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Opinion: Coronavirus and homelessness in San Diego County

By Cori Wilbur and Ed McFadd

San Diego maintains the fourth-largest homeless population in all of the United States.

When people envision a homeless person, they often conceptualize an individual who is dirty, disheveled, not all there, scary.

Albeit there are some homeless individuals who may fit this picture, for the most part, that’s a misconception.

In truth, there is no singular description that fits the bill and more often than not, a homeless person blends into the common middle class. Our Encinitas and North Coast Democratic Club invited the CEO of the Community Resource Center, John Van Cleef, to address the issues facing the homeless crisis in our region.

“[The coronavirus] exposed the tenuousness of a condition that cannot be sustained,” explained John Van Cleef, CEO of Community Resource Center (CRC). The concerns surrounding homelessness and the economic stresses we were all facing needed to be addressed. Unfortunately, it took a terrifying pandemic to expose flaws in societal infrastructures.

The coronavirus crisis did expose fatal weaknesses in healthcare systems and lit a fire to do more for our homeless population but more than that, the situation brought to the surface another underlying crisis that could no longer be ignored: life was unaffordable, untenable and uncertain overall.

One recent development in response is a safe parking lot, an area where those living out of their cars can safely park at night. Earlier this year, the city of Encinitas opened up its own safe parking lot, the first in North County, behind the Leichtag Foundation farming property. Of course, this establishment did not come without pushback from the community first.

“A lot of people who live in our communities are fully leveraged and they know they’re living one paycheck away from financial disaster,” Van Cleef pointed out. In areas such as Encinitas, many within that community are so opposed to ideas like safe parking because they do not want to be faced with the reality that they could be living out of their cars in no time. Self-reflection is particularly frightening during a time that feels like we are living in a bad dream.

During this current health critical point, Van Cleef, CRC and others are working overtime in “a concentrated effort to ensure we are looking after the homeless and protecting them from the coronavirus crisis.” One solution offered is hotels for the unsheltered who are asymptomatic. Those who are symptomatic are offered separate hotels.

Recent details show around 300 high-risk homeless individuals have been placed into established hotel rooms. The CRC and Interfaith Community Services, (ICS), Regional Task Force on the Homeless, San Diego Health Department, San Diego County and others have joined forces to navigate protection for the unprotected through this time.

Van Cleef pointed out a third area of concentration, the need for rapid rehousing for those escaping domestic abuse, another leading indicator for the homeless population. With the new stay at home orders, abusers are now more stressed and the abused more isolated.

Since the upsurge of coronavirus cases, CRC faced an increase in domestic abuse calls, something he said the organization sadly anticipated. The CRC wants to make sure individuals in this predicament know there are resources out there available and ways out of the abuse, even during a pandemic.

If you find yourself in a situation where you do need support, CRC, Interfaith Community Services and other organizations offer a plethora of options for aid.

More information about Van Cleef and CRC can be found at; Greg Anglea is the CEO of ICS, more information about him can be found at

Ed McFadd is the co-chair of the Encinitas and North Coast Democratic Club, which supports the values and principles of the Democratic Party.

Cori Wilbur is a freelance writer. 

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Christine Farr May 1, 2020 at 11:15 am

WE have a plan to shelter the homeless by building temporary emergency shelters aka tiny house communities. They serve as an opportunity to conduct intensive case management and connect them with housing to get them off the streets and out of the bush. It can be setup to follow the CDC guidelines. For more information, please join the Oceanside Homeless Resource FB group for more information.

Jeff Morris April 27, 2020 at 12:04 am

Im kinda done with this Encinitas CRC and their fake stories and RESIDENT SHAMING. John Van Cleef is wrong and we’re going to discuss what’s really going on. I want John Van Cleef and me on the same call and he’s be flubbing. Charity is NOT collecting a 6 figure check, unless turning the number of homeless is 25 in 2018 and purposely advertising to bring over 1,000 people. Who makes money off of homeless with government throwing money everywhere? John doesn’t care, he doesn’t even live in Encinitas.

We’re re foing to fix these wheels that lost bolts and are falling off.

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