VISTA — During an Oct. 24 City Council meeting, council members voted to approve a $140,000 one-time contractual allotment to Solutions for Change, a Vista-based nonprofit which helps the homeless in North County. Councilwoman Amanda Rigby opposed the decision.
The discussion first began on Aug. 8, when Solutions for Change CEO Chris Megison spoke at a Vista City Council meeting to ask if the city could financially help the organization. Megison explained the nonprofit was unable to receive homeless assistance funding following federal and state policy changes.
Solutions for Change offers a drug-free and sober housing environment, whereas Housing First, which is supported by federal funds, does not.
Solutions for Change has sought financial help from Vista, Carlsbad, Oceanside, San Marcos and Escondido.
According to Megison, the $140,000 will be used to help bridge a $700,000 monetary deficit since Solutions for Change returned the federal money. Currently, Solutions for Change is assisting 163 homeless families. In a letter to Mayor Judy Ritter, Megison shared that historically Vista homeless family enrollment is at around 28 percent.
At the Oct. 24 meeting, Councilman Joe Aguilera said he first had reservations when Megison requested this because it initially appeared as if the city would be funding operations. However, Aguilera had in-person meetings with Megison and additional follow-up conversations.
Aguilera wanted everyone to know that a lot of thought had gone into his decision.
“I feel that we, as a city, have to do everything that we can to help our homeless,” he said. “We do know that many of the people that have gone through Solutions for Change are some of our very own. I have actually known families personally that I grew up with that went through there. We’ve got to do our share.”
Aguilera pointed out the city of Vista has always had open arms when it comes to helping others. Solutions for Change was no exception as it started in Vista.
Councilman Joe Green said he met with Megison several times.
“I wanted to get all the information I could before I made this decision,” Green said. “The money (federal funding) that he turned down was turned down by other organizations too.”
Green went on to say that he felt satisfied with all the answers Megison provided to his questions. What Green wanted most of all was a guarantee that monies given by Vista would stay in Vista.
“I wanted to have tangible evidence that if I give you $140,000, I’m going to have something to show for it,” he said, adding that he wanted to see how they were helping Vista families.
Green said Megison guaranteed him that this would happen.
“By giving this particular money, for this particular one-time allotment of funds, this is going to be able to house Vista families and actually keep Vista families off the streets,” Green said. “For me, that’s a huge thing.”
Even though Councilwoman Amanda Rigby opposed this decision, she said she appreciated that the monies would be a contract with Solutions for Change and not a charitable donation. She also insisted on accountability on behalf of Solutions for Change.
To date, only the city of San Marcos and the city of Vista have offered funds to Solutions for Change. With that said, Rigby noted she had concerns about how Solutions for Change would rectify the deficit if the other North County cities did not participate.