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Program to connect homeless with jobs

OCEANSIDE — City staff was directed by City Council at its Feb. 6 meeting to develop a program within 90 days that will help homeless individuals in the city find work.

Councilmen Chris Rodriguez and Ryan Keim requested city staff create the “homeless work program.”

According to a memorandum from the two councilmen, the program will fund city caseworkers to assist with qualifying and prescreening up to 25 Oceanside resident homeless individuals for work. The caseworkers will be the primary referral sources with guidelines to be developed on the program’s standards and procedures, according to the memo.

The city will contract with a third-party nonprofit organization such as Alpha Project, The Salvation Army or local churches to hire and manage the workers. The nonprofit will serve as the workers’ employer, not the city, Rodriguez noted.

Staff will also provide an estimated cost of the program, consider transportation needs for workers, provide name and branding suggestions for the program and investigate possible grant opportunities to help fund the program.

Rodriguez said the work program would be a “supplemental item to put Oceanside residents that are homeless to work so that they can provide for themselves and have that dignity to move forward and get a fresh start.”

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said she has also been talking with staff about putting together such a work program, and added that the Housing Department does not have the capacity or training to screen and qualify homeless individuals for work.

Sanchez said she doesn’t think the program will address homelessness, noting those who went through Alpha Project during her time as a public defender remained homeless. Alpha Project is a nonprofit that offers affordable housing, substance abuse treatment, employment training and other services for homeless individuals.

“I think what we really need to do is direct staff to come up with a program that’s going to really, really result in addressing homelessness with work, with counseling, with housing, and ensure that we’ve got the funds for it and we’ve got an RFP (request for proposal) so that we can get the best possible project,” she said.

Deputy Mayor Jack Feller said the new chief executive officer of Bread of Life has a desire to educate, train and house a number of homeless residents, suggesting the organization as a possible “opportunity” for the people who would join the city’s work program.

Mayor Peter Weiss thinks the work program is a “very good idea.”

“Even if it takes two people off the street, I think it will have been a success,” he said.

Keim said addressing the issue of homelessness in Oceanside and countywide is a “humongous challenge, but we have to start somewhere.”

“I don’t know if this program is going to be successful,” Keim said. “It might not and there might be too many challenges, but you don’t succeed if you don’t try at all.”

The program was approved 4-1 with Sanchez voting against it.

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