There was water everywhere, and there was no drop to drink in storm-bathed neighborhoods in San Diego. Millions of gallons of rainwater flooded the San Diego neighborhoods of Encanto and Mountain View, eventually collecting and pooling around the Southcrest and Shelltown communities – making space for itself in over 400 homes of immigrants, underserved families, and some of the poorest people in, what is also known as, “America’s Finest City.” 

Picture the Gomez family, with a home at the end of Beta Street, next to the Southcrest Community Park, that has been a part of the family’s history for six generations. Ruben Gomez was left to watch his childhood home become submerged in toxic water while his two elderly parents, community members for 60 years, remained trapped inside. Gomez recalls the water rising to his parents’ chins and a phone call from them to tell them they were dying. Then the line cut off.

Miguel and Martha Gomez were rescued and admitted to the hospital for hypothermia, as well as a lung infection that Martha acquired from taking the bacteria-ridden water into her lungs. But, after being released from the hospital, what home did the Gomez couple have to return to?

The issue is what homes many community members had to return to after the waters finally ran out to sea. Residents and homeowners in these hard-hit neighborhoods watched their homes destroyed by the flood and are now struggling with a backwash of challenges. From flooded streets, damaged homes, and debris scattered everywhere, community members face the daunting tasks of cleanup, finding stable housing, navigating insurance claims, and governmental funding while still maintaining their everyday familial responsibilities and work obligations. 

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These hard-hit neighborhoods may house a generational history of families who grow up there but are also recognized as areas with “generations of underinvestment and injustices.” The lack of support in these underserved neighborhoods has made them vulnerable, becoming a prime target to vulture investors with predatory practices. 

Vulture investors are individuals or companies seeking to profit from opportunities that come about from disasters, such as floods and fires, that impact homes. Typically, these ill-intentioned investors swoop in only a few short days after the disaster, offering residents a cash deal and contract on the spot to resell or flip the damaged homes for a high profit. Many homeowners may face the challenges of financially rebuilding their lives. However, for uninsured property owners, such disasters almost always force them to sign the deal because rebuilding is excessively high. 

While these San Diego communities struggle with the aftermath of the flood, residents have reported that vulture investors are canvassing these hard-hit areas and offering grieving homeowners a low price for their homes, marketing the deal as a way for these homeowners to wash their hands of their property.

As if the reality of their lives after the flood isn’t hard enough, these shameless sharks will offer insulting low prices. Another resident of Southcrest, a property owner who suffered devastating water damage, stated that they were offered $100,000 for their property by a real estate investor who had a prepared contract on the spot. Considering the estimated median listing price for homes in the neighborhood on Redfin is around $700,000, these investors demonstrate a lack of compassion and care for humanity. Instead of seeing suffering, these vultures seek dollar signs. 

At a time when residents have lost homes, possessions, and tangible memories, a light must be shined on these grieving victims and predators playing on the vulnerabilities of a painful situation.