OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside Housing Commission recently formed an ad hoc committee to address homelessness in the city.
Homelessness in Oceanside was declared a “crisis” by City Council, according to Housing Commissioner Michelle Gomez, who chairs the new ad hoc committee. Gomez is one of four housing commissioners who, along with Neighborhood Services Director Margery Pierce, make up the committee.
“We all know this is a problem but nobody is taking a lead on it,” Gomez said of the homelessness crisis. “It’s not something we can slap a Band-Aid on.”
Gomez said the committee plans to build a “nine- to 11-person team” of community members with different perspectives to develop a “strategic framework” on how to mitigate the city’s homelessness crisis.
Gomez said that one of the team members would represent the community at large, while another would come from Oceanside Unified School District.
She also wants to have someone from the city’s Economic Development Commission and another person who works in social services to be part of the team.
The homelessness crisis in the city affects the overall quality of life for both residents and homeless individuals, Gomez said, which is why the committee’s framework team will consist of people with various specialties.
The idea is to analyze how homelessness happens and what the city can do to prevent it from happening, as well has how the city can help get homeless people back into housing. Once someone is on the streets, Gomez said it’s harder for them to get off the streets.
“We want to make sure that one health concern or car issue doesn’t send them to the streets,” she said.
Once the committee finishes finalizing its framework team members, it will meet with the team sometime in January to get started. Gomez said the committee plans to complete an analysis in six months on how to address the crisis.
January is also when the San Diego County Regional Task Force on the Homeless conducts its annual Point-in-Time-Count, which counts how many people are living on the streets. According to the 2018 count, there were 483 homeless persons in Oceanside.
Though the Point-in-Time-Count numbers are useful, Gomez said it doesn’t give a complete picture of the crisis. She said it doesn’t account for youths “couch-surfing.”
The count classifies homeless individuals based on whether they are “sheltered” or “unsheltered.” Those staying in an emergency shelter, safe haven or transitional housing are considered sheltered, while those living in a vehicle, a tent-like structure or just on their own as unsheltered.
According to the Point-in-Time-Count, there were 326 unsheltered and 157 sheltered homeless people in 2018.
Gomez said the ad hoc committee would ideally serve as a model to other cities.
“It’s a nationwide problem,” she said. “Our goal is to create something that other cities can look to as a guide.”
Samantha Taylor covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son