Note: This commentary was written prior to the Safe Parking Program being approved by council in a 4-1 vote during a meeting on Jan. 22.
Over the last week I have been to two community Forums concerning the Safe Parking Program, proposed by the Jewish Family Service to be located at Leichtag Commons in Encinitas. The program is intended to provide overnight parking for 25 vehicles, a safe space for homeless families and individuals, with basic needs of security, access to bathrooms, food and most importantly, case management to find stable housing. The first meeting held at the Library was organized by Supervisor Kristen Gaspar. The second meeting, held by the City of Encinitas occurred at the Community Center. Both events provided attendees the opportunity to voice their opinions.
I have lived in Encinitas for 38 years, raising a family and enjoying a life I thought very close to paradise. Two years ago I decided to apply for a Senior Commission position as a way to give back to this wonderful community. So, I can say that I was shocked, disturbed and disappointed by what I heard and what I witnessed from my fellow citizens at these meetings. Words like criminals, drug addicts, sex traffickers, roaches, secret meetings, liars, threats of a blood bath in November were spoken. The atmosphere was full of paranoia, fear, anger, entitlement, distortion of facts. It reflected the larger divide that is present in our country and our new brand of mean-spirited civic discourse, but right here in the heart of our lovely city.
All of this is about 25 parking spots in the middle of an agricultural property. But it is also about our lack of kindness and compassion for individuals and families with children who may have become homeless due to job loss or illness. It is about our ability to harden ourselves against human misery and suffering. It is about the mountains of income inequality in our state and the lack of affordable housing in our community. It seems such a small step to take toward these big issues, but as someone once told me, we can’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.
I have regarded these events as a call to action. As a volunteer, I plan to offer my time and energy to the Community Resource Center. They strive every day to help those of us who are in need. There are many other agencies devoted to helping and as a way of healing our divisions, we should all take a step toward them. We must come together to solve big problems. As Jane Goodall wrote: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
Senior Commissioner, City of Encinitas