The Coast News Group

Carlsbad homeless plan moves forward

CARLSBAD — The city is moving forward with its Homeless Response Plan to establish a system of responses to address the impacts of homeless in the city.

The City Council heard the report during its Oct. 24 meeting outlining several strategies. Those include prevention, reduction, management and support of the homeless, collaboration with residents and community partnerships as well as retaining, protecting and increasing the housing supply.

The goal, according to the staff report, is to guide the homeless toward self-sufficiency and rehousing. The report also noted the homeless count is 160 with 59 sheltered and 101 on the streets, noting the reasons are vast in how an individual becomes homeless.

“This homeless response plan will serve as a foundation to develop a more comprehensive, longer term strategic plan which will continue to shape the city’s efforts to address the impacts of homelessness on the residents, the larger community and the city itself,” the report stated.

According to the report, city staff said the city has not been more successful for four reasons. They include that services are not well-coordinated and there is limited collaboration among service agencies; duplication of efforts; competition for available funding to sustain organizations rather than expand; and that the homeless have difficulty accessing the services for a number of reasons including a lack of transportation to those services.

The Carlsbad police, meanwhile, have formed and deployed a Homeless Outreach Team with two dedicated full-time officers. Their responsibilities are to make frequent contact, connect homeless people with resources and services, clean up encampments and address any criminal activity.

The cost for police service calls related to the homeless was estimated at about $360,000 per year with 3,600 hours dedicated by officers.

The fire department also has a role in addressing health issues and emergency services for the homeless, which includes a response to the hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego.

The report noted the cost for emergency responders and medical services for the homeless at an estimated $45,000 $50,000 per year for one person. When multiplied by 100 homeless, the total is between $4.5 million and $5 million.

Prosecuting homeless encampments, meanwhile, appears to have had some success, according to the report. In Vista, Oceanside, Escondido and San Diego, illegal encampments can result in a misdemeanor charge which provides a “carrot stick” for the homeless to accept resources and services as part of a plea agreement.

As for funding, the report stated, “While it is anticipated that funding beyond existing budget will be required to fully implement the Plan, no additional funding is being requested at this time. A request for proposals (RFP) will be prepared and distributed for responses. Staff will return to City Council with a budget request following review of the responses to the RFP and partnership/collaboration discussions with other organizations, agencies, churches and similar partners.”

The Carlsbad Police Department, meanwhile, will continue to use its existing budget for ongoing operations of the Homeless Outreach Team.