Bill Walton calls on San Diego mayor to ‘back off’ on homeless crisis

The province on Tuesday identified homelessness as a public health problem, setting the province up for a regional response to the issue. While that was happening, basketball legend Bill Walton tore into San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria over his handling of homelessness. KPBS Reporter Alexander Nguyen had a lot to say.

Basketball legend and San Diego native Bill Walton issued a scathing rebuke of Mayor Todd Gloria on Tuesday about his handling of homelessness in the city, calling him a “failed mayor” and asked to leave to make way for different leaders.

The 69-year-old UCLA and NBA champion has long been a supporter of the city, but says he can no longer do so because of the worsening homelessness crisis.

“Paradise Lost: This is the city of San Diego, a great city that once was,” Walton said. “Sadly, with a broken heart, I can no longer say that San Diego is the best place in the world.”

In a press conference with Drew Moser, the executive director of the homeless focused at the Lucky Duck Foundation, and Lucky Duck Executive Committee Member Dan Shea, he said he was abused, fired and attacked while riding his bike in Balboa Park near the big. homeless encampment he named “Gloriaville.”

Gloria’s communications director Rachel Laing fired back with some fiery speeches of her own.

“Today’s ‘news conference’ was just an outrage full of self-aggrandizement and lies,” he told City News Service. “San Diegans are frustrated with the problem of homelessness, and Mayor Gloria shares that frustration. But unlike Mr. Walton, Mayor Gloria is turning that frustration into concrete action, continuing to improve the situation. very wrong.”

He highlighted Gloria’s accomplishments in the homelessness arena, including increasing the city’s network of shelter beds, promoting and expanding a public highway program, initiating 18 different policy changes to speed up and facilitate the construction of affordable housing, investing in the inner city. 10 affordable housing, strengthen efforts at the state level to improve access to mental health, and increase the cleaning of sidewalks and enforce laws to protect health and safety in public areas.

Walton first sent an email to Gloria about the matter on August 8, which read, in part, “I’m begging and begging for your help. feces, go away, forever. This makes our Balboa public park unusable. It’s not healthy, safe, or necessary.”

Laing described the fight against homelessness as an uphill battle and expressed dismay at the way Walton and the Lucky Duck Foundation handled their complaints.

“Mayor Gloria has a clear vision and is completely honest with the people of the country about the seriousness of the challenge facing our city,” said Laing. “It’s a shame Bill Walton is leaving San Diego, but you can bet Todd Gloria never will.”

The mayor has talked about his success in getting people off the streets in recent weeks, including last Tuesday when he revealed the city has acquired a 34-room hotel on the Pacific Highway which will be transformed into a non-congregate home for the elderly. experiencing homelessness.

“We’re using all the tools we use to connect homeless San Diegans to housing, shelter and support services, and today, we’re focusing on the vulnerable seniors in our community,” said a Gloria last week. “We will soon begin welcoming more seniors into this new facility to provide private rooms, critical care and a pathway to a permanent home.”

The reporters who were touting the Gloria administration’s achievements at Tuesday’s news conference quickly became the target of Walton’s ire, and Walton asked them what neighborhood they lived in. and did they deny what they saw with their own eyes on the streets of San Diego.

Other city leaders expressed concern, but supported Gloria’s efforts and said the issue existed long before she took office in 2020.

“The city continues to add shelter and take important steps to address homelessness,” said Councilman Stephen Whitburn, who represents District 3, including the Balboa Park and the Walton neighborhood of Hillcrest. “We need to keep adding houses and buildings as quickly as possible, because many people are homeless because of the high cost of housing, San Diego is a beautiful home and it is We are working to make sure there is a home for all of us. “

In addition, in recent weeks, San Diego opened the Rosecrans Shelter with 150 beds, expanded to 24-hour access to one of the Safe Parking Program, supporting the Gov. Gavin Newsom’s CARE Court initiative, which was signed into law earlier this month, and published. Round 2 of the city’s “Bridge to Home” initiative to finance low-income housing with permanent support.

Moser and Shea said they don’t care about party or politics, just results. The Lucky Duck Foundation, a non-profit organization that distributes funds to programs deemed effective in getting people off the streets, has in the past stayed out of political debates.

“We’re going to be louder than we were,” Shea said. “We are not happy with the lack of action and we will take a public stand against any bad behavior by anyone in the district.”

They also said they supported more police assistance in the camps, a move that drew criticism from advocates.

The organization will begin awarding “Shamrocks and Shipwrecks,” an award for organizations and leaders who have taken “strong action to encourage progress” on homelessness, the report said. Moser’s – and a black mark for those who didn’t live up to his standards. The first prize will be available in December.

On Tuesday, the San Diego County Board of Directors identified homelessness as a public health problem in the county.

This happened in the wake of a public dispute between supervisors and the city of El Cajon earlier this month, whose elected officials said the county government was “abandoning” people to without houses in the hostels of their village, a claim by the district officials who said it was incomprehensible and hurtful.