CARLSBAD — Councilwoman Cori Schumacher is calling for the council to declare a homelessness crisis.
She explained her position Feb. 21 discussing what nuances of the issue and potential locations for placing the homeless in the city. Schumacher also said homelessness may be the most pressing issue facing the city as the most recent Point-In-Time-Count revealed 161 homeless.
She also met with Jewish Family Services and San Diego-based Dreams for Change last year to discuss the potential for a public lot to be used as an area to “house” homeless people living in their cars, like the one Encinitas City Council recently approved.
“We saw some crisis events in our community and also had the 2018 Boise, Idaho decision,” Schumacher said. “That really tied our law enforcement’s hands. We can’t pull people off the street and can’t move them from their cars or parks unless we have services provided for them.”
Schumacher said pointed to the Martin vs. Boise case from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the lack of shelter beds in the city. The Boise case ruled unless there are enough shelter beds in a municipality, officials and police cannot enforce anti-vagrancy or quality of life laws, according to the Idaho Statesman.
Mayor Matt Hall declined to comment on the proposal for several reasons including potential litigation along with the issue having not come before the council.
Encinitas’ controversial homeless parking lot, known as the Safe Parking Program, is on the grounds of the Leichtag Foundation east of Interstate 5 and south of Leucadia Boulevard. The Jewish Family Services was behind the push to get the item enacted. In 2018 the council approved a shelter crisis on the consent calendar without discussion.
Schumacher’s vision, at least in the early stages, is to have a lot open to those homeless living in cars from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The two potential locations, she said, are at the city-owned Farmer’s building off Faraday Avenue and El Camino Real and the Carlsbad Police and Fire Department headquarters on Orion Avenue.
However, she said there is potential for other sites but would have to discuss those options with the council, assuming the crisis measure passed. Currently, the council has four members and won’t have its fifth until after the November election.
Currently, only La Posada offers beds — 59 for men only — so Schumacher is also calling for more beds at the shelter and to include women and children.
“Since we only have the 50 shelter beds and they’re restricted to men … we need to expand the shelter beds to include women and families,” Schumacher added. “We can do that by declaring a shelter crisis.”
She does expect pushback, but said unlike Encinitas, which approved its program near a residential neighborhood, Carlsbad’s sites, so far, are not near residential areas.
Another aspect, Schumacher said, is the parking lot program would strengthen the city’s Homeless Outreach Plan, which was approved in 2017 and led to the formation of the Homeless Outreach Team. After last year’s budget approval, a full-time team of police officers and city officials are now dedicated to HOT, along with the council approving a contract with Interfaith Community Services to serve as liaisons and provide services for the homeless.
Even if the program were to be approved, Schumacher also said the county must step up its funding and accessibility for homeless programs, services and shelters, especially with mental health and addiction.