It’s that time of year when many of us reflect even more upon what we’re thankful for and express gratitude for what we have.
By many standards, my childhood was an idyllic one. Growing up with my sisters and both parents in a tri-level home in Livonia, Michigan, a middle-class suburb outside of Detroit, we enjoyed eating dinner together each night, knowing that our home and its warmth — both physical and emotional — would sustain us. I am thankful for those memories and the security my parents were able to provide us with.
Unfortunately, not every family has a warm home and regular meals. We know that there are members of our community who are housing- or food-insecure — not having permanent housing or knowing where they’ll get their next meal — or those who must make tough choices between paying for utilities or other bills.
These families may have one or multiple adults working full-time, part-time or not at all depending on their circumstances. Regardless of employment status, we all know that San Diego is a very expensive city to call home.
We know that the number of those those experiencing homelessness for the first time nearly doubled in San Diego during the pandemic, and that count only includes those who sought homeless support services.
Less obvious signs of housing insecurity include the families who live in motels long-term because saving enough for the first month’s rent and a security deposit seems insurmountable. Or college students who live in their cars because there isn’t enough affordable campus-adjacent housing. Or others who couch surf with friends until they wear out their welcome or depart due to shame or guilt.
Food insecurity is also a challenge when we consider many areas throughout are region are considered food deserts that may provide food, but not sustenance, which exacerbates nutritional insecurity or a lack of access to healthy foods.
Thankfully, there are many community-based organizations that are doing more than ever before to help families meet these basic needs. There is also increased local and state support for nutrition programs, such as free school lunches and increased CalFresh benefits, and affordable housing and rental assistance programs.
It would be easy to assume that we’re lucky to have these types of people in San Diego. But this is not due to luck or chance. It’s a coordinated, collective effort of so many people across our region to improve the lives of San Diegans who need our help the most. Thanks to all who ensure our region’s families have an opportunity to experience warm homes and full hearts this holiday season.
While I’m thankful for what I have, I’m more thankful for what others have given. I’m thankful for the local nonprofit organizations that have exponentially increased their services for those who have increasingly found themselves needing it. I’m thankful for the many partners, volunteers and donors who have stepped up to provide affordable housing and food assistance in our region. I’m thankful that San Diego’s community and government leaders have given their time, attention and advocacy to these issues in the short- and long-term so that we can build more resilient communities.
This article first appeared in The San Diego Union-Tribune.
About Mark Stuart, CFRE
As President & CEO, Mark reports to and collaborates with the Board of Governors and is responsible for developing and managing relationships with a wide range of stakeholders as well as for the operating health of The Foundation. Mark’s career has been devoted to helping donors realize their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Prior to joining The Foundation, Mark managed a staff of 64 and a budget of $14 million at San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG), including development, membership, and government and community relations.