Too often, I find myself painfully aware of North County’s homeless population, but there’s reason for hope that more lives will be turned around and kept off the streets in the months to come.
As a Carlsbad resident, I’ve seen an increase in homeless activity and the transient population over the past two years. Folks wandering our shopping areas and transit centers, carrying their life belongings with them in shopping carts and vans.
The data seems to support my observations — the annual Point in Time Count of San Diego County’s homeless population saw an increase from 76 individuals counted in Carlsbad in 2014 to 108 this year. That’s a 42 percent gain.
This week, I was approached in a parking lot for spare change, on my way to the gym. That’s never happened before. Where do these folks sleep at night, and how are they getting the help they need? People deserve better.
Eager to learn more, I called up Greg Anglea, executive director of Interfaith Community Services, for an update on what’s being done to address homelessness in North County. When we had spoken last year for my column, Anglea had told me about the need for more local landlords willing to rent to the homeless, and the need for more funding for direct services.
Today, Anglea said that the “struggles continue, but they are not impossible roadblocks.”
Anglea said he’s seeing a rise in North County homeless youth, individuals struggling with mental health issues and opiate addiction. Still, he shared with me that positive steps are being taken to do more for those who need help. Interfaith Community Services provided services to more than 16,000 individuals in 2016, and found permanent housing for 691 households last fiscal year. Most promising, Anglea told me that support for homeless services has also increased in Carlsbad.
This August, the Carlsbad City Council approved $600,000 in funding for Interfaith Community Services to acquire property for a permanent City Hiring Center, which is currently operated out of a trailer by Interfaith. The future Hiring Center, which is set to open in early 2017, is located close to the existing Carlsbad homeless shelter (La Posada de Guadalupe), and may provide a number of services for homeless and low-income Carlsbad residents, including housing assistance, computer training, food distribution and job skills.
The city of Carlsbad has also recently increased its annual financial support for the Alliance for Regional Solutions’ North County Bridge Housing program, a 538-bed shelter network which previously operated in the winter months, but which now operates year-round.
What more can North County cities do to help the homeless, particularly when it comes to first-responders?
Anglea told me that increases in local funding and staffing for homeless outreach teams would be a plus, as well as psychiatric emergency response teams.
I ended my phone call with the sense that important work is being accomplished across North County to meet the needs of our homeless population, maybe not with the same level of publicity or attention the city of San Diego receives, but accomplished nonetheless.
Still, there is always more that can be done, particularly from us, the everyday residents, who want to make a difference in our community and the lives of others.
To learn how you can help support the work of Interfaith Community Services, including volunteer opportunities and donations, visit interfaithservices.org.
Vince Vasquez is an economist based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.