As we wrap up 2021, here’s our look at moments and people who shaped our reporting throughout the year. 

In Jacumba Hot Springs residents have been at odds with plans for a large-scale solar project going in next door that will dwarf their town. San Diego County’s supervisors see the project as a necessary step toward achieving San Diego’s climate goals. But for many Jacumba residents, it’s yet another project that they feel will negatively impact their health, local economy and quality of life. 

Large fields on either side of Old Highway 80 in Jacumba Hot Springs have been approved as the site of a solar project, Oct. 21, 2021. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)
George Newton looks out from his yard onto a field which has been approved as the location of a large solar project, Jacumba Hot Springs, Sept. 16, 2021. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

Extreme heat is nothing new in Imperial County. The hottest days, however, have become hotter and more frequent, and as they have, heat-related deaths have also been on the rise. The heat is especially dangerous for those living on the street without shelter. In the summer of 2021 at least three of the people whose deaths were heat-related were men experiencing homelessness in Calexico. Their bodies were found within a half-mile of each other in the downtown area of the city. The story that includes these photos was also published in Spanish.

Maribel Padilla of the Brown Bag Coalition brings water and other supplies to people who are unsheltered in downtown Calexico on an afternoon when the temperature reached 119 degrees, Aug. 4, 2021. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)
Francisco Ramirez bathes in water from a fire hydrant along Cesar Chavez Boulevard in Calexico, Aug. 26, 2021. He knew one of the men who died in the summer heat and worries the same thing could happen to him. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)
Fernando Toledo moves into a shady part of Border Friendship Park after the sun hit the bench he slept on for the night, Calexico, Aug. 27, 2021. He spent the remainder of the day moving between patches of shade in the park. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, San Diego County started a COVID-19 hotel sheltering program for people in need of a safe place to isolate or who were at high risk for a severe case of the virus.

Many of those staying at the hotels are unhoused and a goal of the program is also to transition them to permanent housing. Following inewsource reporting that there were significant issues with how the program was being run, an independent review resulted in a scathing report saying the company county officials contracted to oversee the program was unqualified, subjecting some residents to poor quality of care. This month, as COVID-19 levels remain high throughout most of the county, officials decided to end the program, causing many residents to worry about where they will go.

Naomi Flynn watches a movie from inside her truck along a road in Spring Valley on June 7, 2021. She has been living in her truck since she was forced to leave a San Diego County COVID-19 sheltering hotel. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

Of the many lives lost to COVID-19, hundreds have been the lives of people incarcerated in California prisons, including at the RJ Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa. Photography is about capturing the truth of a moment within a frame so that it exists outside of the constraints of time and space. That truth can come from absence when it is reflective of grief and loss. Photographing the family of Leon Martinez, who died after contracting COVID-19 at Donovan state prison, meant seeing the presence Martinez has in his family’s lives even when he is no longer physically there.

The Martinez family looks through a family photo album at their home in Yucaipa, May 21, 2021. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)
Leon Martinez Jr. is shown in San Bernardino National Forest outside of Yucaipa on May 21, 2021. The area was a favorite place of his father’s to visit with family. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

The block that Leon Williams lives on in Golden Hill is named Leon Williams Drive as a tribute to his legacy as a public official and civil rights leader in San Diego. When he purchased his home on that block in 1947, however, it was under a racially restrictive covenant that outlawed him from owning it. It was a privilege to spend an afternoon photographing and speaking with him in his home as we watched rain fall over the San Diego Bay.  

Leon Williams looks out toward the San Diego Bay from his home in Golden Hill, Sept. 24, 2021. Mr. Williams purchased the home in 1947 when it was still under a racially restrictive covenant. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

The San Ysidro Transit Center is the southernmost stop on the most used line of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. Several weeks of photographing there produced photos that reflect some of the dynamics that make the San Diego border region so unique. Brothers on their way to buy puppies, students heading to school, families returning from trips to visit loved ones – these are a few of the scenes I watched from the trolley station. The stories that include these photos were also published in Spanish.

Issac, right, and Ulisses Diaz look out the window of a Blue Line trolley in route to San Ysidro, June 1, 2021. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)
Emmanuel Alvarado waits for an Uber driver to arrive at the San Ysidro Transit Center, June 3, 2021. He was traveling from Tijuana to attend his girlfriend’s high school graduation. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

Although veterans are guaranteed health care through the VA medical system, many veterans and their families in San Diego are struggling to receive the care they’ve been promised. Amy Warix is the caregiver for her husband John Seymour, a Navy veteran. She asks, “How do I go helping him through everyday life with as much dignity as possible? And the dignity gets ripped away when you don’t have the healthcare that’s promised to you.” 

John Seymour looks at bottles of prescription pain medication that doctors at the VA prescribed for him, Warner Springs, Calif., Sept. 30, 2021. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

From January to April, a group of farmworkers and activists camped on a small parcel of land along the U.S. – Mexico border fence in Calexico. For farmworkers who cross the border before dawn to work in the agricultural fields of southern California and eastern Arizona, the camp was  a place to stay the night and avoid daily border crossings. It was a reminder of the challenge that many farmworkers in the region face in accessing affordable and accessible housing. 

Humberto Chavez waters plants in a new garden at a farmworkers encampment in Calexico, March 18, 2021. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)
Sergio Macias walks through an intersection in downtown Calexico where he and other farmworkers gather for work before dawn, Feb. 24, 2021. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)
Farmworkers stack boxes of cabbage at Vessey Farms in Holtville, Feb. 23, 2021. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)
Rudy Marchello cleans dust off of his boots at an encampment in Calexico, April 6, 2021. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)
Antonio Cuevas fries chicken in his tent at a farmworker encampment in Calexico, March 18, 2021. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)
Calexico police officers arrest Hugo Castro who refused to move from the community garden at the Calexico farmworkers encampment, April 7, 2021. Castro is one of the organizers who started the encampment in January. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)
Morning sunlight moves toward a contested piece of land along the border fence in Calexico, April 7, 2021. A group of farmworkers and activists has camped on the city-owned parcel since January. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Zoë Meyers is a photo and video journalist at inewsource. Zoë loves working as a visual journalist because it gives her the privilege of witnessing moments in people's personal lives and in our community that can enhance our understanding of important stories. When she's not behind the camera, Zoë...