San Diego, California Is Dousing Its Streets With Bleach to Contain Hepatitis A Outbreak

It seems as if the homeless have congregated in the downtown area.  Why has San Diego allowed this to happen?

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A is highly contagious. It is usually transmitted by the fecal-oral route, either through person-to-person contact or consumption of contaminated food or water.  CDC

Earlier this month, California’s San Diego County declared a public health emergency over a rampant hepatitis An outbreak that has killed 16 people and sent 300 others to the hospital. Now, in an effort to curb the spread of the disease, the city of San Diego has started to douse its streets with bleach, Lindsey Bever reports for the Washington Post.

The majority of people affected by the outbreak are “are homeless and/or illicit drug users,” according to a statement from San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency. The disease is being spread through “contact with a fecally contaminated environment,” the statement adds. It is believed that a lack of public restroom access in areas where homeless populations congregate is in part to blame.

To combat the disease, workers in San Diego began washing downtown streets with diluted bleach earlier this week. As Merrit Kennedy of NPR reports, the process involves spraying bleach onto hazardous materials like needles and human waste, waiting ten minutes, removing the materials, spraying the area again and then pressure-washing it with water.

Workers are expected to finish the street cleaning process by Friday. After that, the city will continue to spray the streets with bleach every two weeks. Smithsonian

Jump in homeless numbers

This year San Diego County cited a 68 percent increase in the number of people living on the street since 2007, amounting to a total of 5,621. Unsheltered chronically homeless individuals, or those living outdoors for more than a year who also have mental or physical disabilities, numbered 1,750 — a 148 percent spike from a decade ago.

At the city level, Downtown San Diego alone saw a homeless population jump of 27 percent just between 2016 and 2017. The entire city saw a spike of 10 percent from 2016, although the current number of people living on the streets was 2 percent less than what it was in 2012. Seventy-seven percent of those interviewed in 2017 became homeless while living in San Diego. NextCity

Estimated 70% of homeless are from San Diego

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless has since estimated that 70 percent of San Diego’s unsheltered homeless population became homeless in San Diego and that just 24 percent became homeless elsewhere before coming here.

Dolores Diaz, who leads the Task Force, has noted that migration within San Diego – particularly, to downtown San Diego – is far more common.  VoiceofSanDiego

Looking at what was spent in 2015 and 2016 there seems to be a  thriving homeless advocacy industry.

Homeless spending data for the fiscal years 2015 and 2016. The data represents a range of costs associated with homelessness, including rental assistance, transitional housing, health services and clean-up costs.

  • Jurisdictions in San Diego County have collectively spent more than $630 million in the past two fiscal years to combat homelessness. The county provides just over half the funds, with the San Diego Housing Commission, which serves the City of San Diego, accounting for a little less than half. The other, roughly two percent of the funding, comes from individual cities throughout the county.
  • Housing initiatives account for $535 million, or almost 85 percent, of the total spending. Rental assistance for homeless and at-risk populations make up about 90 percent of housing funds, with the rest going to programs that include transitional housing, emergency shelters, and permanent supportive housing.
  • Homeless Services represent almost $100 million, or 15 percent, of the total cost. About $50 million of that goes to fund mental health services, and $40 million goes to fund drug and alcohol programs. SanDiegoNewsDaily