REGION — North County migrant farm workers face numerous health challenges, one of the foremost being a lack of access to the basic necessities of food, water and shelter.
The migrant nature of their work, which calls for them to follow the crop season from farm to farm, and lack of transportation, does not allow them to become established in one spot. Added to this, minimum wages they receive makes finding suitable housing especially difficult.
Some farm workers live in self-made encampments that have no running water, and are often looted by gang members.
Others find assistance through charity housing services.
One such housing service is La Posada de Guadalupe shelter in Carlsbad, which is run by Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego.
La Posada has 50 semiprivate long-term beds for farm workers. Workers must provide identification and pay a $60 monthly room and board fee. In turn they receive three cooked meals, and a bed in partitioned quarters adjacent to one or two other beds. Shower facilities are also on site.
La Posada has been serving migrant farm workers for decades. The facility was first housed in trailers.
In 2013 major renovations were made and permanent mission-style stucco buildings were constructed for housing quarters, dining and staff offices. The grounds also include an open-air patio that overlooks the fields where many of the workers labor during their stay.
Ed Bermar, a board member and volunteer at La Posada, said workers range in age from “fairly young” to late 60s and 70s.
“They work from sun up to sundown five to six days a week,” Bermar said. “They’re extremely hard workers.”
When the crop season changes and workers move on, there is not always similar housing available near their next job site in Fallbrook, Bonsal or Del Mar.
Bermar said the reason there are not more housing facilities for workers may be the demands of federal guidelines, or the cost to run facilities.
Fernando Sañudo, Vista Community Clinic CEO, serves the health needs of North County migrant farm workers. He said he sees the toll hard labor and lack of basic necessities takes on workers.
Sañudo said while there are admirable efforts in North County to provide shelter, and incorporate housing units for migrant farm workers within low-income housing projects, the supply falls short of the demand.
“It’s always been an issue,” Sañudo said.
Sañudo said leaving workers to fend for themselves in self-made encampments is not acceptable.
“You can’t help but think about them when it’s pouring rain, or super cold in the morning, and they have to get up early in the morning and go to this job that’s so incredibly exhausting,” he said.
Sañudo said adding to the problem is a lack of responsibility on the part of farm owners who employ migrant farm workers.
He added there is also a shortage of human concern by the community at large who look past the problem as they stock up on affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, which are often harvested by the workers.