by Tony was Councilmember Chris Ward, who highlighted the importance of the Regional Plan that the area is in the process of developing.

The goal of that plan is to get all the homeless-assistance organizations, government and nongovernment groups to work together cohesively.

“Until we’re all talking off of the same action plan, it’s a little difficult for me to get out there and sell to the voters, ‘Here’s what I need in addition to resources to get the job done,’” said Ward.

Stein spent a year and a half making the film, during which he learned about the best practices that will make a positive difference in the area’s homelessness population, and what efforts are underway locally.

Steins sat down for a podcast with IVN San Diego and said, "solving the homeless crisis begins with a Housing First solution. And, hopefully with political will and leadership, that will be the focus rolled out in July 2018."

In San Diego, the Regional HomelessTask Force is in the process of creating a well-studied, best practices-driven 5-year plan to end homelessness in the city.

The plan will be released in early 2018 with the second phase rolled out in July 2018.

Stein stressed, “The general public must advocate to their county supervisor, the mayors of the 18 cities across our county, and to their city council representatives to make sure that they fully fund and implement this plan.”

At a local screening of the film, Councilmember Georgette Gomez suggested that those who want to help get involved in assisting the homeless go to city hall and hold their elected officials accountable for doing “the dirty work” to get this problem solved.

For more information on the movie, visit the website and check out the trailer below.

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About the Author

Lynn Marie Morski

Lynn Marie Morski is a physician at the Veterans Administration and an adjunct professor of health law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.