The Coast News Group
Community Oceanside

City approves temporary homeless shelters

OCEANSIDE — City Council approved the allowance of temporary winter shelters Oct. 18 to house city homeless in the cold, wet months ahead.

The approval readopted best practices to operate safe temporary shelters from November to mid-April.

“The city has declared a temporary shelter crisis for many years enabling winter shelters to operate,” Angie Hanifin, city neighborhood services acting housing administrator, said.

Rules allow churches to house up to 50 homeless individuals without a conditional use permit. The actual number of allowed beds is dependent on an inspection from the city building and fire departments.

Due to past difficulties with client management, the area north of Wisconsin Avenue and west of Interstate 5 is excluded from the allowance. Neighborhood complaints about the temporary shelter at First Christian Church boiled over several years ago.

The church elder said clients were monitored and not allowed to loiter during the day.

Homeowners in the area said otherwise, and graphically described shelter residents publicly urinating and discarding beer bottles. Hence the city adopted the rule to exempt the area around the downtown church.

Other health and safety rules have also been created as a result of problems for neighbors and unsafe conditions for clients.

All temporary shelters are required to have a city-approved management operations plan to ensure client and community safety. Required practices include individual case management, trained night watch staff, medical support services and a fire and safety plan.

Shelters must enforce zero tolerance for alcohol and drug possession and being under the influence. They also need to uphold the good neighbor policy, which respects nearby residents and businesses.

The end goal of temporary shelters is to help clients get back on their feet and secure permanent housing. The 2016 Oceanside Point In Time Homeless Count recorded 275 sheltered individuals, and 392 unsheltered individuals living in their cars, hand-built structures or no structure.

Oceanside works with regional leaders, Alliance for Regional Solutions and Interfaith Community Services, to address homelessness. Shelter bed counts, specific housing resources for men, women or families, and client databases are shared among North County agencies.

Regional networking allows case managers from cities, churches and nonprofits to match clients’ needs with the best available resource.

In Oceanside, the Bread of Life Rescue Mission on Apple Street opens its doors to provide temporary shelter to about 40 men and women. Like most shelters it has a structured routine of an early dinner, lights out and morning breakfast. During the day clients need to work or look for work.

Pastor Steve Bassett serves as a shelter leader. He said the program has had success. Key to positive results are the stability and safety housing provides.

Bassett added the problem for some clients is they do not have enough time to save for rent and a down payment before winter shelters close.

If clients do not have permanent housing by the end of March, a case manager helps them create an exit plan, which may include relocating to another shelter, staying at a campground or seeking temporary housing.