CARLSBAD — People from out of town possibly searching for COVID-19 relief have added to Carlsbad’s homeless population.
“We noticed that during COVID-19 there’s been a different population coming into our city, so our goal has been to contact people we’re not familiar with and see if they need any services,” said Sergeant Gary Marshall, head of Carlsbad’s Homeless Outreach Team. “We just get to know who they are, [tell them] who we are, what we can provide and what we can’t provide.”
The city’s recent response to homelessness has included an allocation of $250,000 to work with the Community Resource Center (CRC), according to Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel.
“It’s going to be another program that we can join forces with in regards to our outreach,”
Marshall said. “Our social workers will be coordinating with CRC and trying to transition people from homelessness to housing.”
Through the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, the city has converted a motel to shelter the most susceptible population — people 65 or older or have underlying medical conditions.
Homeless Outreach Manager Holly Nelson said about 40 people currently homeless in Carlsbad would qualify for the motel housing.
“We’ve had pretty much 100% occupancy,” Nelson said. “There are other [motels] in the county, [but] those rooms are reserved for people who’ve either tested positive or have been potentially exposed. A lot of those rooms haven’t been at full occupancy because this population hasn’t been as impacted with COVID-19 as we have initially thought.”
In addition to short-term services, the city has passed initiatives that could help people at risk of homelessness.
The statewide order to halt evictions due to unpaid rent expired after May. However, Carlsbad extended its order through the end of the COVID-19 emergency to further protect tenants, and the city is also offering rent relief for people who may be at risk of homelessness.
Nelson says the Homeless Outreach Team has received an increase in calls from people looking for help from the motel program and city services.
As the risk of homelessness increases due to the pandemic, the city’s resources could provide a safety net to the homeless individuals most vulnerable to the virus.
“Right now, the [programs] in Carlsbad have been a success in our eyes,” Nelson said. “It’s doing the job of helping people who are most vulnerable get off the streets. It’s meeting that population for both men and women, and right now we really just want to make sure we’re helping them exit into the housing process.”