OCEANSIDE — The Housing Commission approved making a recommendation to City Council to allow churches and public facilities to provide emergency winter shelters on Aug. 27.
The recommendation allows a church or public facility to shelter up to 50 individuals without a conditional use permit. It also requires the facility to adopt a management plan that includes a 1-25 ratio of caseworkers and a 1-25 ratio of night security guards to individuals sheltered.
Caseworkers work one on one with individuals at the shelter to set goals to become self-sufficient and secure permanent housing.
“They are required to have case management goals they have to meet to get them into permanent housing,” Margery Pierce, neighborhood services director, said.
The management plan also requires emergency winter shelters to utilize and record data on individuals it serves through the regional information system that is overseen by the Alliance for Regional Solutions, a coalition of social service agencies.
“It accounts for homeless folks, where they are, and if they move between shelters,” Pierce said.
The Housing Commission supported including the requirement of a management plan in its recommendation.
“That’s an excellent idea, there has to be some control,” housing commissioner Jackie Camp said.
Pierce said that a couple of local churches were recently called out by neighbors for allowing people to shelter in buildings that did not meet zoning requirements and had the potential to present a fire hazard.
The recommendation for winter shelters to have a management plan in place safeguards against this happening.
The demand for shelter for the homeless exceeds the current supply. North County shelters collectively provided 180 beds and served 480 individuals in the past year.
The San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless counted 747 homeless individuals in coastal North County in January.
Homeless shelters in North County work under the umbrella of the Alliance for Regional Solutions. Each shelter in the region specializes in housing a specific population. Some operate year-round others are designated winter shelters.
“It doesn’t burden any one city over another by sharing the responsibility,” Pierce said.
Interfaith Emergency Shelter in Escondido is a winter shelter open to men, women and families. It houses up to 40 individuals.
Interfaith Shelter Network North Coastal Shelter in Encinitas is a rotating winter shelter that is run by faith-based communities. It provides 12 beds for men, women and families. The shelter allows stays from two to eight weeks. Its goal is to provide temporary housing to folks who have permanent housing lined up.
Bread of Life Rescue Mission in Oceanside is a winter shelter supported by faith-based communities that houses a total of 50 men and women.
Operation Hope in Vista is a winter shelter that provides 46 beds for families and women.
Catholic Charities La Posada de Guadalupe in Carlsbad is a year-round shelter that provides beds for farm workers and men. It adds an additional 20 beds during winter months.
Homeless shelters are nonprofit operations that are vulnerable to closure if they fail to raise sufficient funds. Those that do not own the building in which they operate are more vulnerable.
The Interfaith Community Services sobering mat program that operated in Escondido and provided overflow emergency shelter was forced to close in July because it lost its lease.
Allowing additional emergency shelters to open will help get more homeless folks off the street and provide them with contacts to community resources that will move them toward self-sufficiency.
The immediate benefit to the community is reduced loitering and a lower crime rate.
“There is sure to be a reduction in crime and a reduction in the vulnerability to crime for people who lived on the streets,” Pierce said.
The long-term goal is to eliminate homelessness.
All cities are required to zone an area where shelters are allowed.
The Housing Commission recommendation will extend areas where emergency winter homeless shelters can open.
State and national efforts are going a step further and pushing for housing first solutions to end homelessness. This approach works to quickly get families into permanent housing to establish stability and then connect families to additional services.
“The only way to end homelessness is through housing,” Pierce said.