Emergency winter shelters approved for this year and beyond

OCEANSIDE — For the past few years Oceanside has approved allowing churches to operate emergency winter shelters for up to 50 people without a conditional use permit.

At the Dec. 17 city council meeting emergency shelters were given the green light once again for this winter season. Council also approved a zoning and text amendment to accommodate winter shelters through perpetuity, without a yearly vote.

Emergency shelters are needed during the cold, inclement winter months of December to April to house homeless individuals who exceed the number of available beds at permitted shelters.

According to 2013 counts the number of homeless individuals in North County is more than double the number of beds in shelters. Last year 480 homeless individuals received shelter on a rotating basis, and 747 people were classified as homeless.

Allowance for Oceanside churches to run temporary shelters comes with firm perimeters. Churches offering emergency shelter are required to have a management and operations plan, case management of clients, trained night staff, medical support staff, and zero tolerance of drug or alcohol possession or use.

Prior to opening their doors temporary shelters must be inspected by the city building department and fire department to determine the number of people that can be sheltered, and have the facility fire and safety plan approved.

Another requirement is to submit client data to the Alliance for Regional Solutions database that tracks regional efforts.

Shelters must also be good neighbors, and be aware and respectful of the surrounding community.

Churches in the downtown beach area, north of Wisconsin Street and west of Interstate 5, are excluded from being allowed to operate a shelter.

Last year repeated complaints that the First Christian Church emergency shelter on Freeman Street was not operating as a good neighbor, prompted council to form rules for temporary shelters.

This year the regulations were adopted long term.

In September 2013 Councilmen Jack Feller, Jerry Kern and then Councilman Gary Felien voted to exclude churches in the downtown beach area.

This year Feller questioned that practice.

“If someone wants to volunteer, we shouldn’t turn them down,” Feller said.

Margery Pierce, neighborhood services director, said problems between First Christian Church and its neighbors could not be resolved.

Council unanimously approved the zoning and text amendment to accommodate winter shelters on Dec. 17.

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